The Virginia’s Heartland region has a population of 81,378 (Source: 2000 Census) and is projected to have moderate growth over the next five years. Virginia’s Heartland has human resources assets that would be attractive to most businesses, especially manufacturing facilities of less than 150 employees. But the region has a labor market to staff administrative and clerical operations with up to 100 initial employees, specifically, call centers and small administrative support operations.
The Wadley-Donovan Group (WDG) made this assessment. WDG is an independent management-consulting firm recognized internationally as an authority in the field of corporate location and relocation. Virginia’s Heartland Partnership Inc. contracted with WDG to survey and analyze the region’s workforce offerings for new businesses.
WDG’s findings regarding region’s workforce assets include:
- A potential hidden labor supply. For new and expanding employers, there are several sources of labor that currently may not be used to their full potential in the region. Employed residents and non-employed residents are also interested in receiving training to enhance and upgrade their skills.Key components of this labor supply are:
- Residents who commute to jobs outside the region. 43% of the area’s employed residents (or 15,600 individuals) commute to jobs outside the region, according to estimates by WDG based on its survey data. Given the opportunity, most residents would prefer to work and live in the same area.
- Residents who are not currently employed. Roughly 3,500 working-age residents (18-74 years of age) who are not employed, but are interested in employment in the region, according to WDG’s estimates based on its survey data. An inability to find a job that meets the educational and training levels is a key factor that keeps residents out of the workforce. The occupational skill base of the region’s non-employed is diverse. Retail skills constitute the single largest category with 20%, followed by manufacturing maintenance, manufacturing other than highly skilled, and agriculture-related occupations, each with 13% of non-employed residents. The manufacturing skills as reported by non-employed residents are precisely those skills that are currently, and projected to be, in demand by local employers.
- Residents currently employed. Many of the region’s employed residents would like to enhance their job skills. 44% of residents currently working would be interested in receiving training to acquire new job skills for career development, which equates to 18,400 individuals. These individuals offer a potential workforce for existing and new companies offering career advancement and training opportunities. Fields of greatest training interest are: computer science (professional and support positions), agriculture/fishing/mining, education related services, medical services (technical and professional) and education related services.
- Graduating and currently enrolled high school students. Out of 620 graduating seniors from the region’s high schools, 21%, or 137 indicated in school district surveys that they had no plans for further education or work after graduation and 100 had plans other than continuing their education. Many of these students will go directly into the workforce.
- A workforce with good basic skills, a good work ethic, and high productivity levels. Employers report satisfactory basic skills among job applicants as well as a good work ethic and high productivity levels.
- A strong industry base of manufacturing and services. The region’s ratio of manufacturing employment to total employment is approximately one and one-half times the state and national averages. This base of experienced and skilled employees is an asset for new and expanding manufacturers. Additionally, individuals in the service sector are often underemployed and with additional training could be placed in manufacturing or clerical and administrative positions.
- Good availability of select clerical and administrative and manufacturing skills. Among those occupations that can be recruited successfully and with minor difficulty from the total workforce are a number of clerical, administrative and general office support occupations and some manufacturing occupations. These include, among others, general clerks, entry-clerical workers, accounting clerks, administrative assistants, experienced payroll clerks, general laborers, material handling laborers, unskilled workers and experienced maintenance personnel.
- Low to moderate wages and earnings for entry-level and experienced workers. Labor costs in the Virginia’s Heartland region are lower in all industries relative to state and national figures. Based on salary information provided by local employers, labor costs in the region are low.
- Strong customized and general training programs through the region’s post-secondary institutions. Southside Virginia Community College serves most of the region. J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College serves Amelia County and Piedmont Virginia Community College serves part of Buckingham County. In addition, Prince Edward County is home to two highly-rated four-year colleges: Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College.
- Virginia is a pro-business state. Virginia has some of the lowest workers compensation and unemployment insurance rates in the country. It is a right to work state and has solid employment at will law. There is a minimal union presence. Several labor related incentives are available through the State.