Skilled labor force key to growth

Economic development expert encourages branding of community’s strengths

A skilled labor force is the Tri-Cities’ ticket to the future, an economic development expert said. It potentially can lure new businesses to the area, help develop a cluster of technological industries, promote job growth, and create wealth and prosperity. But skilled labor needs to be marketed as part of a package to the right companies, Richard Bodo told more than 200 guests at the 45th annual meeting of the Tri-City Development Council.

Economic development is about highlighting a community’s resources such as the availability of inexpensive housing, transportation networks, cheap energy and a low cost of living to attract new businesses, Bodo said.

“It’s a concept that needs to be branded and repeated,” said Bodo, vice president of Area Development Magazine. “Get people to know you.”

Even during the current economic downturn, small and medium-sized businesses are looking to expand and their preference is for smaller metro areas like the Tri-Cities, Bodo said.

They like communities with cheaper housing and a relatively lower cost of living because they won’t have to pay large salaries to their workers as they would in a larger city.

Small- and medium-sized businesses are generally organized on a solid footing and often don’t go through cycles of hiring and laying off workers, Bodo said.

Often, they locate to communities where they find other similar businesses, because it eliminates worries about training workers or a distribution network, he said.

Economic development agencies must get the word out about what’s available in their communities, he said.

“Get the latest information on the website, but keep it simple.” said Bodo  He also said communities shouldn’t chase big names or focus on hot trends in recruiting businesses. “It’s a good reminder not to chase the elephant,” Pasco City Manager Cruthfield said after Bodo’s presentation.

Cruthfield said communties should target companies that are looking for the attributes a community offers. About 15 years ago, Pasco worked with the Port of Pasco and TRIDEC to develop food processing centers in a 200-acre parcel of vacant industrial land, he said.

The Tri-Cities has been a bright spot in Washington, and that needs to be highlighted, said Carl Adrian, president and CEO of TRIDEC.

The inherent strengths of the Tri-Cities’ economy will draw new businesses looking for a place to grow when the national economy gets back on track. “We must continue to market the Tri-Cities,” Adrian said.


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