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Clark County Community Development Leaders Seek New Job-Growth Strategy

Cindy Funk

Clark County development planners are working on a new coordinated economic-growth strategy they say will help attract business development and create more jobs for new and existing county residents.

Horton Hobbs IV, vice president of economic development for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, says a new approach is needed as demographics shift and baby boomers age out of the workforce in increasing numbers. He says the planning process will help to address Clark County’s most urgent workforce-skills gaps – so more residents can access better-paying jobs to support their families.

“What we're endeavoring to do is to have an in-depth conversation about really understanding where we want to be in the next five to 10 years from a job-creation perspective,” he says.“What we haven't done and what we need to do next is really take that deep dive into truly understanding where our growth opportunities are – solely from a jobs perspective. We've done a lot of work on quality of life. We've done a lot of work on community development and we've done a lot of work, frankly, on our economic development strategy."

Credit Cindy Funk / Flickr

The county's planning process aims to bring together community stakeholders, including residents and leaders from the business, education and government sectors, for an in-depth conversation about what kind of job growth is possible, how to achieve it and how results will be measured over the next decade or more.

“If our families are more economically stable in our community some of the social and economic issues that are prevalent in communities that have had struggles in the past, they are minimized. And so our focus is very specific and that is to grow our economy and grow it faster than our population growth and we want both to grow.”

More than 1,000 new jobs were created in Clark County last year, driven partly by an upswing in new manufacturing businesses. But many of the new positions require Computer Numeric Control, also known as CNC, and other 21st century technology skills.

Hobbs says more workforce training would help to prepare more county residents for such high-tech manufacturing and STEM jobs in the future.

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Jess Mador comes to WYSO from Knoxville NPR-station WUOT, where she created an interactive multimedia health storytelling project called TruckBeat, one of 15 projects around the country participating in AIR's Localore: #Finding Americainitiative. Before TruckBeat, Jess was an independent public radio journalist based in Minneapolis. She’s also worked as a staff reporter and producer at Minnesota Public Radio in the Twin Cities, and produced audio, video and web stories for a variety of other news outlets, including NPR News, APM, and PBS television stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. She loves making documentaries and telling stories at the intersection of journalism, digital and social media.