The following analysis of the existing economic profile of Pittsfield, reveals the strengths and weaknesses of it’s economy. This helps in utilizing economic advantages and preparing for possible threats in the future. The goals and objectives of the economic development section of the plan have been formulated based on this data analysis and issues raised by the people.
The Regional Context
Pike County is essentially a rural county; a major portion of its economy is dependent on farming. On average, farm earnings in Pike County have accounted for more 21% of the total earnings of the county while farm earnings in Illinois as a whole were only about 2% of total state earnings in the 29 years between 1969 and 1998. While this significant dependence on farming as the basic economic activity gives Pike County its rural charm, it also makes it vulnerable to external economic shocks. In particular, national declines in farming demand and farming activity can adversely affect the Pike County economy. While in recent years this dependence has reduced substantially, even in the year 1998 farming accounted for over 20% of the county’s earnings and 15% of the county’s employment. Hence while the farming sector should be strengthened to withstand exogenous shocks, it is also important to diversify the economic base of the county.
Pittsfield, the largest city in Pike County is also the largest urban economy in the County. In fact the Pittsfield economy significantly contributes to whatever diversity that exists in the County’s economy. In the year 2000, residents of Pittsfield accounted for over 40% of the non-farm employment in Pike County.
Table 4.1 shows a summary of employment by primary economic sectors for Pittsfield. The retail and service sectors account for 60% of all employment which is not surprising since Pittsfield functions as the center of commerce for much of Pike County. This fact is reinforced by the unusually robust retail sales for a community of this size (see Table 4.2).
|Table 4.1: Pittsfield Employment by Sector|
|Agricultural Services, Forestry, and Fishing||23||1.6%|
|Transportation and Public Utilities||124||8.7%|
|Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate||75||5.3%|
|Source: 2000 Estimates, EASI|
|Figure 4.2b: Trends in Total Retail Sales|
The large proportion of employment in retail and services is a potential weakness. These businesses are normally considered to be nonbasic employment sectors that are sustained by basic sectors like manufacturing, mining, and agriculture where products are exported for income. Retail and service sector employment can be easily influenced by local demographic and economic factors. Figure 4.2b and Table 4.2 illustrate how retail sales can be affected by economic conditions. As national, regional, and local economies dipped into recession in the last two years retail sales have declined. Retail sales peaked in 1999 at $75.7 million but since then have gradually slipped to $71.5 million in 2001. Per capita sales continue to be well above the Illinois average of $10,505 which reflects the fact that Pittsfield is attracting shoppers from outside the community.
|Table 4.2: Retail Sales Trends for Pike County and Pittsfield|
Employment in the wholesale, retail, and services sectors have changed over time. Figure 4.3 shows the employment in these three sectors since 1969. It is important to note that Figure 4.3 is based on employment data from the older SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) system and only partially comparable to current estimates due to the reorganization of some firms under the broad sectors. Employment in retail trade has remained steady around 500 except for the drop in the year 1990. The service sector has been growing since 1992 and wholesale trade also has shown moderate growth since 1990. Overall these three sectors have shown resilience to significant declines and have shown moderate growth in recent years.