By: James Pruitt
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
Northwest Ohio is primed for growth, it just needs some more bodies to do the work.
That was the assessment of the Regional Growth Project representatives to the Williams Board of County Commissioners July 28. To get the bodies, counties are looking at unconventional methods to increase the workforce.
Michael Jay, director of strategic networks, talked to the commissioners along with Kyle Dodd, regional project manager JobsOhio and Matt Davis, director of the Williams County Economic Development Corp.
Jay and his staff of 12 oversee a 17-county region. Last year there were 104 projects, Jay said.
“That was our banner year since we started in 1994,” Jay said. “We had $1.89 billion in capital investment.”
The projects helped create 4,000 jobs while retaining 17,000.
In the first quarter of this year, there have been 10 projects, representing $183 million in investments and creating 550 jobs, Jay said. To keep the process rolling, the agency has hired a regional talent acquisition manager, he said.
JobsOhio identified the top issue of workforce development, Jay said.
The role of the talent acquisition manager is to work with businesses to find the best people.
“They don’t have enough bodies,” Jay said.
The shortage is not due to training as business and education have teamed up to form consortia, Jay said, citing Northwest State Community College.
“We’ll train people that’s not a problem,” Jay said. “It’s more or less the social issue: drugs, heroin and all that.
“It’s getting them their first paycheck, keeping them there, all those things.”
In Hancock County, businesses are working with social agencies such as the United Way to identify people who have filled out applications and shown an interest in working, but who have a problem.
The social service agencies take that person and help them turn their lives around and return them to the workforce, Jay said.
“You send 20 people out, you might only get three or four people back,” Jay said. “But that’s three or four more than you already have.”
Other outreach efforts include bringing in consultants from across the country and putting them up at a resort and then giving them a helicopter tour of the region. The consultants then met with five area college presidents to talk about training and educational opportunities.
There is also a multiplier program that gets various enterprises to meet with commercial and industrial banks. This year there are 91 leads or actions going on northwest Ohio, Jay said.
Dodd is one of three project managers working under Jay. He handles Williams, Lucas, Fulton, Defiance and Henry counties. Working closely with Davis and WEDCO is an integral part of his job.
“Matt is out there every day working with his contacts,” Dodd said. “He knows when to bring us in.”
Davis will let Dodd know when the moment is right for RGP and JobsOhio to meet with a company and bring with them their packages of tax breaks and assistance, Dodd said. This includes grants and loans and helping with permitting issues, he said.
JobsOhio focuses mostly on medium to large companies and industrial warehousing, Dodd said.
“We’ve had a lot of success out here in Williams County.”
The board also approved the following resolutions:
-Named Patsy Mealer to replace Gary St. John as Stryker’s representative on the county’s Revolving Loan Fund Committee.
-Accepted Josh King’s resignation as maintenance supervisor effective July 22. King is leaving to pursue a career in a medical-related field.
-Approved an upgrade to the wandering security system at Hillside for a fee not to exceed $28,465.37.
-Approved a change order pushing the completion date of the Courthouse roofing project back to Oct. 14 to account for rain days and the time between bid acceptance and a contract.
-Approved a change order to the Courthouse roofing project of adding 50 slate pieces to the roof at a cost of $6,250. The change increases the project cost to $1,501,575.
-Approved an electronic recording agreement with Xerox Commercial Solution. No money was involved.
James Pruitt may be reached at