Keeping the Economic Cycle Moving in Oconee County
By Richard Blackwell
It’s always great news when you can reel off statistics that show the economic health of your area. In this case, unemployment in Oconee County has plummeted to 3.5 percent, its lowest point since 2000 (to put that in perspective, it’s seven years before Apple’s first iPhone). Our industrious residents are hard at work, and that is great news.
It’s not, however, an opportunity for everyone at the Oconee Economic Alliance to take the rest of the day off. Actually, with area employment at these outstanding levels, our job becomes even more vital. As we work to draw new employers to the region, Oconee County is competing against areas that seem to have more readily available workforce resources. In this regard, it’s important that we deliver the message that our labor pool is not only ample, but vibrant and desirable.
In his recent article for AreaDevelopment.com titled “Scouting Locations in an Era of Labor Scarcity: 10 Considerations,” John Rees, Director of Research, Avalanche Consulting, makes several excellent points on this subject, many of which apply to Oconee County. First, Rees talks about the geography of labor markets and what “local” really means. Our area, served as it is by a good transportation system, taps into a highly mobile workforce that depend on a quick commute to and from Oconee County jobs. We know that people will drive to Oconee County for jobs, and not just from Anderson and Pickens counties, but also from neighboring Northeast Georgia.
Another point Rees makes is the value of having quality higher-education opportunities available locally, and again, Oconee County is blessed. Nearby, we have both Clemson University and Tri-County Technical College, which together will provide a steady and diverse supply of young workers into infinity. But as Rees points out, it’s not just about the number of warm bodies, it’s about providing workers who have solid foundations and desired skills. The Workforce Campus in the Oconee Industry and Technology Park is a welcome addition that will provide yet another training ground to keep pace with the needs of current – and future — employers. We will also continue to work with educators at all levels throughout Oconee County to ensure that we can provide workers with the skills to ensure success, even as job-market demands evolve. This also ensures a healthier community in general, which, of course, benefits everyone.
Employers cannot overlook overall quality of life, either, because, increasingly, the most-sought-after job candidates aren’t just looking for good jobs, but for a balance of life that includes work and play. Anyone who has ever visited Oconee County for anything more than a cup of coffee knows: We have a lifetime’s worth of adventures and fun set against picturesque mountains and exciting waterways.
Continuing to bring quality jobs to this great area is not only what we do, it’s another piece of the economic puzzle — along with education, workforce and quality of life – that will help Oconee County remain a gem of the region.
Richard K. Blackwell is the Executive Director of Oconee Economic Alliance, which is a public-private nonprofit effort to accelerate job creation and capital investment, increase per capita income, diversify the local tax base and generate awareness of Oconee County as a business location. To learn more visit www.InvestOconeeSC.com.