Report: Indianapolis tops Midwestern cities in three-year GDP growth

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Indianapolis' GDP growth has outpaced other midwestern metros, according to an analysis by economist Joseph Politano. (@ JosephPolitano via X)

The Indianapolis metropolitan area surpassed its Midwestern peers in gross domestic product growth from 2019 to 2022, according to a report from a Washington, D.C.-based economist.

In a graphic posted on X,  economist Joseph Politano showed Indianapolis outperforming peer cities including St. Louis and Cincinnati, as well as larger metropolitan areas like Minneapolis-St. Paul and Chicago. Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Politano found that the Indianapolis metro’s GDP grew by $12.1 billion, or 8.4%, during that period.

The calculation was made using chained 2017 dollars, a measure which calculates “as if everything is at 2017 prices” in order to adjust for inflation, Politano told IBJ.

The post garnered attention from local officials and celebrities, from Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett to Indianapolis-based author John Green. By midday Thursday, it had been viewed by nearly 370,000 users.

Where other Midwestern metros had modest GDP increases, Indianapolis was an outlier.

“[Indianapolis] was like a bright spot in what is otherwise like a pretty gloomy recovery for the Midwest as a whole,” said Politano, who was a financial management analyst at the Bureau of Labor Statistics before starting his Apricitas Economics newsletter.

The GDP increase in Indianapolis was mostly stirred by white collar jobs, followed by construction. These industries have increased hiring over the past few years, Politano said, but both have slowed down.

The Indianapolis metropolitan area includes suburbs. But, Politano said the bulk of the area’s GDP growth came from its core, with roughly two-thirds from Marion County.

Local business leaders told IBJ the data is a credit to Indianapolis’ competitiveness among its peers.

Indy Chamber CEO Matt Mindrum said he was surprised by the magnitude of the metro’s growth, calling it a “tremendous validation of the work that’s been happening, and I think a tremendous indicator of what’s possible in the future.”

The growth wasn’t reliant on corporate giants such as pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co., which Mindrum said was a credit to the breadth of local industries.

“It is pharmaceutical manufacturing, but it is more so professional services, finance, white collar jobs,” Mindrum said. “This is [spurred by] jobs, which I think is tremendous news, because if it’s jobs, it’s talent, and that is the kind of growth that’s going to be the most sustainable.”

The data also showed that Marion County was responsible for 25% of the state’s GDP growth, which Mindrum said is proof the state should “double-down” on the “economic driver,” or downtown Indianapolis. The economic enhancement district the state created for downtown Indianapolis is part of continuing that momentum, he said. The Indianapolis City-County Council approved the creation of the tax district last month.

It’s also proof to Mindrum that the metro’s fundamentals are solid.

“I don’t think we attracted that level of growth because Indianapolis across the country is perceived as the coolest and hippest place to beI hope we’re going to get there over time—but I think this investment is business growth, this is talent growth.”

Gordon Hendry, managing director of real estate firm HRE, said the ranking “is really demonstrative of how Indianapolis is competing against our peer cities in the Midwest.” Outside of the Midwest, Seattle had a similar rate of GDP increase. Hendry said Indianapolis’ ability to compete with the base for tech giants including Amazon, Zillow and Microsoft shows Indy is excelling in the competitive landscape.

The graphic reflects “the Indianapolis story” of success despite the turbulence of the global pandemic, he added.

“We held our own, and rebounded strongly,” Hendry told IBJ.

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15 thoughts on “Report: Indianapolis tops Midwestern cities in three-year GDP growth

  1. But I was told everything in Indianapolis sucked compared to other cities, by a bunch of people whose knowledge of downtown Indianapolis seems to come primarily from what they hear on WIBC.

    Obviously things would be far better if we handed everything over to a handful of local Republican legislators too cowardly to run for mayor or City County Council. Those legislators would scream bloody murder if the federal government dared pass a federal law targeting Indiana, but have no shame in doing the same at the state level to cities …

    1. Joe B with the hot “you didn’t build this” take in 2024. Ignore all the hardworking Hoosiers who are responsible for making Indiana great, and put all the thanks to a bunch of clueless politicians who couldn’t find their own rear-end.

    2. Of course it’s a partnership. But Indianapolis leadership only gets the blame, none of the credit?

      D H, I was told Republicans had all the answers. We were doomed compared to cities like Columbus so we had to make a change. Nevermind that Jefferson Shreve’s platform was “I’ll do the same things as Joe Hogsett, just better” …

      Maybe what the state of Indiana needs to do to succeed is to look at what cities are doing … like investing in infrastructure and really nice schools … as opposed to what Republican legislators from the parts of Indiana that people are fleeing want to do, which is cut taxes and let things fall apart some more because they apparently don’t have a future worth investing in.

  2. I grew up in a smaller Indianapolis. I grew up on the east side in an oasis of goodness. Crime wasn’t even a consideration as a boy growing up in an idyllic working class neighborhood. This report is positive and there are things to build on. But Indianapolis has a terrible violence problem that can be solved by putting violent criminals in prison and keeping them there! When that happens, the potential of Indianapolis can be achieved.

    1. Most of the violent crime you’re referring to is isolated to certain neighborhoods and the victims usually know their attackers. It’s not like there’s lots of random crimes committed to complete strangers by strangers. It’s not like if you walk downtown at night you’ll get held up by gun point every night. Are there cases like this happening, yes but not as often as some people are trying to say. I spend time downtown often and haven’t experienced the crime people says goes on. I would suggest people to be aware of their surroundings no matter what town, city or state you’re in. It’s just good common sense todo so and we must all remember that we live in a violent world. The world we live in has always been a violent world sense the beginning of time.

    1. +1

      Imagine how more attractive to conventions we might be with a train that ran direct from the airport to union station.

      No stops, no need for visitors to rent a car.

    2. Don’t forget giving every single road in mile square a road diet with protected bike lanes!

    3. I support the idea of better mass transit. I don’t support IndyGO. They have shown arrogance and ineptitude many times.
      Our current system is an extension of the welfare safety net. We need to transition to a system that works for people’s daily lives. Not just home to work and work to home.

    4. Clint, please provide specific cases of ineptitude by IndyGo and describe what you feel would be appropriate transit? Do you use transit? Have you used transit? Can you describe issues with current project, operations, operating statistics? What specific aspects of arrogance can be cited? How many routes should there be, and at which frequency should they operate by time of day and please note the basis for your suggestions.

      Constructive criticism serves to benefit. But to be effective, criticism must to based on specifics so that resolution and improvement can be achieved. Hyperbole and perceptions do not reflect reality.

  3. “Putting violent criminals in prison” is a simple-minded statement. Yes, violence is a problem in every city. The objective are to address violence immediately, fairly adjudicate issues, and to seek to stem the cause of violence. Violence is not static nor are the offenders committing violent acts. Which violent acts — theft, carjacking, burglary, murder, domestic? What about other criminal activity, the so-called white collar crime in business and government, that serves as a catalyst to the violent acts that many decry. The recent violent act in Perry, Iowa shows that violence can, and does, occur in areas perceived to be safe.

    1. Personally I don’t think an entity created by a convicted junk bond dealer has much credibility. When it comes to conferring economic “powerhouse” status, I’ll bet the house on GDP stats everytime. And in the Midwest, Indianapolis is #1 by a long shot.

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