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Photo: ISTOCKPHOTO Perhaps most famously known as home to the Indianapolis 500, the capital city of Indiana more than lives up to the state motto, "The Crossroads of America." With six official cultural districts and its status as the city with the second greatest number of monmuments in the U.S.–behind only Washington, D.C.–Indianapolis combines a rich local heritage with a diversified economy, which serves to offset a certain degree of uncertainty in the manufacturing sector.

The area's top manufacturer, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly posted a 22 percent revenue increase over the past year. This boost in sales coupled with cost restructuring shows a significant potential for growth in the manufacturing sector and increased hiring on the local level.

However, Rolls-Royce, the area's second largest manufacturer, represents the flipside of the coin. Following its announcement of plans to eliminate 2,300 domestic and European jobs, the company's outlook remains unclear–particularly whether its 4,000 Indiana-based employees will be affected by the 6 percent overall workforce reduction.

Yet the overall story in manufacturing may not be overly negative; although the sector trimmed roughly 1,100 positions year-over-year at the close of 1Q2008, according to Hanley Wood Market Intelligence (HWMI), the rate of decline was half that of the national average.

Affordability, Employment Growth

Indianapolis remains one of the most affordable metropolitan areas in the U.S., according to, and a top 10 best city in terms of employment. Combined with low unemployment, these factors continue to maintain an influx of new residents. During the 12-month period ending in March, Indianapolis saw an increase of 26,700 new residents, coming from such areas as Gary, Terre Haute, and Fort Wayne, for a steady 1.6 percent gain–a rate HWMI expects to continue throughout 2008.

Although employment continues to grow, the rate has slowed to half that seen at this time last year. Total non-farm employment increased 0.8 percent for the 12-month period ending in March with a boost of 1,700 jobs compared to the addition of nearly 15,000 jobs for 1Q2007. Unemployment closed for 1Q2008 at a low 3.9 percent compared to the 4.2 percent year-over-year rate. Looking ahead, HWMI predicts unemployment to increase to 4.4 percent by the close of 2008.

Located in Hamilton County, once considered a "bedroom community" in the Indianapolis metropolitan area, the city of Noblesville has big plans on the horizon as Gershman Brown Crowley and Simon Property Group look to develop a 950,000-square-foot mall. More than 50 businesses had filed for building permits at the new Hamilton Town Square at press time, with 37 scheduled openings in May and capacity for 45 additional openings–for a total potential of 3,000 new jobs to bolster the economy.

Big Deals, Big Dollars

HWMI reports that has confirmed its plans to open a 600,000-square-foot distribution center in Whitestown, Boone County. Estimates are that the facility will hire several hundred managers and warehouse workers and up to 1,700 temporary workers during its peak summer season. By 2010, the distribution center is poised to add 1,300 new jobs to the workforce.

Medco Health Solutions Inc. also has set its eyes on Indianapolis with plans to "build the world's largest and most advanced automated pharmacy," according to a company press release. Medco's transition from a generalist practice to a specialist platform combined with more cost-effective distribution attributable to Indianapolis's centralized location stand to position the city for a considerable investment gain, according to HWMI.

These two deals represent a boon to broaden the local economy. And because housing prices are expected to remain around $115,000 into 2009, based on HWMI estimates, Indianapolis's status as one of the most affordable U.S. markets is in tact. The city is poised for long-term growth with appreciable gains anticipated in the next decade.

–Lisa Brown

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Indianapolis, IN.