KANKAKEE — Kankakee County is ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to manufacturing employment.
Tim Nugent, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, said Wednesday local manufacturing employment makes up 15.3 percent of the local workforce, compared with the national average of 11.6 percent.
The average manufacturing job in Kankakee County pays nearly $85,000, Nugent said.
“This is a big deal for our area,” he said at the annual State of the County Breakfast. “Manufacturing is made up of good-paying jobs. It’s the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector.”
Helping with area employment are expansions of CSL Behring, Nucor and Urban Farmer, among others.
The county has been recognized for its advantages by national publications. For instance, Forbes has rated Kankakee County No. 8 among small metropolitan areas nationally for the cost of doing business.
“Our cost of living is actually lower than the national average,” Nugent said. “We’re an economical place to live and do business.”
Spending $100 nationally would translate into $93.10 in Kankakee County, he said.
The county’s unemployment rate, meanwhile, is at 4.2 percent, the lowest rate in decades, Nugent said.
One concern, Nugent said, is the decline in the county’s population, dropping to 109,000 in 2017, from 113,000 seven years before.
“This is something we need to work on. With more jobs available, we need to do what we can to make this area more attractive to move and live,” Nugent said.
LaDonna Russell, executive director of the Kankakee-based Grundy Livingston Kankakee Workforce Board, said many jobs locally go unfilled.
“We are looking at how we can ensure that jobs are filled,” she said.
A few companies, including XPO Logistics, have announced closures over the last year, while other local shutdowns have been rumored on Facebook. She said her office investigated such rumors and found they were untrue.