Union County enjoyed a three-decade bull market in wages, according to figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Union County enjoyed a three-decade bull market in wages, according to figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

In 1980, two years before Honda located its manufacturing plant in Marysville, the average annual wage in Union County was $13,339. By 2010, that wage had grown to $53,741. The 4.76-percent annual growth rate ranks Union County 49th among the nation's 1,000 largest counties.

Not even its bigger neighbors, Delaware (4.59 percent) and Franklin (4.07 percent) counties, could keep up with Union County.

"We didn't just grow our wages faster than Delaware and Franklin counties but also faster than the 51 Ohio counties in the survey," said Eric Phillips, executive director of the Union County Area Chamber of Commerce. "That's certainly a reason to celebrate."

Phillips said the county has realized robust growth not only in wages but also in population.

"The big drivers are obviously Honda and Scotts," he said. "But we have other businesses who've made a commitment to Union County, including Univenture, Nestle, Veyance Technologies and Parker Hannifin."

Union County cannot rest on its laurels, however.

"In a way, our work (at the chamber and in economic development) gets harder the better things are," Phillips said.

"Prospective new employers may look at that annual wage and wonder, Can I afford to compete and pay my employees a comparable salary?' Or they may look at our relatively low unemployment number (6.7 percent) and wonder, 'Will there be enough workers there to meet our needs?'" Phillips said.

Delaware County also experienced robust wage growth over the past three decades, from $12,503 in 1980 to $48,048 in 2010. Franklin County performed well, moving from $14,044 in 1980 to $46,442 in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

"The numbers are terrific and a reason to celebrate," Phillips said. "But they are not a reason for complacency. Both our wage and our population growth slowed during the last 10 years of the study."

He said it is dangerous for a county to rely exclusively on one or two large companies to drive its economy.

"If, for some reason, they'd ever leave, that'd put us in a very difficult position," he said. "So as we move forward, it's very important that we do several things: We have to pay attention to our businesses and make sure they have everything they need from us to thrive; we have to diversify our businesses so that we don't rely too heavily on manufacturing; and, we, as a community, have to support our local businesses."