A looming, zero-sum market for qualified workers reverses the traditional economic development process. Today, a community’s quality metrics must be strong enough to attract, grow and retain enough qualified workers to staff the economic base and service sector economy or face economic stagnation and contraction. Economic development now is as much about attracting, growing and retaining qualified workers as it is about attracting, growing and retaining employers. In other words, economic development has become a talent attraction game. If your community can successfully attract, grow and retain workers, then employers will be forced to follow. The business of developing comprehensive workforce development strategies as an integrated part of economic development is in its infancy. As suggested by the workforce dynamics map below, there are many vectors at work on the scale, nature and quality of a region’s labor market. Achieving a common understanding of these dynamics and a unified sense of what should be done will require a second assessment process, focused on the workforce or the population side of the equation. A talent attraction strategy looks much like a job creation strategy. It lays out how many and what kind of qualified workers will be needed to staff the future economy. graph Instead of iterating the number of economic base jobs that must be created in the next ten years, we should focus on answering the following questions: How is it all to be done and who is going to do it? Change is hard, siloes don’t go down easy, and careful attention must be paid to the process to get clarity, consensus and commitment. There are few communities, if any, who have actually tackled this problem, so looking for existing models, best practices, and the expert who can tell you what to do is likely a fool’s errand. The key is trying to figure this on your own.


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