Up, down, then up again: unemployment rates changing in Grand Ledge

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By Paige Wester
Living in The Ledge staff reporter

Downtown Grand Ledge located on Bridge St. Photo by Paige Wester

Downtown Grand Ledge located on Bridge Street. Photo by Paige Wester

Greg Shinnings, a Grand Ledge resident for many years, said that Grand Ledge has had its struggles with low unemployment, but with each passing year, employment is improving.

Just like every other state in 2008 and 2009, Grand Ledge was hit with the Great Recession, but handled it as well as possible.

“I do know that the city weathered the economic slowdown very well. Tax revenue increased each year, but at very low levels,” Grand Ledge Mayor Kalmin Smith said. “For a time there were quite a few empty houses, but that does not seem to be the case now.”

eaton county

Unemployment rates in Eaton County over the last 25 years. Graphic by Paige Wester. Soruce: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Smith has been the mayor since 2007, so he has seen it all when it comes to the up and downs of his city. He said the city did struggle, but not as bad as many others in Michigan.

“One of the reasons we did fine during the tough times was that we have been very conservative about spending and programs,” Smith said. “When the times were rough, we got by without budget cuts and we are now planning to add a couple positions.”

However, according to Western Michigan University economics graduate James Howard, the disadvantages of living in small towns are that usually the businesses are run by only the owners themselves or have a very small staff. Unless a town has a very large factory, finding jobs is extremely scarce and difficult.

Howard said that when tough times hit the economy, the advantage of living in a small town is that not much changes. People continue to do the same things they would every single day because very few people out of town visit these places.

“Small communities usually stay the same and people are extremely invested in keeping small businesses afloat,” Howard said. “The unemployment may not drop, but the businesses are the ones that need to keep their head above water.”

According to data from the federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, unemployment in Grand Ledge’s home county of Eaton County is now at 4 percent, compared to 2009, where it was at 11.5 percents. The decrease in unemployment is mind-blowing and shows how much this county and city has improved throughout the recent years.

“Having a county and town improve that much is incredible,” said Howard. “It makes people proud of their city.”

According to statistics, Eaton County has experienced a wave of high and low unemployment rates since the beginning of 1990.

Rates have yo-yo’d from 9.7 percent in 1990 to 1.7 in 2000 to 5.1 percent in 2005, before the Great Recession and subsequent recovery, according to federal reserve bank data.

Beth Morre, a resident of Grand Ledge, said the development of the downtown area is really helping to improve the city.

Grand Ledge citizens don’t have to drive far to get downtown. “We are expanding our downtown and businesses just like many other small towns in Michigan,” said Morre. “People want more and more to come down here.”

Morre has seen the town expand and flourish throughout the years. “Even small changes make this city better,” she said. These changes are making Grand Ledge such a close community and an even better city to live in, said Morre.

This community is so close, there is even a Facebook page that people go to for anything. This shows how special this city really is and that they really do care for everyone who lives there.

For more information about Grand Ledge’s employment rates, check out Grand Ledge, MI unemployment rate report

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