Racine County Needs to Get Creative to Overcome Worker Shortage

Foxconn TIF Mt. Pleasant

Unemployment rates around the state add up to an all-time low, and that could mean a tight market for employers and recruiters trying to fill positions at Foxconn and the ancillary businesses that will need additional workers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the statewide unemployment rate last December was 3 percent, and the rate in the City of Racine hovered around 3.2 percent. Both numbers are well below 5 percent, which is generally considered to be the rate of full employment, so finding quality employees will become even more of a challenge than it already is.

To meet the coming demand, elected officials and company executives are going to have to look beyond the borders of Southeast Wisconsin. Some points to consider:

  • Increase legal immigration by actively partnering with ethnic chambers of commerce and seeking networking opportunities in other countries.
  • Recruit foreign workers by following the example in Minnesota where the number of H-1 visas requested by employers have almost doubled since 2012 to fill “highly skilled” positions.
  • Entice workers from neighboring states to move here by highlighting the positive aspects of living in Wisconsin: affordable housing; same beautiful lakefront without all the traffic to get there and enjoy it; lower sales tax; small-town feel in larger city settings; diverse population; access to a myriad of recreation and cultural activities; and more.
  • Develop a welcoming atmosphere throughout the community by proactively reaching out to new residents and engaging them in local groups and organizations.
  • Utilize as much local programming as possible to direct individuals into training programs at area institutions like Gateway Technical College.

In a press release last December about their most recent economic survey, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce noted that 73 percent of member CEOs support Foxconn.  Compared to results just six months before, more responding C-suite level executives say they’re planning to hire, are more profitable, and rate the economy as strong or very strong.

But, these same executives – 81 percent – support a worker-attraction campaign.

“The fact that our workforce is dominated by Baby Boomers who are at or nearing retirement with far fewer Gen Xers and Millennials coming in behind is causing a worker crisis in Wisconsin,” said WMC President & CEO Kurt Bauer in the release.

Bauer supports Governor Scott Walker’s $6.8 million initiative to attract new workers by targeting veterans and millenials by highlighting state benefits and the state’s cost of living, respectively.

Racine, in particular, is in an enviable position and poised to experience something of a renaissance over the next decade or so because of the jobs directly and indirectly associated with Foxconn.

And while competition for talent – local, regional and far-flung – navigating a recruiting problem is a much better position to be in than weathering a jobs problem.

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