Harman Becker Building

The closure of the former Harman Becker Plant has been cited as one of the causes for a drop in income locally.

While incomes in Franklin County fell last year, the percentage of people living in poverty and without health insurance went up, according to new data released this week from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The median household income in Franklin County in 2012 was $42,214 compared to $52,127 in 2008 when adjusted for inflation. The median income in 2011 was $47,056.

The 2012 median household income in Franklin County is significantly lower than the median income for the St. Louis metro area, which is $52,243.

The percentage of Franklin County residents whose income fell below the poverty level almost doubled in 2012. The county’s poverty rate was 16.2 percent in 2012 compared to 8.5 percent the year before, and 9.6 percent in 2008.

And the percentage of people in Franklin County without health insurance coverage also went up to 13.1 percent in 2012 compared to 10.6 percent in 2011 and 9.3 percent in 2008.

People in Franklin County are still struggling, said Joseph Graves, city of Union director of community development.

The closure of the Fenton Chrysler plants in 2008 and 2009 is the main reason incomes have declined, Graves said

“The closure of Chrysler hurt our entire region and took a lot of good paying jobs with it,” Graves said.

Industries that were based in Franklin County and supported the Chrysler plant also went out of business, he noted.

The data come from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which is done annually on counties with populations of 65,000 or more.

The 2012 closure of the Harman-Becker plant in Washington also hurt the area, Graves noted.

The city of Union and other communities in Franklin County are working to promote themselves to the region and world, he added.

About 80 percent of new jobs come from existing industries, Graves said. Therefore, he said it is important for him and other economic developers to have a strong relationship with local industries and help them expand.

“That should be our No. 1 priority in Union and in Franklin County,” Graves said.

The other 20 percent of jobs come from marketing the area and its industrial parks, he said.

“Every job is important,” Graves said.

Franklin County’s July unemployment rate was 7.5 percent.

The Census data show that in 2012 manufacturing was the industry that employed the most workers in Franklin County at 22.5 percent followed by educational services, health care and social assistance at 20.1 percent.

Graves said he is aware of several industries that are looking to expand.

“It will turn around, but it won’t happen in one or two years,” he said, adding that it is his job to bring “family-supporting” jobs to the area.