Lenner: Educated workforce drives economic development

ThisWeek Community NewspapersFriday March 23, 2012 5:52 PM

Two Johnstown village officials who attended an Economics-Education Summit in Columbus earlier in the month presented their findings to village council on March 20.

David Keck, president of Johnstown Village Council, and Jim Lenner, village manager, talked about how they learned how education can drive economic development in the area.

“The big thing I took from it was having a valuable workforce,” Lenner said. “Companies aren’t going to want to come into a community if there are no workers to staff their needs.”

To obtain a viable workforce, Lenner said, local schools have to provide the necessary training for those potential employers.

“A lot of times it’s companies saying ‘We’re coming. We need a program in association with a vocational school or secondary school to get our workers trained within six months,’” Lenner said.

“A lot of communities work with organizations such as C-TEC (Career and Technology Education Centers) or Ohio State University-Newark, or the vocational schools to build programs that funnel trained workers into that company,” he said.

Keck said there are 9,600 open jobs in Ohio right now, but residents across the state are not trained for the positions that are available.

He said the village is currently putting together a commercial packet for businesses looking to build in Johnstown.

“We want to make sure we include some things in there that represent some of the points that were brought up, like about logistics and about training and about the education opportunities near here,” Keck said.

“We have a good public schools system and on top of that we’re within easy driving range of dozens of schools that do all sorts of things,” he said.

Keck said it’s all about promotion — which is why he said the commercial packet is a great first step.

“If we promote the schools that are near us, then that means they will be more likely to provide the kinds of things that the community needs to draw these kinds of businesses in, and that just helps the residents and helps the village financially,” he said.

One problem, Lenner said, is with businesses that require drug testing. He said a lot of potential employees fail the test.

“The career tech schools are saying kids will progress through something until they need a drug test and they skip to another major if they don’t have to have a drug test,” Lenner said. “They said it’s a huge problem in education and economic development.”

Both Lenner and Keck agree that with Ohio being with in 600 miles of 61 percent of the manufacturing in the United States and Canada, Johnstown needs to be ready to provide opportunities to help the local community thrive during difficult economic times.

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