Business Partners

Dec 30, 2014 by

Written by David Augustinho
December 26th 2014
Recently the Cape & Islands Workforce Investment Board hosted an information session with the region’s economic development practitioners. Why the heck did we do that?? And what did we talk about?Well, there are a number of reasons why workforce development professionals and economic development professionals need to be working together. And all of the reasons relate to their shared mission to assist businesses to grow and prosper.

I worked as an economic developer for a few years in the late 1990s. During that time I noticed a shift in the focus of businesses that were relocating to the southeastern Massachusetts region. At one time all that the businesses cared about was what kind of financial incentive package the local community was willing to put on the table.

We would work with the state to develop exotic Tax Increment Financing deals that would abate large portions of the businesses’ future tax obligations. Sometimes we would offer deals that would cut a company’s tax burden (why do we commonly call a tax obligation a burden? Just sayin’) for up to 20 years into the future.

And believe me, the first thing a company that was considering relocating or growing would ask an office of economic development was, “What’s the tax package look like?”

But then a funny thing happened, and I don’t know of any precipitating event, any smoking gun that signaled the change, but all of a sudden companies started asking first, “What is the labor force like?”

Now I know that the reason was bottom line related. Companies realized that without a compatible workforce, the chances that they would be successful and make money were slim.

Jim Collins authored a book around this time, titled “Good to Great.” In the book he spoke about the increasing need for acquiring human resources that matched exactly with the organization and processes of the company. He went even further to say that acquiring the proper talent was just the beginning, and that a dynamic growing company had to have the right people in the right jobs in order to perform at the highest level.

Whatever the reasons, it is now clear that economic development and workforce development are critical and complimentary players, as communities seek to bolster the growth of businesses within their regions. And today, in most places, each entity recognizes the need to work together.

So what did we talk about with the economic development professionals on the Cape and Islands?

Well, we provided a detailed list of programs and practices that the investment board and our Career Opportunities Center can provide to existing or new businesses. We spoke about how the center can provide space and personnel to assist with hiring events on behalf of companies. How we can prescreen applicants and refer qualified employees, based on the businesses criteria, for free. Even some of the economic development professionals were surprised to learn that we can provide a range of services to new or existing businesses for free.

Additionally, the investment board provided each attending economic development professional with a detailed labor market analysis of his or her community. Whether the individuals were representing towns, regions (Lower Cape and Barnstable County, for example) or the islands, we were able to individualize a data package for them.

We also presented information about the state’s Workforce Training Fund Program, which provides matching grants to businesses to train their employees and help businesses to grow.

Convening groups of businesses, or in this case planners who can help businesses, is an important activity that a workforce board provides in a region.

Our goal in meeting with the region’s economic development professionals was to increase their awareness of a number of tools that the workforce development system can provide to assist them in their work to help businesses grow and provide more opportunity to the workers in our region

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