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By Andrea Davis on April 26, 2016
Hamilton County’s business community has exploded along with its population, and the steady stream of economic development announcements suggest both will keep growing for the foreseeable future.

But keeping that economic engine on track isn’t as simple as hitting the cruise control.

“The only constant is change,” Ed Cone, Oxford Economics’ managing editor of Thought Leadership, told hundreds of local leaders April 19 at the All-County Economic Development Luncheon, presented by Hamilton County Economic Development Corp. and our colleagues at Hamilton County Tourism, Inc. The event was a partnership of Noblesville Chamber of Commerce, North Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, OneZone Chamber of Commerce and Westfield Chamber of Commerce.

Cone’s group conducted a global study on workforce trends, surveying 5,400 executives and employees in 27 countries. The resulting Workforce 2020 report identified a looming talent crisis for businesses everywhere.

Already, 48 percent of respondents say they have difficulty recruiting workers for open positions, and 38 percent say that lack of candidates is affecting expansion plans.

The global findings are strikingly similar to the results of a local workforce study: 52 percent of Hamilton County employers surveyed in March said they have trouble filling vacancies. That could be an issue for the nearly 60 percent of businesses that plan to expand by 2019. The new Work! Hamilton County, IN initiative is aiming to address that situation here.

Oxford Economics’ research identified some of the challenges employers everywhere are facing as the economy—and workforce—continues to evolve. One of the most striking is what Cone called The Learning Mandate, the need for continual, ongoing, on-the-job training. The survey results show:
•    Only half of employees believe the skills they have now will be needed in the next three years.
•    Just one-third say they are able to get the skills they need at work.
•    A full 40 percent say their top job concern is a fear of obsolescence.

Broader issues include things like access to transportation and affordable housing, particularly in areas like Hamilton County that have a significant service industry.

“How can people aspiring to these upper-income communities afford to be here and get here?” Cone asked.

Culture and diversity also are important parts of economic development success, he said, praising Hamilton County for its success in becoming more than a series of bedroom communities. But Cone urged local leaders to keep working on it.

“You guys are doing a great job, but you cannot rest on what you’ve done,” he said. “Times change, and communities change.”

Categories: "Economic Development", Employment, "Soft Skills", "Workforce Development"