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Rockford region among 100 fastest growing in real personal income

ROCKFORD – The real personal per capita income of the Rockford metropolitan area grew 4.4 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, rising at a faster rate than Illinois and United States as a whole.

Real personal income is a more complicated measurement from the BEA. It measures the real personal income of an area and adjusts it to the state’s regional price parity and national personal consumption index. In simpler terms, it’s the income of an individual or group after taking into consideration the effects of inflation on purchasing power.

According to BEA data, the real personal per capita income of Boone and Winnebago counties rose from $38,485 in 2014 to $40,183 in 2015. The 4.4 percent increase from 2014 was greater than the 3.3 percent increase experienced by the United States (growing from $42,523 to $43,925) and the 3.4 percent by the state of Illinois ($44,679 to $46,209.)

In fact, the Rockford MSA tied for 80th best year-over-year increase out of 382 metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S. and it was the 13th highest in the Midwest.

The 2015 numbers are a continuation of an encouraging trend. Since 2008, the Rockford MSA real personal per capita income has outpaced the nation as a whole four times in the past seven years.

A look at state data showed that the Rockford MSA gained about 2,200 jobs from 2014 to 2015. The largest gains were in leisure and hospitality (600 jobs gained), trade and utilities (600), retail trade (500) and manufacturing (400).

Real personal per capita income

Year

U.S.

Pct. ch.

Illinois

Pct. ch.

Rockford MSA

Pct. ch.

2008

$41,055

$43,385

$36,996

2009

$39,376

-4.1%

$40,744

-6.1%

$35,819

-3.2%

2010

$39,622

0.6%

$40,743

0.0%

$36,179

1.0%

2011

$40,762

2.9%

$41,609

2.1%

$36,634

1.3%

2012

$41,714

2.3%

$42,816

2.9%

$37,351

2.0%

2013

$41,348

-0.9%

$43,572

1.8%

$37,540

0.5%

2014

$42,523

2.8%

$44,679

2.5%

$38,485

2.5%

2015

$43,925

3.3%

$46,209

3.4%

$40,183

4.4%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

Fastest rising real personal per capita incomes
in Midwestern MSAs

Metropolitan Area

2014

2015

Pct. ch.

Sioux Falls, S.D.

$49,899

$53,360

6.9%

Flint, Michigan

$34,699

$36,723

5.8%

Lawrence, Kansas

$36,035

$38,085

5.7%

Sioux City, Iowa-Neb.

$45,638

$48,093

5.4%

South Bend, Ind.-Mich.

$41,299

$43,51

5.4%

Monroe, Michigan

$38,407

$40,444

5.3%

Michigan City-LaPorte, Ind.

$38,592

$40,553

5.1%

Mankato, Minnesota

$42,743

$44,891

5.0%

Detroit, Michigan

$42,456

$44,547

4.9%

Muskegon, Michigan

$34,424

$36,103

4.9%

Bay City, Michigan

$37,434

$39,214

4.8%

Battle Creek, Michigan

$35,552

$37,204

4.6%

Rockford, Illinois

$38,485

$40,183

4.4%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

 

 


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Jobs boom missing Rockford area

SPRINGFIELD – The United States has been on a steady climb since the Great Recession wiped out careers and savings for millions – that progress still hasn’t really come to Rockford.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States has added 15.8 million jobs since April 2010, the most recent comparable month, growing from 130.14 million jobs in April 2010 to a preliminary estimate of 146 million this April. That’s 12.2 percent more jobs since the economy bottomed out in 2010.

In Winnebago County, we were making similar progress, but that trend has reversed itself over the past several months. The Rockford area bottomed out earlier than the United States. According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, employment hit the bottom of the Great Recession cycle in 2009 when just 124,425 were employed in April. By April 2016, that had grown to 132,027, an increase of 6.1 percent.

It appears we’ve lost those minimal gains. The state estimated that total employment for this April was 129,778, a 1.7 percent year-over-year decline.

It isn’t just Winnebago County that’s struggling to continue to grow jobs. Employment in the state as a whole was estimated to be 6.14 million, down 0.3 percent from 2016. It marked the fifth time in the past six months that employment in Illinois was down year over year.

Hopefully, the 2017 losses are temporary. Workers at the Fiat-Chrysler assembly plant in Belvidere have been laid off for several months as the plant is retooled to build the Jeep Cherokee. The vast majority of the workers in the Boone County plant live in Winnebago County.

Job gains – U.S., Illinois, Winnebago County

 

United States

Illinois

Winnebago County

Month, year

Emp.

