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, http://www.champaigncountyedc.org, 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.
— 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.
— Ann Arbor, Mich.
— Madison, Wis.