Economic Development News
Study provides valuable data about local labor pool
Published: Wednesday, August 24, 2016
By: Randy Allen
Mike Walker, Assistant Director, Docking Institute of Public Affairs,
presented the Labor Study findings to the Chamber Board of Directors
in July.Mike WalkImagine you’re about to make a large investment in a once-in-a-lifetime fishing expedition. You wouldn’t dream of spending your hard-earned dollars on appropriate equipment, charters, guides, etc. unless you were sure that you’ve done your research on whether or not your destination includes a large pool of the type of fish you’re seeking to catch. If you end up in the wrong location at the wrong time of year, you could come up empty-handed or worse yet, lose your investment.
This simple analogy helps us understand the importance of research and data to companies seeking to expand or locate to our community. Such companies often employ the services of a corporate site selector to research potential sites for their multi-million dollar investments. While incentives, available buildings, and proximity to transportation continue to be key influencers in relocation decisions, site selectors tell us that one of the most important issues affecting site selection today is labor and skill availability. This is known as the “Available Labor Pool”.
While data about a community’s present workforce and skill levels is readily available, it is more difficult to answer the question site selectors ask: “Will our company be able to find the number of employees we need and will they have the skillset we need?” To answer that question, a community must know not only how many people are currently employed, but also how many people are actually available for employment, identifying how many people are currently seeking jobs or would consider leaving their job for a different one. That number is what differentiates “workforce” from “labor pool.” Businesses and site selectors need up-to-date labor information to make sound decisions. Firms considering locating or expanding can often conclude incorrectly that that there is not a sufficient amount of qualified labor to meet their needs.
To secure accurate documentation of the quality and availability of labor in our area, the Chamber recently contracted with The Docking Institute to conduct a Labor Study. Mike Walker, Assistant Director of the Institute, recently presented an overview of the results of the Labor Study to the Chamber’s Board of Directors. The report is very detailed and will provide our Economic Development staff a great deal of data to provide when working with Business Attraction or Expansion projects. Missy Bonnot, Director, Economic Development, stated “This labor study is an important tool in our tool belt. It will help us be more competitive in attracting new business and to determine what strategies we might employ to match our labor pool skills to the needs of existing and potential companies. Without the study and the detail it provides, site selectors may cross our name off the list before doing further research about our community. We also look forward to using the data to address our workforce issues and grow our labor pool.”
More information about the Labor Study will be shared in future Chamber TODAY articles.