The United States economy is a wondrous thing. After a prolonged economic drought, it has significantly improved in recent months. In my opinion, the comeback is entirely because of the dogged tenacity of American companies. The stock market is up, consumer confidence is the highest it has been since 2000, and CEO confidence is surging. Even the U-6 unemployment rate, which measures the unemployed, underemployed, and discouraged workers, indicates that civilian workers are rejoining the ranks of the employed. Great news for sure, but with this optimism comes a strain on the American workforce.
The key to growth is attracting and retaining great talent. Top candidates experience an increase of competitive job offers, along with better salaries and opportunities. In Edwardsville we have seen several firms in our Lakeview and Gateway Commerce Centers rely on staffing firms to identify, recruit, and hire. These companies realize that a creative, innovative approach is needed to attract the right talent for skilled positions in a tightening job market.
The City of Edwardsville recognizes that more emphasis is now placed on our community development efforts. Quality of Place has suddenly become a very serious part of the economic development business. When trying to attract workers, especially young professionals, to come live in our community, our lifestyle offerings get more scrutiny than ever. Shopping, dining, K-12 schools, and other offerings may be much more important than just a few years ago. The passage of Proposition E makes the job of economic development easier.
Some communities are offering incentives to attract retailers as a way of developing a more livable place. I believe the adage “retail follows rooftops” is outdated. Today, a very common occurrence is that companies follow workers, who follow lifestyle, in which retail is a contributing factor. Skilled workers have more choices today of where they want to work, and these skilled workers want to be part of larger metropolitan areas.
We have seen this in Chicago. This past quarter we learned that Caterpillar would scrap plans to build new offices in Peoria and instead relocate its headquarters and 300 employees to the Chicago area, becoming the latest in a series of high-profile companies seeking a bigger talent pool and better transportation options.
In Edwardsville, we strongly believe the key to growth is great people. The Edwardsville market offers this key in the abundance of great people who live, learn, work, and play in our community. Dr. Timothy S. Sullivan, an instructor in the Department of Economic and Finance at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville “says there are approximately 7,600 ‘missing’ workers in the Edwardsville market.”
Dr. Sullivan elaborates by explaining that these workers haven’t left – they’re still part of the adult population and they’re not “unemployed” in the traditional sense. They’ve dropped out of the labor force – they’ve stopped looking for work.
Dr. Sullivan stresses, “Finding these missing workers is important for growing our economy.” Just think of our area’s GDP if a fraction of those 7,600 (using a conservative estimate of 5,000) missing persons were contributing to our economy with an hourly wage of $17.00 for a 40-hour workweek, this would translate into $176,800,000 increase of our area’s GDP.
Edwardsville businesses locating workers who aren’t actively looking for work might require different strategies from those tactics that worked in the past. The Economic Development Department is here to help local companies secure available workforce. We look forward to working with you.
So, is there one magic answer? No, but things sure are interesting, aren’t they?
Jim Walton-Brand Acceleration contributed to this article.