Far more people work full-time jobs in Belleville than any other city in the metro-east, according to an analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
More than 26,000 people work in the city, according the bureau's five-year survey of employment within cities between 2006 and 2010, the latest figures available. That's twice as many people as work on Scott Air Force Base, with 13,000 civilian workers and military personnel.
The next closest community is Alton with nearly 15,200 workers, followed by Edwardsville with about 14,400 and Granite City with 13,900 workers.
The census bureau considers information from the five-year reports more reliable than similar surveys of one- or three-year periods because they're all based on estimates.
The single-year reports still rank the cities in the same order, and the estimated number of workers are increased slightly. For example, the bureau reports more than 28,400 people working in the city limits of Belleville in 2010 in the single year report -- an increase from 27,700 workers reported in 2002.
Belleville is the largest city in the metro-east with more than 44,000 residents and is home to two hospitals, the county seat and many lawyers and municipal workers. A quarter of the workers in Belleville (more than 7,000 people) work in the health-care field, according to the bureau's latest single-year estimate from 2010.
John Lengerman, executive director of the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce, said he was "not floored" with the census findings but happy to hear efforts to keep employers in the city were successful.
"Most companies have been embedded here for a number of years," Lengerman said. "The city certainly does work with employers to make sure they're welcomed here, and we continue doing retention visits with larger employers to keep relationships open, otherwise they may be looking for other places to go.
"We certainly know the value of the many employers here in town and of building those tax bases," he said.
One of the longtime local employers is Lyle Rowden, who owns Home Bright Ace Hardware in downtown Belleville. When Rowden looked to start up a fitness center, he said Belleville was a natural choice.
"I was born and raised in Belleville, and I like the direction the city is going," Rowden said. "As long as business is good, things are going well, and I like the direction of the community, why go anywhere else?"
Rowden opened up Far East Fitness Center at 813 South Belt West in January. He said the gym has received "tremendous" support from the community.
Rowden said a lack of "big box" stores has helped the hardware store his grandfather began in 1941 to thrive.
"We're in the heart of downtown Belleville and those guys just don't affect us that much," Rowden said.
While Belleville has seen employment gains in health care, education and other professional services since 2005, the largest loss in jobs stemmed from the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing jobs made up about 8 percent of the city's total jobs in 2005, but a loss of more than 1,000 jobs in five years dropped that percentage to a little more than 4 percent.
Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at email@example.com or 618-239-2501.