Continental's ContiTech research and development center in Auburn

A project by Continental AG helped Auburn rank as the nation’s No. 5 “micropolitan” area in 2020. The company is moving research and development operations for its ContiTech division to this building in west Auburn, creating an estimated 46 new jobs.

AUBURN — The city of Auburn ranks as America‘s fifth-strongest “micropolitan area” in a new report by Site Selection Magazine.

The magazine defines micropolitan areas as between 10,000 and 49,999 residents. Auburn’s population was 13,056 in the latest census estimate for 2019.

The report ranks micropolitans according to the number of corporate projects that began in 2020. It lists Auburn with nine such projects.

Angola ranks in a tie for 32nd place with three projects last year.

“In a year where unexpected unemployment, a global pandemic, and uncertain economic times were experienced, DeKalb County pushed through with higher than expected economic development investment numbers,” said Anton King, executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Partnership.

“Having Auburn and DeKalb County rank in the top five micropolitans in the U.S. is a great achievement for our communities and shows continued momentum in the growth of our county,” King added. “Hats off to our elected officials in creating an environment where businesses want to locate and expand. By being a top five micro in the U.S., it keeps eyes on DeKalb County.”

Auburn Mayor Mike Ley said he is pleased by the city’s ranking.

“Auburn has again been continually blessed this past year, even through the throes of a pandemic. And while some of the qualifying projects may be outside the city limits, this appropriately reflects our strong belief that ‘What is good for any city, town or community in DeKalb County, is good for the entire county. And what is good for DeKalb County is good for all our cities, towns and communities,” Ley said.

“DeKalb County and all our communities are a great place to live, work and raise a family!” Ley added.

The magazine’s lengthy description of Auburn’s 2020 projects includes some that lie in DeKalb County outside the city limits.

The magazine mentions investments by Paragon Steel, Steel Dynamics and Forest River in Butler; by Germany’s Continental AG and CX Institutional in Auburn; and, “in Ashley, the first of several massive plastics recycling plants from California-based Brightmark.”

The Brightmark plant lies just across the county line in Steuben County and justifiably could have been credited to Angola, as well.

The article describes in detail the plans of recreational vehicle and commercial vehicle maker Forest River to create up to 369 new jobs by the end of 2023 in DeKalb and LaGrange counties. In DeKalb County, it says, the company will invest $3.5 million to expand its 20-acre manufacturing campus in Butler, adding 120 new jobs. The company also expects to add 249 new jobs in LaGrange County, the article says.

King said new projects in DeKalb County total more than $62 million in capital investment, over 460,000 square feet of new construction and more than 315 new jobs pledged.

Projects in the past year include the Team Quality Services and Credent Wealth Management offices in downtown Auburn, ContiTech (Continental AG) and Scot Industries of Auburn, TrueCore at Waterloo, Forest River XLR Boost in Butler, and Paragon Steel and Steel Dynamics in rural Butler.

Sanford, North Carolina, also reported nine projects, tying Auburn for fifth place.

Indiana ranks fourth among states for micropolitan projects, behind No. 1 Ohio.

In describing micropolitans, the article says, “Among the salient characteristics of these communities is proximity to major transportation infrastructure such as interstate interchanges and rail hubs. Another is their tendency to be ‘halfway points’ between bigger communities, so companies see them as good logistical locations for investments.”

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