Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in the April 16, 2018 issue of GSA Business Report.
Anderson County saw industrial development of $3.3 billion that created 5,377 jobs in 2017, and economic developers want everyone to know it didn’t just happen on its own. Behind the scenes industry and education partners were – and still are – collaborating to make it work.
“There’s a lot that goes on behind those numbers, and a lot of activity that doesn’t get put into reports like this,” said Teri Gilstrap, existing industries manager for the Anderson County Office of Economic Development. She said there’s a group called the Anderson County Workforce Development Collaborative that meets to make sure “everyone is on the same page and that we’re not duplicating efforts.”
The group talks about everything from industry recruitment to workforce training. Gilstrap said there is more to business support and job creation than the large investment announcements.
“Our job is to make sure the health of all our employers is strong,” she said.
Gilstrap’s role with Anderson County is to work with existing industry, “but since we have such a workforce development issue that’s where I’ve been spending most of my time.”
The workforce development issue she speaks of is one created by a 4.3% unemployment rate in the county. Gilstrap also said manufacturers may not know where to look for workers.
“Essentially most of the people who want jobs have jobs,” she said, adding that if someone isn’t employed it’s likely because they will only take a certain shift. In a manufacturing community there needs to be a workforce available for various shifts. Gilstrap touts the benefit of being a manufacturing community because of the multiplier effect.
“Manufacturing has the highest multiplier. Some experts say 1.5 times others say up to 4,” she said. “Somewhere between that is a real number.”
The National Association of Manufacturers reports that for every $1 spent in manufacturing, another $1.89 is added to the economy.
What Gilstrap has discovered is that manufacturers frequently don’t know where to get the workforce they need. She cited a recent meeting with the Anderson County Homebuilders Association where she was told the builders can’t find various workers like electricians. This is an example of how the Anderson County economy goes beyond the numbers reported from major investments.
“They are begging for employees,” Gilstrap said of groups like the homebuilders association. Gilstrap gathered information from the group to see what they require in workers, such as education or certification.
“We can work with apprenticeships, we work with our career centers, we work with the high schools. Our goal is to find whatever the industry-driven requirements are and make the match,” she said.
The homebuilders told Gilstrap that a company like Arthrex — which is building a manufacturing facility in Anderson County that will add 1,00 new jobs over five years — means at least 250 houses for the homebuilders.
One of the homebuilders told Gilstrap they need four or five workers right now.
“The companies will train the workers. They just need people who will show up and want to learn,” Gilstrap said. “That’s why our collaborative group is so important. We need to know what industry needs are and how to get them what they need.”