Pct. ch.

Emp.

Pct. ch.

Emp.

Pct. ch.

April, 2007

137.9M

6.28M

139,623

April, 2008

138.1M

0.1%

6.31M

0.4%

138,216

-1.0%

April, 2009

131.8M

-4.5%

5.98M

-5.2%

124,425

-10.0%

April, 2010

130.1M

-1.2%

5.96M

-0.3%

128,886

3.6%

April, 2011

131.6M

1.2%

5.94M

-0.3%

130,610

1.3%

April, 2012

133.8M

1.7%

5.97M

0.5%

129,790

-0.6%

April, 2013

135.9M

1.5%

5.95M

-0.5%

127,767

-1.6%

April, 2014

138.3M

1.8%

6.03M

1.3%

129,637

1.5%

April, 2015

141.2M

2.1%

6.11M

1.4%

131,275

1.3%

April, 2016

143.8M

1.9%

6.16M

0.8%

132,027

0.6%

April, 2017

146.0M

1.5%

6.14M

-0.3%

129,778

-1.7%

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics for the United
States. Illinois Department of Employment Security
for Illinois and Winnebago County

 

 


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Property owners don’t mind taxes – as long as they are getting value

Of all the issues facing Rockford, property taxes is perhaps the most complex.

According to tax-rates.org, the median property tax bill in Winnebago County is $3,056 per year, which ranks the county as the 151st highest taxed county out of the 3,143 in the United States. Obviously, that’s not good.

But a low tax bill does not always equate to a more desirable place to live. People are willing to pay higher taxes if they believe they are getting value for their money. I looked at the Livability.com list of 100 best mid-size communities to live list and found the median property taxes paid of the counties of the top 25 cities. Nearly half, 12 to be exact, had a higher median property tax bill.

Count (city), median property tax bill

  1. Santa Clara County (Palo Alto, Calif.), $4,694
  2. Arlington County (Arlington, Virginia), $4,564
  3. Middlesex County (Newton, Mass.), $4,356
  4. Howard County (Columbia, Maryland), $4,261
  5. Dane County (Madison, Wis.), $4,149
  6. Chittendon County (Burlington, Vermont), $4,096
  7. Alameda County (Pleasonton, Calif.), $3,993
  8. Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor, Mich.), $3,913
  9. Tompkins County (Ithaca, New York), $3,815
  10. Montgomery County (Rockville, Maryland), $3,690
  11. King County (Bellevue, Washington), $3,572
  12. Frederick County (Frederick, Maryland), $3,082

In fact, there were just five on the Livability list that could truly be considered low tax areas, those with median property tax bills below $2,000 – Riley County, Kansas; Olmstead County, Minnesota; Williamson County, Tennessee, Wake County, North Carolina and Larimer County, Colorado.

Ironically, two major public companies that got started in Rockford and grew to be billion dollar operations moved their headquarters from Winnebago County to two of those counties with lower tax burdens.

Of course, most of the communities on the Livability top 100 list are high-income towns. That’s part of the reason they are on the list in the first place. Still, three counties considered to be among the top 25 mid-sized cities to live have a higher property tax bill to income ranking:

County (City), median property tax bill, tax bill as percent of income

  1. Tompkins County (Ithaca, New York), $3,815, 5.30%
  2. Chittendon County (Burlington, Vermont), $4,096, 5.25%
  3. Dan County (Madison, Wisconsin), $4,149, 5.06%

Winnebago County’s median property tax bill as a percent of income was 4.99%.

It’s when you look at Winnebago County’s property tax bill as a percent of the median fair market value of a home here then we truly stand out … in a bad way. Every single county in the top 25 paid a lower percentage of their median fair market home value.

County (City), median property tax bill, median fair market value – percentage of FMV.

