The vice president of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council said a change in data surveyed is a step in the right direction to better recruiting new businesses to the community.
Zach Dietmeier said the EDC is adding categories like laborshed and workforce demographics to its data cadre for the organization's quarterly BN By The Numbers event. Traditionally, the EDC tracked common indicators like the unemployment rate, labor force numbers, participation rates, home sales, and sales tax.
“That’s a good start, but it really doesn’t help drive the growth of your business community because it doesn’t answer questions about what are people making in their jobs,” he said. “How quickly are those jobs turning over? What is needed by these companies out of employees coming into the workforce?”
He said the change is necessary to compete with not only other communities, but other states.
“What the west coast or east coast needs is not what the central portion of the country is offering, and Illinois is not offering the same things that Indiana or Wisconsin or Michigan are doing,” he said.
Speaking on WGLT's Sound Ideas, Dietmeier said Illinois' reputation makes customization of data necessary so that the EDC can offer better opportunities to the workforce.
He said overall the role of the EDC is changing from recruiting businesses to recruiting workers.
“It’s the trench work that you’re doing with keeping your local employment on the hook,” he said.
Laborshed, as Dietmeier explained, tracks residents of an area and where they choose to work, whether in the place they live or elsewhere.
Dietmeier said according to the data, most people that work in Bloomington-Normal also live in Bloomington-Normal, but that nearly 1,300 travel here for work from Chicagoland. And on the reverse of that trend, the EDC’s data shows over 2,000 people live locally but work in the City of Chicago.
“It really opens things up and allows us to ask, ‘OK, so what industries are these people working in? How can we maybe keep some of those folks closer to home?”
The data also shows over 1,000 McLean County residents commute to Springfield for work.
Dietmeier said having that laborshed data gives the EDC a base to convince local businesses to offer higher wages for workers who are willing to look for work elsewhere.
On a related note, sales of newly built homes are “at extreme lows,” Dietmeier said, while existing-home sales are on the rise.
“That shows why the importance of growth is there. If your community is bringing in more people, you’re going to need more housing,” he said. “... Especially as we’re looking at bringing in upwards of 800 to 1,000 new jobs at some of these places in the next few years.”
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