If I had a dollar for every time this subject came up over the past month, I would be happily writing this from a remote island sipping a fruity drink on the beach. Instead, I am bundled up pushing through this late season cold front (still happily) writing this from a cozy spot next to my bay window (instead of an ocean bay). Workforce development isn’t a new issue, but it is one that seems to have made a more frequent appearance in conversations and business meetings in the last few years. You’ve seen the signs, probably get alerts through your LinkedIn or other social media (even though you aren’t looking for employment) accounts, and have heard at least one business owner heretofore lament the fact that finding talent is becoming such a nightmare.
I was at a chamber luncheon recently and heard the speaker announce his city was at 2.7% unemployment… (What?!)! The speaker also boldly pointed out that they weren’t currently in the market for a large employer to relocate to their area. I have a background working in and with economic developers, and to say I was impressed with his boldness would be an understatement. We (the ECD-types) are the first to talk about bringing employers… the larger the better; however, he was changing that conversation in order to help the community understand the bigger picture.
I remember learning at a younger age that the more information we have the better to make an informed decision. In this age of instant gratification and “insta-knowledge” through the devices we have on hand at all times, I have found that accurate and in-depth information can often be hard to come by. We are saturated by the opinions of the people we follow on social media as well as by the biases of the news media outlets we follow. I’m not saying those sources are necessarily wrong; in fact I learn many great things from them, but not opening your mind to larger explanations can leave you in a very fragile bubble.
Now back to that luncheon; I enjoyed the fact that the very candid speaker was attempting to put people who weren’t in city management or growth experts in such a position to tie it back to whatever walk of life from which they came. He strongly inferred the importance of having the workforce in place and accessible to the employers as a first step in smart growth; that then brought about the question of housing and transit. You see, he took one subject and turned it into three or four all tied together. Everyone in the room started nodding their heads acknowledging his message… the increase in rooftops, leased or owned, allows more people to work here; that same increase gets people off the roads and impacting commuters. Additionally, those rooftops bring more money into our community in order to help keep taxes lower. Each of these subjects are not singular, and I encourage anyone reading to make sure you tie these and other concepts into the conversations you have surrounding workforce development, growth, transit and overall community well-being.
We are all in this together, and for my friends that own businesses struggling to find employees, I strongly encourage you to join the conversation with your community leaders, chambers and other organizations that touch the interrelated components discussed here. There is so much wonderful work going on in our region, but we do have to work together as well as work smarter and pool our resources to find the best solutions; they are out there, and as we grasp hold together we will all be better off for it. It's an exciting time as our region continues to make it onto lists of notoriety and break boundaries! Let’s work together to keep the momentum going in the right way.