  1. Williamson County (Franklin, Tenn.), $1,879, $335,800 – 0.56%
  2. Albermarle County (Charlottesville, Va.), $2,219, $349,800 – 0.63%
  3. Larimer County (Fort Collins, Colo.), $1,570, $246,000 – 0.64%
  4. Santa Clara County (Palo Alto, Calif.), $4,694, $701,000 – 0.67%
  5. Alameda County (Pleasanton, Calif.), $3,993, $590,900 – 0.68%
  6. Montgomery County (Rockville, Maryland), $3,690, $482,900 – 0.76%
  7. Arlington County (Arlington, Virginia), $4,564, $571,700 – 0.80%
  8. Wake County (Cary, North Carolina), $1,793, $222,300 – 0.81%
  9. King County (Bellevue, Washington), $3,572, $407,700 – 0.88%
  10. Frederick County (Frederick, Maryland), $3,082, $349,500 – 0.88%
  11. Hoaward County (Columbia, Maryland), $4,261, $456,200 – 0.93%
  12. Thurston County (Olympia, Washington), $2,472, $257,800 – 0.96%
  13. Middlesex County (Newton, Mass.), $4,356, $420,800 – 1.04%
  14. Olmstead County (Rochester, Minn.), $1,891, $174,000 – 1.09%
  15. Cumberland County (Portland, Maine), $2,973, $248,400 – 1.20%
  16. Riley County (Manhatten, Kansas), $1,903, $154,800 – 1.23%
  17. Johnson County (Overland Park, Kansas), $2,664, $209,900 – 1.27%
  18. Story County (Ames, Iowa), $2,076, $156,000 – 1.33%
  19. Johnson County (Iowa City, Iowa), $2,526, $177,000 – 1.43%
  20. Burleigh County (Bismarck, N.D.), $2,385, $152,900 – 1.56%
  21. Chittendon County, Burlington, $4,096, $254,700 – 1.61%
  22. Dane County (Madison, Wis.), $4,149, $230,800 – 1.80%
  23. Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor, Mich.), $3,913, $216,200 – 1.81%
  24. Allegheny County (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), $2,553, $115,200 – 2.22%
  25. Tompkins County (Ithaca, New York), $3,815, $162,100 – 2.35%

Winnebago County’s median fair market value, according to tax-rates.org, was $128,100, which means homeowners are paying 2.39% of their fair market value in taxes.

The Rockford area’s bizarre tax burden has no easy fix. If taxing bodies actually worked together to vastly lower the amounts they asked from tax payers it could shoot our unemployment rate higher.  In 1980, just four of our top 20 employers were public taxing bodies. Eight of the top 10 were manufacturing companies – Chrysler, Sundstrand, Barber-Colman, Atwood Industries, Ingersoll Milling Machine, Textron Inc. and Warner-Lambert Co.

Today, six of the top 20 are taxing bodies – Rockford School District, Winnebago County, Rockford Park District, City of Rockford, Harlem School District and Belvidere School District.

The only real long-term solution is to continue to push taxing bodies to be more efficient with the dollars they receive and to turn around all of the areas that keep our property values down – crime, jobs, infrastructure, education – to at least give homeowners more value for those property tax dollars spent.


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Want to live longer? Grow the economy

A groundbreaking study released earlier this month showed income inequality leads to life expectancy inequality.

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, as of 2014 there was a gap of 20.1 years between the counties with the shortest and longest typical life spans based on life expectancy at birth.

Researchers analyzed birth and death records from every U.S. county between 1980 and 2014.

Winnebago County was in the higher ranges of life expectancy throughout the time period studied. As of 2014, the life expectancy of someone born in Winnebago County was 77.95 years. The highest expectacy was 87.36 years and the lowest was 66.92.

What was fascinating though is the fact that Winnebago County’s life expectancy has followed its economic fortunes. As manufacturing in the U.S. was squeezed by globalization, incomes here have not kept pace.

  • In 1979, the per capita personal income of someone in the Rockford area was $9,643 compared with $9,616 of the typical person in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  • In 1980, the U.S. per capital personal income passed Winnebago County, $10,633 to $10,287.
  • As late as 1995, Winnebago County residents were still making about 95 percent of what a typical U.S. person was earning. The Winnebago County per capita income was $23,467 in 1995 compared with $24,604.
  • As of 2013 though, people in Winnebago County were earning 81 percent of what the U.S. makes. The per capita personal income of someone in Winnebago County was $37,505 compared with the U.S. per capita personal income of $46,177.

Health care, as everyone knows, is an expensive business. As our incomes have slipped so has our life expectancy when compared with the rest of the country.

  • In 1980, the life expectancy of someone born in Winnebago County was 74.12 years. In the U.S. the life expectancy was 73.75 years.
  • Winnebago County had a higher life expectancy than the U.S. as a whole every year until 1998. That year, the U.S. life expectancy reached 76.84 years while the Winnebago County life expectancy was at 76.71.
  • The gap has only continued to grow. In 2014, the life expectancy of someone born in Winnebago County was 77.95 years. In the U.S., it is up to 79.08 years.

So there’s yet another reason we need to Transform Rockford’s economy so that it surpasses the growth rate of the U.S. It will help us live longer.

