Task Force Looks To Strengthen Foundation for Key Employers
Volunteer members of the Clay County Economic Development Council’s Advanced Manufacturing Task Force recently gathered to discuss challenges to the county’s largest employment sector. The group included (from left) Brad Filger, Bike Bell, Kim Palomarez and Julie Kruckow. Also present were group Chair Tony Reinhart and EDC Co-Executive Director Jim Hampton.
Sponsored by the Clay County Economic Development Council, the group’s chair Tony Reinhart said the effort will examine ways to improve everything from infrastructure to transportation to day care for the advanced manufacturing workforce.
“What else needs to be done and can be done to grow this segment of the economy?” Reinhart asked.
Kim Palomarez, Senior Business Development manager for Pro Staff and a task force volunteer, said trained workforce is another critical issue. “When I started 10 years ago, you’d have 100 applicants for one job,” she said. “Now, it’s completely flipped. You’ll have one applicant for 100 jobs.”
That shortage can stymie future growth or steer new companies to other areas. Keeping the industry healthy is important because it is Clay County’s largest employer and offers outstanding salaries. “We have skilled tradespeople who, with a little overtime, can make six figures,” Reinhart noted.
Another EDC task force, Quality of Life, is also examining options for added ATA transportation, especially for shifts outside traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. time periods.
Other areas of concern for manufacturing include property taxes that penalize equipment-heavy manufacturers and tort reform involving a St. Louis court called by some “a magnet” for product liability lawsuits and consumer class actions. Also cited were infrastructure improvements ranging from highways to high-speed internet.
The meeting began with a phone conference to Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri. McCarty listed issues facing manufacturers statewide and praised Clay County for its steady work in these areas. The efforts rarely make headlines but build a solid foundation for growth. “You guys are a leader across the state,” McCarty told the Clay County group. “You have one of the first CAPS programs in the state. You do the homework to bring long-term progress.”
The EDC began its Strategic Initiative six years ago to help bring local success for industries such as healthcare, information technology and manufacturing. Comprised of volunteer EDC members, the efforts parallel other EDC groups such as the Northland Education and Business Alliance. Recently reorganized, new task forces cover health care, leisure and entertainment, and IT.
Reinhart outlined a strategy for the group that has been used in many EDC efforts. “Our job today is not to solve all of these problems,” he said. “We’re building a framework, so we can start addressing these issues.” Other participants included Brad Filger of Continental Disc Corp., Mike Bell of Hunt Midwest and Julie Kruckow of PAS Technologies. The next meeting will be June 8.