Study shows how C-U stacks up with other Midwestern metro areas

Study shows how C-U stacks up with other Midwestern metro areas

CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area stacks up well with selected Midwestern cities in terms of grocery and transportation costs, but not so well in terms of health care and utility costs, according to a comparative study.

The study, done for the Champaign County Economic Development Corp., looked at Champaign-Urbana and 11 other metro areas in the Midwest. It is online at the EDC's websiite here, as a 2.6 MB pdf file.

It evaluated them in terms of cost of living and the cost of doing business.

The study also looked at available labor supply, average wages, employment by industry and employment projections.

The economic development group commissioned the report in hopes of getting data on how the local area stacks up with communities perceived to be competitors for new business.

Nine of the 11 communities were considered "peers" — with similar size or makeup to Champaign-Urbana — while two metro areas were chosen as examples of larger cities to which Champaign-Urbana might aspire: Madison, Wis., and Ann Arbor, Mich.

The peer-group metro areas included four in Indiana (Bloomington, Evansville, Lafayette and South Bend), one in Missouri (Columbia), two strictly in Iowa (Iowa City and Dubuque), one strictly in Illinois (Bloomington-Normal) and one straddling Iowa and Illinois (Davenport-Rock Island-Moline).

The Champaign-Urbana metro area includes the counties of Champaign, Ford and Piatt, giving it a lower population density and a higher degree of "rurality" than its competitor communities.

The 72-page report, compiled by the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, cited a cost-of-living index prepared by the Council for Community and Economic Research.

That index gave the Champaign-Urbana area a 99 score, indicating that people here pay 1 percent less for goods and services than the average metropolitan area nationwide.

Of the perceived Midwestern competitors, Madison, Ann Arbor and Iowa City had higher overall costs of living than Champaign-Urbana. The lowest overall cost of living was in Columbia, Mo. (Bloomington-Normal and Bloomington, Ind., were excluded from this comparison because figures weren't available.)

Champaign-Urbana had relatively low costs for groceries and transportation, but relatively high costs for utilities and health care, according to the index. It was toward the middle of the pack for housing costs.

The report also cited the cost of doing business, as determined by the Milken Institute. Among the 12 metro areas, Champaign-Urbana ranked fourth-highest in business costs, behind Bloomington-Normal, Madison and Ann Arbor.

Areas with the lowest cost of doing business were Bloomington, Ind., Dubuque and Iowa City.

Government employment (including the University of Illinois) accounted for 27.8 percent of total employment in the Champaign-Urbana metro area.

That was much higher than the 19.9 percent average for competitor communities and the 14.2 percent national average.

The study also looked at the composition of private-industry employment. When compared with the 11 competitor communities, Champaign-Urbana tended to have greater percentages of people employed in health care and social assistance; accommodation and food services; and professional, scientific and technical services.

It tended to have smaller percentages of people employed in manufacturing, retail trade and finance/insurance.

The study said the average hourly wage for all occupations in Champaign-Urbana was $21.64. That was the fourth-highest average, behind Ann Arbor, Bloomington-Normal and Madison.

The lowest average hourly wage among the 12 metro areas was $17.14 in Bloomington, Ind.

The report said Champaign-Urbana had the highest mean wage in the nation for the "education, training and library" occupational category.

Nearly 9,900 residents fell into that category, and their hourly mean wage was $38.37. Their annual mean wage was pegged at $79,810.

Runners-up to Champaign-Urbana included: Iowa City ($78,300); Gainesville, Fla. ($75,340) and Ann Arbor ($69,810).

The report also looked at future employment levels, as projected by Woods & Poole Economics Inc. That company researched employment levels in 2000 and projected how they might change by the year 2040.

According to those projections, the Champaign-Urbana area would have the eighth-greatest growth rate of the 12 cities being compared.

Iowa City, Madison and Columbia would have the greatest growth rates, with all three being expected to grow by more than 60 percent over four decades.

Champaign-Urbana was projected to grow by only 35 percent over that time — still faster than Lafayette, Davenport, Evansville and South Bend.

To see the complete report, visit the Champaign County Economic Development Corp. website,, and look for "Comparative Demographic Analysis" under "Area Facts."

The metropolitan areas

Here are the 11 Midwestern metro areas with which Champaign-Urbana was compared in a recent study.

'Peer-group' communities

— Bloomington, Ind.

— Bloomington-Normal, Ill.

— Columbia, Mo.

— Dubuque, Iowa

— Iowa City, Iowa

— Lafayette, Ind.

— Evansville, Ind.

— South Bend, Ind.

— Davenport, Iowa/Rock Island-Moline, Ill.

'Aspiration' communities

— Ann Arbor, Mich.

— Madison, Wis.

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sameeker wrote on April 22, 2012 at 9:04 am

What a bunch of garbage. Wages in this area for the majority of the people are around minimum wage. Because of the outragous salaries for admins at the university and the hospitals, the averages are quite skewed. Wages are going down for all but administrators. Champaign County has stupidly high property taxes, fines for every little infraction, runaway increases in heating and electrical costs, high rents and an uptite population that can't stand students having a good time one weekend a year and ar offended at the school mascot. Why would anyone want to live there?

serf wrote on April 22, 2012 at 9:04 am

Then why do you live here?


High wages here (in Illinois), lowest wages there (In Indiana).  


Right to work for less.

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 22, 2012 at 10:04 am

serf; you hit it right on the head.  It would be nice if the anti labor advocates would move to Indiana, Wisconsin, or even Tennesse.  The utility costs are linked to Ameren.  They paid off the legislators.  One local incumbent received over $8,000.00 to vote in favor of Ameren.  Of course, he said that the money did not influence his vote.

sameeker wrote on April 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Did I say anything about Indiana? Read the post again. I am also not against organized labor. If you read the post again, you will see that I have a beef with the low wages that the general public makes. I just think that they need to be more honest with the story. It is nothing more then a sales ad for Champaign. Again, READ THE POST AGAIN!

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on April 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm

YES- and the EDC board(bored) members are the same proponents who want to build roundabouts and Olympian  Drive overpasses  that will make us look like Madison and Ann Arbor and Carmel with money that desparately needs to be used for other unsafe projects and replace farmland that already employs many workers and then have it sit unused for 30 years so that it will get covered with unwanted plastic garbage bags and unwanted contaminated dirt fill from other distressed land areas.  What a joke for a futuristic formula/view of economic development.

The quad cities make this place look like a dump.