WILMINGTON — Employers taking part in meetings of the new “Clinton County Workforce Roundtable” — which is looking at workforce challenges and gaps locally — are willing to consider being involved in “pilot projects,” a local official said Monday.
Clinton County Port Authority Executive Director Daniel G. Evers and Clinton County Economic Development Director Jennifer Klus Ekey met with the county commissioners for a monthly update on economic development matters.
Evers said as the local business community and others look for long-term solutions, they can simultaneously look at short-term opportunities such as a pilot program for transportation or child care — two of the bigger issues.
“It may be that we can take active steps in the short-term that may very well be able to unfold into long-term solutions, rather than say ‘Well, we’re going to wait and see if the grant comes along’,” said Evers.
After the meeting, Evers elaborated on the exploration of potential pilot projects focused around transportation and child care.
“While very conceptual, at this point, the premise is that the task force would work with the local business community to identify employers that might be interested in participating in a pilot program. One element of such programs could be employers or their employees indicating a willingness, in advance of a program being initiated, to participate in such a program; that is, “reserving” spots on a transit route, or in a child care facility, and so forth,” stated Evers in an email.
“This is still very conceptual, and only one of several options the task force is likely to explore with area employers,” he said.
Regarding transportation, Evers said there’s been a lot of discussion about expanding Wilmington’s existing transit service. He said that the expansion would need to occur in two respects: the geographic area served, and the time available.
“This business’s second shift is not the same as this one over here, and third shift starts at a different time,” he noted in a general observation.
Klus Ekey said one employer is thinking about buying a company vehicle to pick people up.
Because a locale’s housing stock can be an obstacle to recruiting or attracting workers, Clinton County Commissioner Kerry R. Steed asked whether anyone knew of employers that have developed housing exclusively for their workforce and near their facility.
Commissioner Mike McCarty said there is an employer in Fayette County that has done something along those lines.
Klus Ekey said she has seen employers come up with housing “incentives” to attract a workforce.
Evers said there is probably a model that’s less out-of-pocket than for an employer to develop housing on its own. That could include getting two or three employers bringing in a developer and one employer taking 20 units and another 15 and so on, and the developer would have that many units pre-leased and might start eyeing a project of additional units.
The Clinton County Workforce Roundtable initiative was launched in late June.
During the update to commissioners, Klus Ekey reported there are a couple of developers considering projects in the area, one of whom is a developer who does both commercial and residential projects.
“They are looking at some opportunities both in the residential market and in the commercial market; that is very preliminary. I do expect at least one project to come out of those efforts,” she said.
Local economic development officials are still working with a couple of employer prospects that the officials have spoken about in the past with commissioners, said Klus Ekey.
“One of them seems to be gaining some traction rapidly and will have an aggressive timeline once they make a decision,” Klus Ekey added.
If it were to happen here, it would be of great interest to the region, she said.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.