Click here to see an interactive map so you can check out the data for yourself.


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Winnebago County rankings improve – very slightly

The health of Winnebago County’s residents improved compared with the rest of the state in 2016 – by the slightest of margins.

According to the Robert Wood Foundation’s County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, Winnebago County’s overall health ranked 87 out of the 102 counties in the state in its 2017 rankings. That’s not good, but it is better than the 2016 ranking (based on 2015 figures) of 88.

The rankings were released this week and in some cases, we are making progress:

  • The percentage of adults who smoke was just 17 percent in 2016, down from a high of 25 percent in 2012.
  • The number of teen births out of 1,000 dropped to 40. That’s down from 52 in 2012.
  • Our uninsured percentage in 2016 fell to 11 percent, down from 15 percent in 2014.
  • The county unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in 2016, down from 15.2 percent in 2012 (having a job means better health).
  • The child poverty rate ticked down to 23 percent, down from 28 percent in 2013.

Those are the positives. The negatives?

  • The obesity rate in 2016 ticked up to 34 percent, its highest level yet. It started at 28 percent in 2011.
  • The percentage of people who say they are physically inactive remained at 27 percent in 2016. It hasn’t moved much upward or downward even with increasing awareness paid to the subject.
  • In 2016, 19 percent said they drink excessively. This ties the high since the surveys started in 2011. Still, that’s two percentage points below the state level of 21 percent.
  • The violent crime rate of 832 per 10,000 people in 2016 was the lowest since 2012, but still nearly twice the state average.
  • In 2016, 17 percent still reported severe housing problems. That has ticked upward even in the improving economy.

Overall, a mixed bag and a long ways away from healthy communities. The top ranked county in Illinois was Monroe County, south of St. Louis.

In Monroe County:

  • 13 percent of adults smoke.
  • 6 percent are uninsured.
  • The unemployment rate was 4.4 percent.
  • Only 6 percent of children live in poverty.
  • Only 9 percent reported severe housing problems.
  • Only 42 people out of 10,000 were victims of violent crime.

Those are all good numbers. Monroe’s ranking though shows how deep the obesity epidemic runs. Even in Monroe County, supposedly the healthiest county in Illinois, the obesity rate was 33 percent.


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Winnebago County bucking trend on Social Security

Entitlement reform always is a popular topic in Washington D.C., no more so when a new administration takes over.

Social Security if the biggest entitlement program of all and always central in any of those discussions. Interestingly, according to annual statistics published by the Social Security Administration, overall recipients fell in 2015 for the second straight year.

As of Dec. 1, 2015, there were 8.31 million people receiving Social Security benefits of some kind. That was down from the 8.355 million in 2014 and the 8.363 million in 2013 when recipients peaked.

The decline was due to fewer people drawing disability payments in the improving economy. There were 7.206 million receiving disability benefits in 2013 and that was down to 7.152 million in 2015. The number of people age 65 and older receiving benefits rose to 2.15 million in 2015, an all-time high.

Winnebago County bucked a couple of those trends. Social Security recipients here rose both in 2014 and 2015 to a record 7,283. Those receiving disability benefits continued to grow as well, up to 6,882. Recipients age 65 and above actually declined slightly from 979 to 970. The amount of money coming into the county monthly from Social Security was $4.36 million, up from $2.99 million just 10 years before.

Where can Transform Rockford affect these trends? An area with an increasingly educated and well-trained workforce will attract better businesses, which in turn will attract younger and more educated workers, which would drive down the percentage of our population receiving Social Security benefits.


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Rockford still top 100 in labor productivity – but growth is stagnating

The Rockford metropolitan workforce was one of the 100 most productive in the United States in 2015, according to an ambitious new statistical analysis of worker productivity by the Brookings Institute.

The study though highlighted some troubling trends on our diverging fortunes both nationally and locally.

Brookings calculated labor productivity by taking the Gross Domestic Product of the nation’s 382 metro area – as calculated by the Bureau of Economic Analysis – and dividing it by the Current Employment Statistics and Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages from the Department of Labor.

The statistics showed that overall labor productivity slowed markedly since 2004. There are a variety of factors – declining breakthroughs, unequal value in major sectors like education, healthcare and housing to the fact that the Great Recession ate up five of those years.

The second major point is that the economies of the United States continue to diverge. If you look at the top 10 in labor productivity, they are either major tech hubs (San Jose, Calif.; Hartford, Conn.; New York City) or benefitting from the oil and gas boom (Midland, Houston and Beaumont, Texas). In Midland, each worker is producing $299,760 annually and the No. 10 area, produces $147,530.  At the bottom end is Jacksonville, North Carolina, whose economy revolves around the United States Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station, where workers produced just $38,120 per worker.

