By Sean Tubbs
Monday, May 10, 2010
The man who coordinates the region’s economic development strategy has briefed the
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
with his thoughts on how to attract jobs to the community.
“We’ve got a mismatch of workers to jobs, and jobs to workers,” said Mike Harvey of the
Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development
(TJPED). “We have people that live here that can’t work the jobs available at the hospital. We have people that live here that drive to Lynchburg or Richmond for jobs that aren’t available here.”
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Harvey is one of several participants in an ad-hoc committee that recommended changes to the county’s economic development plans to encourage more business. The recommendations will be the subject of a board work session on June 9, 2010.
Harvey said the region’s economic development strategy should address three goals.
First, he said the community needs to create jobs for the 11,000 people who currently leave the region every day to work. Second, firms that provide high wages should be lured here or grown here in order to reduce the number of “working poor.” Finally, the commercial tax base in Albemarle should be expanded.
Harvey predicted that the economic recovery would take time because of the lingering threat of home foreclosures. He said the recession will continue to be felt because new jobs aren’t being created fast enough. In general, Harvey said the Charlottesville-Albemarle area is not immune from national or global economic trends, just ‘insulated’ from them to some degree.
The demand for white collar jobs is up, whereas that for skilled trades is declining. Further, lower wage service jobs have remained flat for the past few years. Harvey does predict that manufacturing is due for a “renaissance” due to a weakening dollar.
Harvey said TJPED can offer site location assistance to prospective businesses, can oversee workforce training and can continue analyzing local employment trends.
Harvey said in his time here, he’s been approached by about 20 companies that would like to relocate to the area. Most of his activity, however, is spent helping existing businesses who would like to expand.