Well, I guess “pigs do fly” after all. I can’t believe what I am seeing and experiencing. Having spent practically my entire working life in the community job creation and retention arena, I never thought I would see the day when our country, state and region would be afforded such a “sea change” opportunity, and yet have such a daunting task in the process. It is the embodiment of the ancient Chinese symbol of “opportunity” which is also “crisis.”
With U.S. industrial reshoring, globalization, and technology, American companies are reinvesting in the U.S. in record numbers. Foreign companies are locating here, and technology has bred a new generation of entrepreneurs. We are on the precipice of the greatest era of job growth and wealth creation in our history, certainly since the 1970’s. What we “long in the tooth” Chamber types fondly called the great “Buffalo Hunt.” It was a time when companies were exiting the North in large herds, primarily because of the “3 C’s” of cheap land, cheap labor and cheap taxes. A fourth component was the great work ethic born from the family farm. It was essentially low skill assembly jobs and formal education and training was, at best, optional. They came in record numbers. Looking back it was easy hunting. We were local heroes, and it was personally rewarding and a lot of fun.
Fast forward to today! The new “good ole days.” In January’s Chamber Chatter article, “A Time of Promise,” we talked about that in Putnam County alone, with a manufacturing base of over 100 industries that employ about 6200 people, we announced 1200 new jobs in the past six months (Academy Sports, TTI Floorcare and Transtar-DACCO). We are close on additional suspects that could possibly, emphasis on possibly, add up to another 1200 jobs. 2400 new jobs announced within a 9-12 month period. To put this accomplishment in perspective, Tennessee’s headline-grabbing mega announcements like Volkswagen, though much larger capital investment, and higher skilled, paying jobs, were in the 1000-1200 range! It’s bigger than big folks, right here at home!
Moreover, there are the uncounted! I was visiting a local CEO of a major company last Monday on other matters, when he told me of plans soon to bring a new higher end product to Cookeville from Miami. He also mentioned a recent decision to outsource another million dollar annual product to a local sister company from another state. It seems everywhere I go, I am hearing expansion plans from our existing companies. Higher skill jobs to manufacture “high end”, custom, specialized products.
Amidst the euphoria of economic opportunity, we face the challenges which include but are not limited to:
- The aging workforce: Baby Boomers set to retire in the next 5 years. It’s already happening.
- The lack of needed, updated skill sets of our current labor force and the unemployed.
- “Gen Y” or the “Millennials,” our future, young workforce, who are easily the brightest and most talented, techno-savvy generation in history, but who seem to lack (not all) soft skills, the required work ethic, and negative, counter-productive lifestyle choices. You may have encountered this at some point.
So, George, what are we doing about the order fulfillment now that we have landed a lot of new businesses? In two words, a lot, and we will talk about the plan next month!