Experts Discuss Local Economic Trends

BY LAURA SLOOP, Times-Union Staff Writer

Lake City Bank President and CEO Michael Kubacki was one of four speakers at the economic briefing Thursday. Photo by Al Disbro

Lake City Bank joined with Indiana University of South Bend Division of Business and Economics today to educate the public on the national economic status.

More specifically, an economic briefing was given on Kosciusko County and surrounding counties including St. Joseph, Elkhart and Allen.

Paul A. Joray, professor of economics at Indiana University, South Bend, said these four counties are the major economies driving our area.

Joray, along with Fred Herschede and Wayne Bartholomew, all economic professors from IUSB, were the featured speakers at the economic briefing.

Michael Kubacki, president and CEO of Lake City Bank, also spoke.

Issues discussed were inflation, unemployment, the national economy and a local economic outlook.

Herschede focused on “beating the ’60s.”

He said inflation went up in 1966, ending the ’60s with rising rates and lower military spending. The expansion lasted 106 months.

In comparing the ’60s with the ’90s, he said, the “economy really took off in the second part of last year.”

The cost of living for the typical urban family rose 2.2 percent in 1999, Herschede said.

But he reported few signs of inflation climbs for this year.

Unemployment rates are 4.1 percent now and are expected to average 4.2 percent in 2000.

Joray said the “unemployment rate is up a little” for this year in comparison with last year, which was “a very strong year.”

Warsaw’s current rate of unemployment is under 3 percent.

“These are very, very, very low unemployment rates,” Joray said.

It also was reported that the national economy grew 4 percent last year and had its strongest performance during the second half of the year.

“We expect that the economy will moderate its rate of growth,” Bartholomew added.

Growth is expected to be 2.5 percent this year.

It is predicted that consumer spending and business fixed investments will be strong.

Herschede said the local economy performed very well last year and Bartholomew added that employment levels are up and low unemployment levels continue.

Last year the rate of employment increased 1.5 percent.

The local economy is expected to continue to do well, with tight labor markets and slow growth in the next four to eight months.

Kubacki also spoke to the public on behalf of Lake City Bank.

He briefly discussed the changes that have occurred in the national banking environment.

In 1980, the top three Indiana banks were from Indianapolis. Only a decade later, the top three banks, including Bank One, National City Bank and Fifth Third Bank, were all from Ohio.

Kubacki said the reason for this is Ohio’s rapid growth. He said Indiana was slow to adopt deregulation attempts.

Kubacki also said the banking industry is adopting the concept of “walmartization,” meaning, “bigger is better.”

“Now there is a very strong drive to advertise,” Kubacki said. “Many banks couldn’t afford to 10 years ago.”

Kubacki said Lake City Bank is the third oldest bank in Indiana since 1872.

Kubacki said they can always do more in Kosciusko County and they’re always going to do more. He also said the bank is focusing internally on the staff.

“We recognize that while we’re working very hard on technology, we are in a face-to-face business,” he said. “We need to focus on our customers.”

“Business is good for us if business is good for you,” Kubacki said.

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