The positive aspect for Rockford is that even with the struggles of the manufacturing sector since 1980, Rockford ranked 100th out of the 382 metro areas. Each worker produced about $106,830. Why is productivity important? As Brookings explained, “rising productivity is a prerequisite for long-term real wage growth and increased living standards… it is generally acknowledged that it will be very hard for incomes to rise without increases in productivity.”

Labor productivity (GDP per worker) 2015

Top 10

Rank

Metro Area

Productivity

1.

Midland, Texas

$299,760

2.

Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas

$174,220

3.

San Jose-Santa Clara, Calif.

$173,970

4.

Odessa, Texas

$166,960

5.

Houston, Texas

$156,810

6.

Bridgeport-Stamford, Conn.

$151,620

7.

Lake Charles, Louisiana

$150,450

8.

Los Angeles, Calif.

$149,160

9.

Hartford, Conn.

$148,360

10.

New York City, NY

$147,530

Illinois metro areas

15.

Bloomington, Illinois

$135,120

49.

Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

$119,460

51.

Chicago, Illinois

$118,770

60.

Decatur, Illinois

$115,290

68.

Peoria, Illinois

$112,240

73.

Danville, Illinois

$111,890

82.

Carbondale-Marion, Illinois

$110,620

100.

Rockford, Illinois

$106,830

106.

Kankakee, Illinois

$106,660

112.

Springfield, Illinois

$105,840

Bottom 10

373.

Sierra Vista, Arizona

$71,550

374.

Yuma, Arizona

$71,100

375.

Killeen-Temple, Texas

$68,100

376.

Sumter, South Carolina

$67,610

377.

Great Falls, Montana

$66,320

378.

Lawton, Oklahoma

$64,390

379.

Clarksville, Tenn.-Ky.

$63,170

380.

Fayetteville, N.C.

$62,250

381.

Hinesville, Georgia

$50,220

382.

Jacksonville, N.C.

$38,120

The troubling thing for Rockford is that, like wage growth, labor productivity in our still manufacturing-dependent economy, is not rising as quickly as other metro areas. As you’ll see in the charts below, labor productivity rose just
0.92 percent annually from 1978 to 2015, which ranked 235th out of 382. In contrast, Fort Knox’s labor productivity averaged a 2.9 percent increase each year.

Annual labor productivity growth % (1978-2015)

Rank

Metro Area

Pct. Growth

1.

Elizabethtown-Fort Knox, Kentucky

2.88%

2.

San Jose-Santa Clara, Calif.

2.72%

3.

Hinesville, Georgia

2.51%

4.

New Bern, North Carolina

2.36%

5.

Killeen-Temple, Texas

2.35%

6.

Hanford-Corcoran, Calif.

2.34%

7.

El Centro, Calif.

2.18%

8.

Norwich-New London, Conn.

2.16%

9.

Rocky Mount, North Carolina

2.14%

10.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

2.05%

196.

Chicago, Illinois

1.02%

235.

Rockford, Illinois

0.92%

More concerning is that Rockford’s labor productivity is increasingly lagging the country.

  • From 1978 to 1995, our labor productivity growth ranked 180th overall with an average of 0.94%.
  • From 1995 to 2004, a very good time for the economy, labor productivity here grew at a 1.39% clip, but that ranked 271st overall.
  • From 2004 to 2015, labor productivity increased just at a 0.43% rate, which ranked 213rd.

Annualvlabor productivity growth % (1978-1995)

Rank

Metro Area

Pct. Growth

1.

Hilton Head Island, S.C.

3.85%

2.

Elizabethtown-Fort Knox, Ky.

3.67%

3.

Norwich-New London, Conn.

3.30%

4.

New Bern, North Carolina

3.29%

5.

Fairbanks, Alaska

3.28%

173.

Chicago, Illinois

0.97%

180.

Rockford, Illinois

0.94%

Annual labor productivity growth % (1995-2004)

Rank

Metro Area

Pct. Growth

1.

Corvallis, Oregon

6.73%

2.

Norwich-New London, Conn.

4.35%

3.

Hinesville, Georgia

4.26%

4.

San Jose-Santa Clara, Calif.

4.26%

5.

Kokomo, Indiana

3.99%

192.

Chicago, Illinois

1.85%

271.

