On the way to the hotel, the streets were empty, and many, many houses and businesses were boarded up and in deep neglect… broken windows, collapsed rooves, etc.
Notre Dame, we were told, pumps the economy back up when school is in session. But school’s out right now. (Except for the summer semester perhaps).
The bright spot in South Bend’s economy right now happens to be at the airport. SBN is served by Northwest, Delta, Allegiant, and many, many corporate flights. The day we were there, a Beech 1900 dropped off a batch of Menard executives scouting out the company’s Elkhart, Indiana big-box store. Two Citations came and went from 10 to 11 am, and there were many piston singles parked on the general aviation ramp.
What’s the biggest employer in South Bend, you ask? AM General, maker of the Hummer H1(the military version), H2, and H3 models. And people are holding their collective breaths amidst rumors that the Hummer may be heading to China. Here’s where the impact of the U.S. auto downturn really hits home.
That leaves Notre Dame and SBN (and its associated businesses) top contenders as economic engines in this neck of the woods.