McLean County remains well positioned to overcome recent job losses at State Farm Insurance, according to a banker who's been crunching local economic development numbers for two decades.
In his 20th annual economic outlook, Busey Bank Vice Chairman Ed Scharlau told local business and government leaders Thursday that economic developers are responding to the challenge of hundreds of good-paying jobs moving out of the county.
“There’s a little bit of a cloud from State Farm, but my gosh, they are employing more than 14,000 people (in McLean County),” Scharlau said. “I think you get a sense of people wanting to do things right to make things work in the area.”
Home sale prices and retail sales are projected to rise in the county this year, but farm output is expected to drop 8 percent, due in part to lower crop prices.
Scharlau added the current trade dispute with China, including President Donald Trump’s call for tariffs on Chinese imports, could cause farm prices to suffer.
“The yields have been much better than ever expected, so if we ever get this trade dispute figured out, which could have a big impact on agriculture, I think you are looking at the opportunity to have higher production and possible higher prices,” Scharlau said.
The county's jobless rate has fallen to a post-recession low of 3 percent.
The report indicates McLean County’s population in 2017 grew to about 173,000, marking a near 3 percent increase since the 2010 census. It marks a 25 percent increase since 1990.
The report marks the final one for Scharlau, who is retiring after 54 years with Busey. He started there as a part-time janitor and later became its president, helping shepherd a company which has seen its net worth grow from $20 million to $8 billion.
“It’s been a great ride. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to do what I have done,” Scharlau said.
Top 20 employers in McLean County in 2017:
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