On a recent flight across the country, I was seated a few seats back in the coach section – behind the business class/first class section of the plane. As soon as the plane was airborne, the flight attendant came and pulled a mesh curtain across the aisle to separate the business class section from the coach section. Since the curtain was made of a mesh material you could still see what was occurring in business class – personalized attention, newspapers and magazines, an actual hangar to place your coat, not to mention the more comfortable seats, and so forth. But for some reason, my mind focused on that curtain – why was it needed – especially if events on the other side were so transparent? Then I begin to relate how issues within our local economies are the result of a dividing “curtain,” if you will.
When it comes to workforce and economic development initiatives within many communities, unfortunately there is a curtain separating their workforce activities and their economic development activities. By saying that, I mean that there is no collaboration, partnership or joint planning occurring between these entities in many regions around the U.S. due to “confidentiality issues” or “turf wars” or “political boundaries.” The result of this lack of collaboration is a stagnate or declining local economy that is losing revenue, experiencing a decreasing population and/or facing severe budgeting issues. In my opinion, for these communities to rebound and move toward making their mark in a competitive global marketplace the answer is clear – remove the curtain.
Many communities have been very successful in their joint efforts and collaborations with workforce development and economic development entities operating under a single strategic objective – to improve the local economy so that their citizens may have an improved quality of life. The U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Commerce have spearheaded initiatives that require workforce and economic development to collaborate on a regional basis – not just a memorandum of understanding, but a face-to-face planning strategy session that requires a lot of difficult decisions and involves a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
How can you move your community forward to ‘remove the curtain’ and get things moving in the right direction? Glad you asked! There are a host of resources available to help improve upon the relations between your local workforce and economic development entities from other communities that have moved forward and are ahead of the curve in competing for more business and jobs for their areas. Examples can be found at the Texas Workforce Commission, Workforce3one, the new Business Center recently announced by the USDOL and the Economic Development Administration.
Take time this week to review some of these examples and start a discussion in your community on how you can begin or improve on the partnerships between workforce development and economic development. These collaborative efforts will be critical to the economic survival of your community. Share your stories by posting a comment below and let’s help each other in marking your spot for the good of our citizens. You can also follow me on Twitter
Photo Credit: Airline Reporter