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Lack of Qualified Workers and Buildings Obstacles for Companies to Mount Pleasant

High-tech manufacturing needs workers with higher levels of education and experience.

Bringing more jobs and boosting the economy remains a focus of Mount Pleasant officials, but they need some help from area workers.

In short, there are jobs out there, but potential employees lack the skills to move into vacant positions.

According to a survey from the Racing County Economic Development Corporation of area businesses, 64 percent of companies said they're looking to increase their workforce, but they only rate the quality of employees at a 3.7. Availability, however, comes in at 4.7 and productivity is at 5.6 on the scale. Companies used a scale of 1 - 7 (7 being the highest).

Trick told the Board that the quality rating coincides with managers saying skill levels need to rise as does the consistency of soft skills, like working with others.

"Area businesses are pointing to the proximity to I-94 as a positive since they can recruit from a larger area and have that easier access for transportation," she said. "But filling positions can be challenging because area workers lack the training for some jobs and they need to improve their attendance and ability to be part of a team."

Village President Carolyn Milkie agreed, saying that if workers in Racine County want to attract and keep businesses here, they have to do their part and get the education and training these new positions will require.

"You have to stay one step ahead these days," she said. "These new processes are not the traditional manufacturing we think we know."

Milkie also suggested prospective employees and area residents need to change their definition of manufacturing.

"I think too many people still about tractors and cars," she said. "And those are important, but when we work with RCEDC to bring in a new company, we're thinking about manufacturing as part of a bio-technology business or microchips."

Both of which, Milkie added, are manufacturing, but require a much higher degree of education and experience.

But Where?

The Village of Mount Pleasant also needs buildings if new businesses are going to open there and provide jobs for area workers.

That same report from RCEDC indicates that when manufacturing companies are looking for a new location between Milwaukee and Chicago, the I-94 corridor is their first choice. But if there aren't existing buildings nearby, they move to other communities.

"Almost 100 percent of prospective companies want buildings, not land," said Jennie Trick, deputy director, business recruitment and retention for RCEDC. "And they want to be near the interstate to help reduce fuel and transportation costs."

Out of a possible 11 companies looking to relocate or expand in Mount Pleasant, only five remain solid leads because of the lack of existing building space.

Milkie said she does think the village needs to have a stock pile of manufacturing buildings that can handle high-volume production of things like wind turbines and medical appliances.

But the good news is that companies are growing in Mount Pleasant. Trick told the trustees at the Aug. 22 Board meeting that 17 existing businesses in the village are looking to expand.

"That's good news for the village and the region," she stated.

Heather Rayne Geyer August 26, 2011 at 08:27 PM
"Village President Carolyn Milkie agreed, saying that if workers in Racine County want to attract and keep businesses here, they have to do their part and get the education and training these new positions will require." Very hard to do when tuition has SKYROCKETED - even at Technical colleges. If I wanted to go back to school right now, there is no way I could afford it. And I am not even at poverty level. I imagine it would be virtually impossible to people who cannot even afford to keep their homes. Instead of corporate bailouts, that stimulus money should have gone towards education!! Before I paid off my student loans the interest rate more than doubled. I can only imagine how much more it will increase with the coming years. Getting education and training is NOT as simple as so many people seem to think it is.
Heather Asiyanbi (Editor) August 26, 2011 at 10:18 PM
You are right that tuition has gone through the roof, but since the recession started, there are a lot of programs at the state and federal level to help displaced workers get new training. Many of those programs are fully subsidized, but it's up to people to take the initiative and find those programs. I know it won't be easy - the stress of not having a regular paycheck, or, if you are lucky to have even part-time work, the stress of not making as much as you did before can sometimes make people unable to do anything but get through the day. I get that. But it's also up to them to look it up, go to Workforce Development and talk to someone; call Gateway and talk to someone; call the UW Extension for some direction.
Heather Rayne Geyer August 26, 2011 at 10:27 PM
Diana Valencia - who I mentioned in my last article - has A LOT of stories. I have her email if you ever want to contact her. From WFD to Gateway to United Way. She told me some things which made my head spin. She put things into a perspective which I had never thought of before. I too used to wonder why people didn't just go out and get a job...why they didn't just get those grants for an education. But she explained some things which made me see that from my position as an english speaking white middle class woman - I couldn't really relate to before...or even now. She told me about local companies who hire women who are willing to preform sexual favors to the upper management in order to keep their jobs. Many things which shocked me.
Heather Rayne Geyer August 26, 2011 at 10:40 PM
I also want to add that I started saying a LONG time ago that time, money and energy need to be put into the education and training for Green jobs and businesses. There is HUGE money to be made. And now that time is here. And ya know what, being somewhat educated and intelligent - I still didn't become trained in anything like that. If my husband died today I would be living on the street. No college degree, mortgage I could never pay for, children which need to be cared for...God forbid (well, for many reasons of course). I guess that is one reason I cannot judge these people...because I also have no idea what I would do in their positions. I always had this dream of starting a Green Burial Cemetery. Weird I know. But it is kind of cool. Anyway, I never did anything about that dream and I probably never will. I guess I am just as lazy as the next guy.

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