Research looks at Clinton County and its 60 percent in-commuter workforce


WILMINGTON — Most of Clinton County’s large companies continue to struggle with attracting workers, so public policy that seeks solely to land new employers may not be the way to go, said a Ph.D. in economics Wednesday.

Mark Rembert, who earned his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University this month and formerly was the chamber of commerce director here, made a presentation to Clinton County commissioners based on research conducted by him and Hayden Knisley, a participant in this summer’s Clinton County Fellows program.

Unless the local population grows at a higher rate than it historically has, having more employers will likely make the workforce difficulties for existing companies harder still, said Rembert.

He suggested perhaps first looking more deeply at why a lot of people who work in Clinton County live elsewhere. Sixty percent of jobs in the county are filled by “in-commuters,” said Rembert.

The two main “commuting markets” for Clinton County jobs, he said, are Highland plus Fayette Counties on the one hand, and Warren plus Greene Counties on the other.

Commuters from Warren or Greene Counties typically have attained a higher level of education, have higher incomes and live in bigger houses as compared to their Clinton Countian co-workers, said Rembert.

Commuters from Warren County also are more likely to live in newer homes than a Clinton Countian worker, “and we don’t have as many new homes in Clinton County,” Rembert said in trying to figure out how to draw new Clinton County residents. For purposes of the research project, a house was classified as newer if it was built since 2000.

So, Warren County commuters to Clinton County tend to live in larger and newer homes than their Clinton County co-workers, he added.

As part of the research, Knisley interviewed Human Resources directors from five large Clinton County employers. One of them acknowledged they often intentionally fly potential employees into the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport so they can drive up I-71 and show them Warren County as a place to live because they don’t feel Clinton County will be as attractive.

Rembert made several recommendations in connection with the interaction between population growth and economic development. He suggested the county focus on housing — that it be recognized the county may not have the housing stock that reflects the demands of the people employers are trying to recruit.

In terms of elected officials, that means making sure there are policies in place to allow housing development to take place, said Rembert.

He advised the commissioners that judging from Knisley’s experience, local Human Resources directors would be eager to talk with commissioners on the question of why so many Clinton County workers do not live in the county.

“I think there are lots of opportunities to get deeper into why 60 percent of our workers don’t live here,” Rembert remarked.

His third idea is to build upon Clinton County’s existing assets and thus narrow the gap between Clinton County “and the places we want to draw new residents from.”

The HR directors in their interviews had said sometimes younger workers from elsewhere have trouble integrating into the community. That reported difficulty led to Rembert’s fourth suggestion.

The county commissioners, he said, can provide leadership toward making the county a welcoming and inclusive place for new residents.

During the presentation, Clinton County Commissioner Patrick Haley said residents of neighboring counties who work in Clinton County may not live here because they want to live close to family, or stay an active member of the same church, or similar social ties. Rembert agreed that those considerations can be key factors.

Later on Wednesday, Haley said he appreciated Rembert coming before commissioners, but he also thought there were some pretty broad assumptions made in the report or study.

The commissioner said he thinks it is “life dynamics” including a spouse’s wish to live in a bigger city that often account for the decision where to live. Haley thought the presentation pointed too much to the thought Clinton County is lacking in facilities as being decisive.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

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Sixty percent of jobs in Clinton County are filled by people who reside outside the county, says Mark Rembert, Ph.D. percent of jobs in Clinton County are filled by people who reside outside the county, says Mark Rembert, Ph.D. Gary Huffenberger | News Journal
Rembertsuggestsfocus onhousing

By Gary Huffenberger

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