Spokanes work force is so good that the community should trumpet its quality to corporate America to draw new employers here, says the president of a national site-selection consulting firm.
The executive, Joe White, a principal in The Pathfinders, of Dallas, says employers here recently gave the Spokane-area work force the highest productivity rating that the Texas firm has ever found in its studies of local-area labor pools.
You can be assured that Spokane is in our site-selection process for projects that happen out in your part of the country, says White. Why wouldnt it be, when we got the numbers we got?
He adds, Youve got a little secret there that youve got to get out to the business world of America. He says Pathfinders has conducted hundreds of the studies over the past 10 years, and probably 40 to 50 since January this year.
The Spokane Area Economic Development Council commissioned Pathfinders to analyze the work force here to get data to give out-of-town companies that are looking for new-plant sites, says Frank Tombari, an EDC director and a vice president at Farmers & Merchants Bank, of Spokane.
EDC President Mark Turner says the Spokane agency wanted to find out how many people here are underemployed, which means that they have jobs, but also have the qualifications to move into better positions.
Because we have a low unemployment level and low wage levels, we assumed we had underemployment, Turner says. This confirms it.
Pathfinders found that many workers here58,000 out of a labor pool that it said totals 209,000are underemployed, which White says is a little high given the size of the work force. The availability of such workers is important, because employers staff new operations mainly from the ranks of the underemployed, rather than hiring unemployed people, he says.
In its report to the EDC, the consulting firm said, If this work-force assessment were conducted for a corporate client considering the Spokane area among other candidates as a location, The Pathfinders would assure that client that a strong labor pool exists in the work force which is intelligent and productive and possesses a wide variety of skills and experience.
Spokane especially shined when it came to productivity. Two-thirds66.67 percentof the roughly two dozen Spokane-area employers that Pathfinders interviewed said the productivity of the work force is excellent.
Thats pretty outstanding, says White. It is the highest weve seen. I think the next highest weve seen is 61 percent.
In the Spokane study, almost 17 percent of employers, which White says is a very, very good percentage, rated the availability of skilled workers here as excellent. A third of the employers, which White says is outstanding, said the availability of unskilled labor is excellent.
Pathfinders report called the employer ratings extraordinarily positive. Says White, I remember having to go back and interview my employer-interview people, and say, Look back and check your numbers. The interviewers did, and confirmed that the numbers were right.
The employers we talked to, they just simply had a very, very good opinion of the employees they have in Spokane, says White. You ought to be proud of your work force. In todays economy, the most important part of the site-selection process is the work force.
The report on the work-force here tells us that youve got a lot of pretty-well-educated people in Spokane; theyve got some pretty solid skills and experience, and theyre not being paid enough, White says. I think what you need is more jobs.
Spokane was one of the last six companies in a site-selection process that Pathfinders handled for a Fortune 25 company before it did the report for the EDC, White says. That new operation will employ 600. The company, which White wouldnt name, sifted through 80 some cities.
If we had done that report (on Spokanes work force) prior to that process, Spokane would have been one of the three finalists, he says. If I remember correctly, Spokane did not have a suitable 100,000-square-foot facility available. If the report had been done, we would have said, You know, you might want to build one.
Pathfinders report says the most common employer complaint throughout the U.S. relates to a shortage of skilled workers and to the basic educational competencies of the work force.
Generally, employers in the Spokane area report better work-force availability than employers in other areas where these audits have been conducted, the report says.
White says Pathfinders does some work-force evaluations for public agencies like the EDC, but does the bulk of its work for corporate clients. He adds that it wont change its research standards no matter who the client is.
Weve got to protect our reputation with corporate America, he says. Before projects begin, clients are told, If it comes out good, they pay for it. If it comes out bad, they pay for it.
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