By Steve Woodhouse Editor
The Journal Express
---- — Iowa Workforce Development recently completed laborshed studies for Knoxville and Pella.
To complete the studies, IWD contacted employers and get a list of zip codes of where their workers come from. Marion County Development Commission Executive Director Carla Eysink said that counties are not a good indicator of a town’s workforce, as employers often pull from communities in surrounding counties. After receiving the zip codes, a survey is conducted of those who live in the areas identified. Most counties also have a single employment center, but Marion County is fortunate to have two.
The Opportunity Squared economic development region planned have the study done. Marion County is a member of Opportunity Squared and Knoxville and Pella were able to take advantage of the timing of the study. Funding for the studies came from community colleges, utility companies and through an Economic Development Authority grant. Neither Knoxville nor Pella had to pay for the work. Without the outside funding, the cost would have been approximately $4,000 per town.
Information obtained from the study shows where people are working, what industries they are working in, wage comparisons, etc. The studies also show where the jobs are, where they will be in the future and the projected growth rate for the area.
Information supplied by the study is passed on to employers, who consider the information when making decisions to expand. Eysink said the documents can be e-mailed to any employer who requests the information.
“A lot of our existing employers have to have that laborshed data,” Eysink said. Communities also use this data when writing grants.
In Knoxville, 44.3 percent of employees work in management, office/administration and personal care and services. The occupations with the highest growth rate are in the personal and health care fields. Wages in the area remain strong. Marion County typically ranks within the top 10 for wages in the state.
“We continue to be a high wage level area,” Eysink said.
Marion County is fortunate in that it imports more people into the county for employment, than exporting local residents seeking employment in other counties. The study shows that most employees are willing to travel up to 20 miles one way to work.
“Our two communities are not bedroom communities,” Eysink said. She added that there is nothing wrong with being a bedroom community, but it is better to have employment available.
Knoxville Chamber of Commerce Board member Mark Raymie did not have time to thoroughly review the information before our interview. He believes the information will be helpful to the Chamber as it tries to develop an economic development strategy.
The Chamber Board is holding a “retreat” on Saturday, April 6. The laborshed study is expected to be one of the topics of discussion.
One of their goals is to make Knoxville a more attractive business environment. Raymie believes the Chamber’s role is maintain the manufacturing opportunities here, but also working to bring in all types of businesses. Relying on a single business, or type of business, is risky. Economic diversification is key to maintaining and growing the community. Raymie said diverse economies also attract more professional jobs.
“We need competition and more competition,” Raymie said.