Rockford, Illinois

1.39%

Annual labor productivity growth % (2004-2015)

Rank

Metro Area

Pct. Growth

1.

Midland, Texas

4.90%

2.

Enid, Oklahoma

3.13%

3.

Odessa, Texas

2.81%

4.

San Jose-Santa Clara, Calif.

2.80%

5.

Wichita Falls, Texas

2.37%

213.

Rockford, Illinois

0.49%

233.

Chicago, Illinois

0.43%

None of these numbers are shocking. The manufacturing sector in the United States has been shrinking – for the most part – since 1980 and wages in the Rockford area haven’t been keeping pace with the nation since the early 1990s. These numbers are just another way to illustrate more needs to be done to diversify our economy.

 

 


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Rockford makes a ‘beautiful’ list

Creators of lists and rankings typically haven’t been too kind to Rockford the past couple of decades. This week, the travel site Expedia included Rockford in a list that city marketers should trumpet all over Social Media.

Author Chloe Mulliner picked Rockford as its Illinois representative on a list of the “Most Beautiful Towns in All 50 States.”

Mulliner’s one-paragraph description of Rockford:

“Rockford is certainly a catch. Whether you’re picking honey crisp apples at Curran’s Orchard or doting on the intricate Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum & Gardens, you’re in for a treat when you explore this Midwest city. But if tut, tut, it looks like rain, don’t worry, it won’t put a damper on your sightseeing; Rockford Rain Art has a genius installation, in which artwork magically appears on wet sidewalks in certain parts of town!”

So who are we lumped in with this time – in a good way? I’ll save you the time:

Alabama – Gulf Shores
Alaska – Valdez
Arizona – Fountain Hills
Arkansas – Hot Springs
California – Dunsmuir
Colorado – Grand Lake
Connecticut – Kent
Delaware – Odessa
Florida – Apalachicola
Georgia – Pine Mountain
Hawaii – Hana, Maui
Idaho – Sandpoint
Indiana – Bloomington
Iowa – Decorah
Kansas – Cottonwood Falls
Kentucky – Pikeville
Louisiana – St. Francisville
Maine – Boothbay Harbor
Maryland – St. Michaels
Massachussetts – Westford
Michigan – Munising
Minnesota – Winona
Mississippi – Port Gibson
Missouri – Weston
Montana – Kalispell
Nebraska – Valentine
Nevada – Incline Village
New Hampshire – Harrisville
New Jersey – Spring Lake
New Mexico – Abiquiu
New York – Windham
North Carolina – Southport
North Dakota – Valley City
Ohio – Granville
Oklahoma – Guthrie
Oregon – McMinnville
Pennsylvania – Bethlehem
Rhode Island – Westerly
South Carolina – Bluffton
South Dakota – Hill City
Tennessee – Townsend
Texas – Vanderpool
Utah – Garden City
Vermont – Stowe
Virginia – Crozet
Washington – Coupeville
West Virginia – Summersville
Wisconsin – Algoma
Wyoming – Buffalo


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Lack of community pride drags down Rockford’s ‘well-being’

ROCKFORD – The Rockford area ranked 178th out of 189 metro areas studied for “well-being,” according to surveys conducted over 2015 and 2016 by Gallup, mostly because many residents here still don’t like where they live.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index surveyed at least 1,000 people a day for more than 700 days over those two years simply on how they felt about things. They broke the rankings down by:

  • Purpose – liking what you do and being motivated to achieve goals.
  • Social – having supportive relationships and love in your life.
  • Financial – managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security.
  • Physical – having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.
  • Community – Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community.

In three of the five categories, residents surveyed in Boone and Winnebago counties were positively bullish about their lives.

  • Rockford ranked 89th in financial well-being, ahead of such places as Chicago and Indianapolis.
  • Rockford ranked 67th in purpose, in front of Peoria, Illinois, and Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Rockford ranked 42nd in social well-being, beating out Honolulu, Boulder, Colo., and St. Louis, among others.

With those scores, how could Rockford be ranked barely above cities such as Flint, Michigan, with its public water crisis and Fort Smith, Arkansas, a struggling manufacturing area with a per capita personal income of $34,065 – more than $5,000 less than Rockford?

Well, in terms of physical well-being, having the energy to get things done daily, Rockford metro respondents graded the area 174th out of 189. And in community, having pride in where we live, Rockford ranked 187th. Only residents in the Binghamton, New York, and Fayetteville, North Carolina, liked where they live less than Rockford.

Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index – TOP 10

Rank

Area

Overall

Purpose

Social

Financial

Physical

Community

1.

