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Labor study


Finding ways to spur the economy and increase business investment in the counties surrounding Polk County is a constant challenge for local economic development officials. To better attract new companies and encourage existing businesses to expand, officials in Dallas, Warren and Polk counties have formed an unusual partnership to study their counties’ labor market more deeply than has been done before. Last week, the Business Record took some time to discuss the study with Linda Schaut, executive director of the Greater Dallas County Development Alliance.

Q: Tell us about the study?

A: We’ve been working on this for more than a year. We worked with Warren and Polk counties, MidAmerican Energy and the Greater Des Moines Partnership. It will help us determine the types of labor skills we have. Basic information that we currently get, such as unemployment data, doesn’t give us the information we need. We need to know about issues such as underemployment. The study will also help us look at corridors in the area. If we know workers’ commuting patterns, for instance, it helps us identify sites for businesses. We could tell prospective business owners that we know this kind of labor pool is passing by your site.

Q: When do you expect the results?

A: We’re hoping to roll the study out next month. We haven’t completely gotten all of the analysis back yet.

Q: How will the study’s results be used and why do you think the study will be useful?

A: This is a great way for site-selection consultants to have the kind of information they need to make decisions. We’re really looking for opportunities at recruiting new businesses or encouraging existing businesses to expand. We need to learn what companies our workers are serving and which companies are serving them. Do we have the right labor pool to recruit a company here? Some of our best leads (for new development) come from industries that are already here. One thing that you’ll see is these three countries working together in the future on marketing efforts.

Q: Why was there a need to team with Polk and Warren counties at all?

A: The three counties make up the Des Moines Metropolitan Statistical Area. Plus, (Iowa Department of Economic Development Director) Mike Blouin has made several comments about finding ways for officials and governments to partner in more of a regional way. This was one way we could do that.

Q: Have any results you’ve seen from the study surprised you?

A: We’re finding there are some labor shortages. Overall, I am pleasantly surprised by the results, but not totally taken aback, by what I have been hearing from industries. I am an optimist by heart.

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