Grow Your Talent Pool

Some of us have been around long enough to remember what a tight labor market looks like. It’s certainly better than the alternative. A carefully crafted talent strategy can be the difference between winning projects and being left on the sidelines.

Building Construction 3The first step in a talent strategy is to determine who to collaborate with on implementation. You will need expertise and resources and no economic development agency has enough of either. Colleges, universities and workforce development agencies are obvious partners, but here are a few others you might consider:

  • Public sector – communities can’t grow without jobs and investment
  • Private sector – they have as much to gain as you and they might be willing to provide funding
  • Recruitment agencies – they need talent, too
  • Military branches of government – they offer a ready supply of returning veterans
  • Faith-based organizations – they have great networks
  • Public and intermediate schools – school counselors can guide and influence graduating seniors

Business Professionals2The easiest win in the talent attraction game is commuters. They drive out of your county to pursue higher pay within the region or jobs that aren’t readily available in your area. In a tight labor market, wages typically go up. Companies are desperate for talent and will provide better pay and benefits. The key to this strategy is awareness. Try posting advertisements on well-placed billboards or in newspapers outside the county to announce local job opportunities. Electronic billboards can be an affordable way to post your next job fair or list a company’s hard-to-fill engineering job.

Recruiting talent outside of your area is difficult and can be expensive. First, partner with real estate brokers to develop listings and welcome packets. You’ll need housing if you are going to recruit workforce. Second, identify markets similar to yours where available workers are located. Place advertisements in their local newspapers that point people to a jobs board or website where job postings are available. Companies might help to pay for these ads, so remember to ask.

Emerging Leaders for WebsiteOn average, about 30% of high school graduates are not going to college. This is your workforce of tomorrow. This is a great partnership opportunity for educators, the private sector and economic developers. Professional days, facility tours, company profiles on MI Bright Future and summer camps can help to educate young people regarding employment opportunities. They won’t have a lot of work experience, so promote internships and job shadowing.

These are just a few of the strategies you can employ to recruit talent to your community. As you talk to your partners, you will discover other strategies and programs. Remember that if you do nothing, your talent might be someone else’s target. So be aggressive and you can win the talent war.

Authored by: Dan Casey, Chief Executive Officer, Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County. Dan is a Member at Large on MEDA’s Board of Directors.

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Economic Development is Community Development

Times are good for most people right now with memories of the great recession fading fast, but for economic developers, today is the time to “make hay while the sun shines”.

Good times have their own set of challenges, but they also provide great opportunities.   The first is that of workforce development. I remember not too many years ago when the rallying cry was “Workforce Development is Economic Development”. While it still rings true today, and there are good jobs being created in most communities, employers are having difficulty filling them and retaining workers. This is a complex issue that involves wage rates, education, skills, mobility of workers, lifestyle choices, costs of living, and many more factors. Economic developers need to work with employers and other organizations to create holistic and custom solutions that allow local people to move up the economic ladder into these higher paying jobs.

buildings-set_23-2147505271Additionally, an improving economy is creating labor shortages in the construction industry and a high demand for construction materials. This, along with rising interest rates, is pushing development costs upward. These higher costs lead to project financing gaps, which causes the private sector to ask communities for economic development.

But, in these good times, should communities agree to approve economic incentives? The answer is yes, but only if it is in the best interest of the community by taking advantage of the today’s strong economy to forge a better future for everyone. Most communities are no longer in a state of desperation where generous incentives are necessary just to attract private investment of any kind. Instead, Economic Developers can now seek to facilitate development agreements between communities, businesses, and developers that share the costs and benefits of development. Jobs, income, investment, tax revenue, business spending, infrastructure, education, training, etc., all are part of the mix and should be considered in making public decisions to approve private development incentives.

Now is the best time to for Economic Development Professionals to work with communities and businesses to demonstrate to all that Economic Development is Community Development.

Authored by: Karl Dorshimer, CEcD, EDFP, Director of Economic Development, Lansing Economic Area Partnership, and 2017 MEDA Board Treasurer

Visit Michigan’s West Coast at the 2017 MEDA Annual Meeting

1497368704823-c0ng1pxsv8-d4339e1d3f562bfae411f84b92bf0e4fThis year’s annual MEDA conference will start with a bang and end just as strong.

Kicking off the event are Haworth’s CEO Franco Bianchi and Herman Miller’s CEO Brian Walker, both at the helm of separate world class office furniture manufacturing headquarters in the region.  They are speaking on finding better qualified employees, as well as an initiative they are co-leading to encourage employers to help local education systems understand employer needs in order to better prepare students for careers. Day two offers three excellent tours – a diverse range of unique developments on the lakeshore. These include:

Learn about the technology it takes to commercialize new specialty and bio-based chemicals, all while making them cost effective for the organizations manufacturing them. MSUBI has incorporated science, engineering, operational, and business expertise into their program to make them one of the top regional research and innovation resources, where commercialization is happening on the banks of Lake Macatawa in this facility that is also part of the Holland SmartZone.

West Michigan is known for our craft beer industry. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to tour one of our breweries and find learn about their impressive Brew on Site system which attributes to their industry’s success.

The Holland Energy Park is an international example of a municipal utility with a plan for the community’s future that includes baseline generation, beautifying the eastern gateway to downtown Holland and restoring wetlands. This brand new combined-cycled natural gas power plant is the only plant of its type to be built in the United States this year. Experience some of the latest energy production technology and how the Holland Board of Public Works is managing it. This tour has limited spots available; sign up soon.

The conference grand finale will include an exciting ignite session to provide ideas for you economic development strategy with key local, state and federal leaders. You will have the opportunity for one-on-one conversations to extend your network and gain valuable connections that will contribute to becoming a more effective economic development leader in your community.

To find out more details about the tours, read here. To register and find out more about the conference visit here.

Authored by MEDA’s 2017 Annual Meeting Committee Chair: Jennifer Owens, President, Lakeshore Advantage

Importing Michigan’s Energy Means Exporting Jobs

2-ibau-hamburgOver the next year, nine critical coal-fired power plants across Michigan will shut down because of environmental standards, regulations and old age. Coal plant retirements will begin to accelerate in some of your communities over the next 15 years in order to comply with the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. According to Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is projected to face an electric capacity shortfall; and if left unaddressed, Michigan will have to import electricity from other states to meet demand. Growing capacity shortfalls may lead to unpredictable electric rate spikes for residents and businesses in our communities; and federal government control of Michigan’s energy future.

In order to address this matter, an affordable, fair and clean energy policy is needed, putting Michigan first. Meaning…Michigan companies and Michigan workers generate the power we need for our homes and businesses…keeping residents and jobs in our communities.

As economic developers, you know that it is crucial that reliable and affordable electricity is essential to keep Michigan’s economic comeback moving in the right direction. Michigan residents and businesses deserve nothing less!

We need a policy creating the next generation of clean energy jobs right here in Michigan.

The Senate is getting ready to vote on this issue next month and if you feel as passionate about this as I do, contact your Senator today!

Authored by: Monique Holliday-Bettie, Economic Development Manager, DTE Energy. Monique serves as a Member at Large of the MEDA Board of Directors, Co-Chair of the MEDA Membership Committee, and a member of the MEDA Young Professionals Committee.