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Van Wert County Economic Development Director Cindy Leis reported that Business Retention and Expansion (BR & E) visits for the month of June concluded at Cooper Farms on June 28, 2013. The BR & E team, represented by individuals from the county, municipalities, educational partners and the Van Wert County Economic Development office has completed visits to 11 of the 30 identified companies in the county to be surveyed. The BR & E survey is a combination of essential questions from JobsOhio, Regional Growth Partnership (RGP), OSU Extension Community Development and the local economic development office to help establish state and federal policies, track trends in the manufacturing sector, identify workforce and training needs as well as identify at a local level the needs and concerns of companies.
Of the 11 businesses surveyed in the county and city, the businesses are reporting growing and stable employment and sales for 2013. Businesses surveyed so far have reported no decrease or cut-backs in employment but rather concern with recruiting a quality and skilled workforce in the future. Many of the businesses surveyed have a growing concern for the availability of skilled workers in the areas of industrial maintenance, electrical, tool & die and precision machining. In addition, many business owners are stressing the need for students to consider skilled trades while still in high school or as an alternative to college. The comments from many of the business owners and managers is the jobs in manufacturing are typically more advanced, technical and a higher pay scale than most high school students and their parents realize.

Recommendations have been made to the BR & E team members to bring together high school officials and business owners to discuss the gap and determine how to bridge the gaps between the unskilled and unemployed individuals and the growing need for technical skilled employees as our local businesses grow. New programs at Vantage Career Center, Wright State/Lake Campus and Northwest State Community College are underway to assist in these needed skills and continue to work toward understanding and developing programs to fit job opportunities in the future. Several follow up meetings with businesses and high school officials will be required to help close this gap.

The month of July will be made up of several more BR & E visits and follow up activities from the June visits. The BR & E team hopes to finish up the remaining businesses by the end of August. A summary report is expected to be ready for review later in the fall of 2013. For more information about the BR & E efforts, please contact the Van Wert County Economic Development office at (419) 238-2999.