Report: Strong Quarter and Year for the Rock County Economy

January 25, 2019

(Rock County, WI) According to the quarterly release of the Rock Ready Index, the economy of the Janesville-Beloit MSA finished the year in a strong position. Highlights from the Q4 2018 report are provided below.

For the eighth consecutive quarter, the average annual unemployment rate for the county and state remained under four percent. It’s been 18 years since the national rate locked-in at or near this same range. During 2018, Wisconsin’s monthly rates consistently kept it among the ranks of the lowest Top 10 or 15 in the nation. Not surprisingly, these same low rates were common across Wisconsin’s metro areas and the rate differentials – from the lowest to the highest – were generally about one percentage point (+/-). Coupled with labor force participation rates that are among the highest in the nation, it’s no wonder that help wanted signs are the new norm. That is why there is a heightened awareness locally concerning career awareness, exposure and preparation.

The residential market remained extremely robust, as Average Sale ($168,177) and Median Sale Prices ($156,333) for Q4 set a new county record. When compared to the Median Sale Prices of 2017 and 2016, the 2018 figure was 13% and 15% higher, respectively. After a 10-year lull, the number of permits issued in 2018 for (new) single-family homes finally climbed past the 230 threshold. Despite this activity uptick, depleted single-and-multi-family inventories remained a popular conversation. Hopefully, favorable economics and timely partnerships will align to advance some projects during the new calendar year.

As a measure of consumer confidence, the County’s sales and use tax collections clearly signals the area’s economy is doing well. Not only were the cash registers ringing strong during the Holiday Season, but also throughout the entire calendar year too. As such, the quarterly and annual collections set new records at $3.87 Million and $14.26 Million, respectively. As a matter of fact, the 2018 year-end figure was roughly four percent higher than 2017’s totals, and 37% higher than the collections from 2010.

The economic development pipeline was once again populated by a diverse collection of commercial and industrial projects, representing a combined footprint that approached 950,000 SF; job counts of 800; and more than $132 Million in new capital investment commitments. While the usual industry sectors – food, metal fabrication, plastics and logistics – dominated the pipeline, several corporate office and I.T. related projects were well represented too. Overall, large square footage (>140,000 SF) and sizable investment commitments (>$23.5 Million) were representative of the average 2018 pipeline project.

Three specific projects, two industrial and one commercial, are the featured “wins” from the Q4 report. It’s worth noting the NaturPak Pet and Seal-Rite projects were directly facilitated by timely private and public sector investments. Meanwhile, the news of the forthcoming ABC Supply expansion reinforces the significant impacts that corporate headquarters provide to local and regional economies.

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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