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Labor Costs and Availability are Top Concerns for Executives

The results of the 32nd Annual Corporate Survey and 14th Annual Consultants Survey were recently released by Area Development magazine. This survey of corporate executives and consultants ranks a variety of components as they relate to a company’s decision to expand or relocate.

This in-depth survey can’t be adequately covered in a single article. We’ll focus on what survey respondents had to say about workforce and labor availability. If you’re interested in the full survey, we encourage you to visit

Both corporate executives and consultants who were surveyed ranked the availability of skilled labor as “important” or “very important” when making a location decision. Additionally, 98 percent of the consultants surveyed said that availability of skilled labor is affecting their clients’ facilities plans or current operations.

In our locally-focused economic development outreach, we regularly hear from manufacturers about their workforce challenges, and how this reality is affecting their current business and future growth plans. After all, it’s risky to move forward with expansion plans if you can’t access an adequate labor force for routine turnover, much less to fill new positions.

Unskilled labor also ranked high in terms of importance. Responders this year show some commitment to workforce development, with more than a third of the corporate respondents saying they already have apprenticeship programs in place, and another third saying they would like to establish apprenticeship programs.

Incentives, access to markets, quality of life and tax structure are certainly important components and drivers of a business attraction project, but a community that doesn’t have an adequate number of workers available cannot compete with communities that have – and can prove they have – an available  labor force. Similarly, a community that simply doesn’t know the number of workers available is immediately put at a disadvantage and is hard pressed to compete for a business attraction project.

Understanding the labor availability of a region is not just important for business attraction efforts. It’s also important for existing businesses wishing to expand, or to meet normal attrition demands. As economic developers, the majority of our resources are devoted to helping businesses that are already invested in our communities.

On May 23, Thrive Economic Development, in partnership with the Jefferson County Economic Development Consortium, will present the findings from a recently completed Labor Availability Analysis. The study was focused on identifying workers in the labor shed area willing to accept positions in manufacturing in Jefferson and Dodge counties. Michael Walker, Assistant Director of The Docking Institute of Public Affairs, which conducted the study, will present the findings. For more information, email

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