Cost of living ranks below US average

Housing and utilities costs in particular are indexed lower than average.

The Cost of Living Index is prepared by the Council for Community and Economic Research. The council compares regional statistics about consumer goods and services from across the country.

For Bloomington, members of the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation collected data about the prices of common grocery goods such as ground beef and rental prices for local apartments.

The BEDC, a not-for-profit, public-private partnership that works for the retention, development and attraction of quality jobs in the county, then submits these data to the larger regional body, which formulates the index.

Dana Palazzo, BEDC project manager, said this is the first time the organization has worked on the report in conjunction with funding and technical assistance from electrical cooperative Hoosier Energy.

She said the report, overall, showed the strength of the Bloomington economy.

“Having a low utilities cost will ultimately drive companies to the area because they’ll be able to function at a lower cost,” Palazzo said. “Housing, in turn, is great for the employees they’ll be hiring.”

In the study, all category averages equal 100 for the nation. These six areas are housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods and services.

For example, Bloomington has a housing index of 77.4 and a utilities index of 89.7, both below the national average of 100.

An averaging of the six categories provides the composite index number that places Bloomington at 93.4.

Bloomington did have higher-than-average indexes for transportation and healthcare, which were at 112.2 and 100.2, respectively.

A third category, miscellaneous good and services, came close to the national average at 99.6.

Tim Tucker, co-owner of Express Employment Professionals, said Bloomington traditionally has had both lower housing costs and a cultural richness, making the city an attractive location.

He said from his observations, the city often has higher-than-usual gas prices, which might have contributed to the high transportation index.

“I’m going to have a hard time finding a place that has a low cost of living that brings me everything that Bloomington does,” Tucker said.

He said salaries in Bloomington may seem low to outsiders but that given the cost of living, it’s important to remember scale. This favorable cost also helps small
businesses, he said.

“From a small business standpoint, I can do a lot more with a little bit less revenue here just because we’re in a community when things are not as inflated,” Tucker said.

Palazzo and the BEDC have already submitted information for third-quarter calculations, which should be finished by the end of the year. Palazzo said she is interested to see how this summer’s drought will affect the index but that as of now, she is pleased with the results.

“It’s a great way to show how our community is doing,” Palazzo said. “It’s a good reflection of the health of our economy in Monroe County.”

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