Naples, Fla.

66.3

3

3

11

3

1

2.

Barnstable Town, Mass.

66.2

12

2

5

1

5

3.

Santa Cruz, Calif.

65.9

6

20

7

4

3

4.

Honolulu, Hawaii

65.4

21

53

3

7

6

5.

Charlottesville, Va.

65.3

13

5

23

6

13

6.

Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla.

65.2

14

4

1

14

12

7.

San Luis Obispo, Calif.

65.2

25

89

25

5

2

8.

Lynchburg, Va.

64.9

16

8

14

25

8

9.

Hilton Head Island, S.C.

64.9

7

1

26

20

27

10.

Boulder, Colo.

64.7

118

97

56

2

7

Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index – ILLINOIS METRO AREAS

Rank

Area

Overall

Purpose

Social

Financial

Physical

Community

84.

Peoria

61.9

77

149

15

99

134

93.

Chicago

61.7

112

121

92

52

149

148.

Quad Cities, Ill.-Iowa

60.9

97

156

61

151

138

178.

Rockford

59.9

67

42

89

174

187

Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index – BOTTOM 10

Rank

Area

Overall

Purpose

Social

Financial

Physical

Community

180.

Montgomery, Ala.

59.8

180

147

185

148

181

181.

Erie, Penn.

59.7

176

172

131

173

173

182.

Beaumont, Texas

59.5

127

183

181

183

153

183.

Chico, Calif.

59.5

167

170

177

185

155

184.

Flint, Mich.

59.4

163

127

145

171

185

185.

Canton, Ohio

59.4

187

187

122

166

169

186.

Topeka, Kansas

59.3

133

165

85

183

177

187.

Huntington, W.Va.

58.7

151

188

178

187

179

188.

Morgantown, N.C.

58.6

178

180

188

188

108

189.

Fort Smith, Ark.

57.5

188

189

189

189

175

 

 


  • 0

Rockford-area communities rank poorly in money management

Money management is a classic chicken-or-the egg question.

Are people who earn higher salaries inherently better with handling money versus those living in areas where incomes haven’t kept up? Or are families living in low-income areas forced to make tougher decisions because of lack of available resources?

WalletHub.com released its 2017 ranking of Best & Worst Cities at Money Management and Rockford, Illinois, ranked in the bottom 41 percentile out of 2,534. WalletHub.com asked professors from the universities of California-Irvine, Michigan, West Florida, California-Santa Barbara, New York, Illinois and Wisconsin to rank cities on 10 key financial metrics.

The data comes from TransUnion from 2016 and Renwood RealtyTrac and the rankings are based on the following indicators:

  • Credit card debt-to-income ratio
  • Mortgage debt-to-income ratio
  • Car loan debt-to-income ratio
  • Student loan debt-to-income ratio
  • Median credit score
  • Average number of late payments
  • Share of adults who are delinquent on their debts
  • Share of adults with a bankruptcy filing in the past 12 months
  • Foreclosure rate

A closer look at the rankings showed that high-income areas scored well, while low-income areas scored poorly. Of course, high-income areas also tend to have a more highly-educated workforce, so making distinctions based on income and education are difficult. What is clear is that Rockford still has a long way to go in terms of earning power and handling those earnings better.

Here are the various rankings important to the Transform Rockford area.

WalletHub.com best cities at money management

Rank

City

Median
credit score

Credit card
debt-to-income
ratio

Mortgage
debt-to-income
ratio

Student loan
debt-to-income
ratio

Car loan
debt-to-income
ratio

Average
No. of late payments

1.

Cupertino, Calif.

766

2.30%

436.28%

12.52%

17.52%

0.52

2.

Los Altos, Calif.

776

3.94%

566.51%

15.83%

22.04%

0.43

3.

Lexington, Mass.

776

3.99%

449.10%

16.48%

25.14%

0.46

4.

Scarsdale, N.Y.

764

4.68%

394.68%

11.87%

20.58%

0.82

5.

Palo Alto, Calif.

762

4.14%

667.73%

14.70%

31.15%

0.57

6.

Saratoga, Calif.

771

3.38%

591.18%

15.10%

19.29%

0.29

7.

Chevy Chase, Md.

757

4.95%

476.55%

16.27%

28.86%

0.58

8.

Foster City, Calif.

758

3.58%

515.26%

17.08%

25.96%

0.94

9.

Sunnyvale, Calif.

745

3.37%

592.74%

21.63%

27.13%

1.05

10.

McLean, Va.

