Economy Begins Year in Strong Position

April 30, 2019

(Rock County, WI) According to the quarterly release of the Rock Ready Index, the 2019 economy of the Janesville-Beloit MSA is off to a brisk pace. Highlights from the Q1 2019 report are provided below.

Average annual unemployment rates for the area and state remained at historically low levels. As a matter of fact, for nine consecutive quarters these rates have held below four percent. YTD 2019, Wisconsin has recorded the second lowest rates in the Midwest. Meanwhile, Rock County’s February 2019 unemployment rate of 3.6% translated into a #28ranking out of 72 Wisconsin counties. Not surprisingly, regional job postings during the quarter (again) exceeded the 30,000 mark. Based on feedback from area employers, recruiting and retaining employees continues to be a top priority. As a result, the type and amount of resources dedicated toward talent development activities are continually trending upward. 

Housing, particular the average sale price of single-family homes ($165,874), generated another new Q1 record for the Janesville-Beloit MSA. As a matter of fact, the Q1 2019 prices are roughly 16% higher than the pacesetting figures originally established during the same time period in 2017. While the inventory of existing homes is beginning to experience some modest relief, especially with nearly 70 new housing starts already issued this year, construction and labor costs remain important pricing drivers. Based on conservative forecasts, these variables are more likely to experience future cost escalations versus declines.

The County’s sales and use tax collections, which represent a local indicator of consumer confidence, continued to rise. YTD 2019 collections were 12% higher than figures recorded a year ago; and relatively close to reaching the highest quarterly collections recorded during the second half of 2018. Meanwhile, back-filling and/or redeveloping locations that have been bypassed by these strong collections remain a focal point for public and private sector stakeholders. Fortunately, strategic investments in the area’s place-making amenities are fueling a sizable amount of non-industrial development activities too.  

Overall, the economic development pipeline for Q1 2019 was populated by projects that were larger than what was recorded during the same time frame a year ago. While manufacturing and logistics remain well represented, other types of proposed investments are continually surfacing within the pipeline. That said, the probability of those opportunities materializing  – at least at the same scale or pace – are lower than what has traditionally been announced throughout the Janesville-Beloit MSA.

Generac’s Janesville Distribution Center announcement represents a prime example, and one that is commonplace for the area. When real estate availability, functionality and timing align a formidable business proposition exists. Couple these variables with other considerations, namely supply chain considerations, the reasons for anchoring an investment within the Janesville-Beloit MSA become even more compelling.

The Rock Ready Index (RRI) is a quarterly economic development dashboard compiled and distributed by the Rock County Development Alliance. The RRI covers four topical areas: Workforce (Job Postings and Unemployment Rates), Real Estate (Residential, Commercial or Industrial) Trends, Sales (Tax Collection) Activities and a snapshot of the ED Pipeline’s growth and/or investment opportunities. Each Index also includes a Project Profile section, which highlights project-specific news during a given quarter.

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