757

4.51%

450.78%

16.40%

23.59%

0.76

Top cities in states surrounding Illinois

Rank

City

Median
credit score

Credit card
debt-to-income
ratio

Mortgage
debt-to-income
ratio

Student loan
debt-to-income
ratio

Car loan
debt-to-income
ratio

Average
No. of late payments

53.

New Berlin, Wis.

759

5.58%

342.89%

28.79%

40.30%

1.13

71.

Chesterfield, Mo.

762

6.22%

445.19%

30.13%

47.94%

1.02

98.

Carmel, Ind.

760

6.59%

384.81%

25.28%

38.97%

1.20

150.

Bettendorf, Iowa

738

6.17%

305.63%

35.63%

39.53%

1.65

711.

Owensboro, Ky.

668

7.48%

339.53%

51.38%

56.82%

2.3

Top five cities in Illinois

Rank

City

Median
credit score

Credit card
debt-to-income
ratio

Mortgage
debt-to-income
ratio

Student loan
debt-to-income
ratio

Car loan
debt-to-income
ratio

Average
No. of late payments

57.

Northbrook

762

5.63%

467.73%

22.53%

42.18%

0.92

58.

Buffalo Grove

747

5.49%

342.85%

25.88%

41.68%

1.41

70.

Wilmette

767

6.95%

530.04%

22.77%

25.59%

0.86

109.

Deerfield

756

7.91%

491.02%

24.41%

42.59%

0.81

110.

Arlington Heights

749

5.54%

422.11%

29.23%

43.93%

1.22

Rockford-area cities

Rank

City

Median
credit score

Credit card
debt-to-income
ratio

Mortgage
debt-to-income
ratio

Student loan
debt-to-income
ratio

Car loan
debt-to-income
ratio

Average
No. of late payments

768.

Freeport

686

8.34%

269.50%

59.03%

75.06%

2.30

1285.

Belvidere

673

7.85%

394.31%

49.72%

57.26%

2.06

1407.

Loves Park

673

6.76%

262.97%

45.05%

71.49%

2.67

1483.

Rockford

647

7.58%

300.19%

50.37%

74.53%

2.53

2133.

Machesney Park

666

7.17%

269.34%

47.82%

54.46%

3.31

When you look at the data, the only criteria that somewhat helps Rockford-area communities is our relatively low cost of housing. Otherwise, local families are saddling themselves with too much credit card, student loan and car loan debt.

To shore this up a bit, I’ve averaged out the scores from the top 10 overall cities, top in Illinois and then the five local communities big enough to be ranked.

Averages

Area

Credit Score

Credit Card
Debt

Mortgage
Debt

Student Loan
Debt

Car Loan
Debt

Avg. Late
Payments

Top 10 cities

763

3.88%

514.08%

15.79%

24.13%

0.64

Best cities surrounding Illinois

737

6.41%

363.61%

34.24%

44.71%

1.46

Top 5 Illinois cities

756

6.30%

450.75%

24.96%

39.19%

1.04

Rockford-area cities

669

7.54%

299.26%

50.40%

66.56%

2.57

The amount of student loan debt-to-income and car loan debt-to-income is staggering. Undoubtedly, a college education remains the most effective way to boost a person’s future earnings. College costs though have been outpacing inflation for decades and many more middle- and low-income families have had to use loans to pay for that education.

Heavy student loan debt though costs graduates years of savings power. According to the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances, $53,000 in education debt leads to a wealth loss of nearly $208,000.

Car loan debt, next to credit card debt, is perhaps the most unnecessary. The average car loan now lasts 5 ½ years, meaning payments will last well into the years where maintenance and repair costs start to accumulate. Plus, cars lose significant amounts of value the minute they leave the dealership, causing most borrowers to be “upside down,” owing more than what they can sell their car or truck for, for the majority of the loan.

Undoubtedly, the relatively lower level of income of our area affects these rankings. If Transform Rockford is successful and a city showing increased educational achievement and falling crime is able to attract and grow upper-income jobs by 2025 it will automatically improve the ratios. Afterall, the amount someone pays for a Ford F-150 in Cupertino, California, isn’t much different from Rockford. The difference is how much is the buyer able to pay up front.

Still, debt is mostly a controllable cost. If someone has $2,000 saved for a car and decides rather than buying what that amount affords to buy a $20,000 car, well, that means essentially the first week of every month you are working to pay off that vehicle. It’s a matter of priorities and what the data above shows is that too many people prioritize instant spending over long-term financial independence.