2018-01-28 / Insight

Finding, Training & Keeping talent

Region’s business leaders gather to discuss talent
BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com

ELBA TWP. — Nearly 200 business, non-profit and government leaders from Lapeer, Genesee, Huron, Sanilac, Shiawassee, St. Clair and Tuscola counties gathered Wednesday (Jan. 24) afternoon for a three-hour Talent Forum held at the Lapeer Country Club.

With the state’s unemployment level at 4.2 percent and creeping toward its historic low of 3.2 percent, set back in 2000, the state and the I-69 Thumb Region are facing a number of talent challenges.

While unemployment in the region runs from a low of 3.9 percent in Huron County to a high of 5.3 percent in Tuscola and Genesee counties, Janet Karcher, senior vice president of the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce told forum attendees that every county in the seven-county region has more workers in their local active labor force than jobs in their local economies.

However, at the same time, local employers are complaining that they’re having a difficult time filling positions. “There’s a poaching war in the marketplace,” said David Palmer, director of business partnerships at the Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN).

He noted that over the next decade, 6,800 skilled trade jobs will be created annually over the next decade, partly because the Baby Boomer Generation is headed into retirement in ever greater numbers.

Karcher observed in the I-69 Thumber Region alone, there are more than 11,000 jobs held by people 65 years old or older. She said it’s being called the Silver Tsunami and it’s not just about employees.

Both Crain’s Detroit Business and the Detroit Free Press reported last fall that there are thousands of boomer-owned companies across the state and less than 20 percent of them have any kind of succession plans. The Free Press reported that could put as many as 400,000 jobs in jeopardy in metro Detroit alone.


Patricia Lucas is executive director of the Lapeer Development Corporation. 
Photo by Phil Foley Patricia Lucas is executive director of the Lapeer Development Corporation. Photo by Phil Foley Karcher said the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce has $37,500 in grant money available for pilot projects across the region to address talent issues.

They’re accepting proposals at www.I69ThumbRegion.org over the next few weeks Karcher said they’re looking for projects that can be completed in the next six to seven months.

Part of the forum, Palmer said, was aimed at bringing together people from similar industries from around the region to begin dialogs about improving the talent pool.

Karcher noted the region includes 154,000 people who earned less than $21,000 in 2016. In that group, 48.2 percent were in the prime age-earning bracket of 25- to 54 years old.


David Palmer reviews the employment situation in southeast Michigan for attendees of the I-69 Thumb Region Talent Forum at the Lapeer Country Club Wednesday afternoon. 
Photos by Phil Foley David Palmer reviews the employment situation in southeast Michigan for attendees of the I-69 Thumb Region Talent Forum at the Lapeer Country Club Wednesday afternoon. Photos by Phil Foley Palmer said the state needs to begin thinking of talent like the rest of the supply chain. The right pieces need to be in the chain at the right time.

He said most companies are so focused on getting product out the door, they don’t spend much time worried about who’ll take over. “Succession planning is particularly vexing,” he said. “It’s like planning your own will.”

Nancy Boxey, executive director of the Lapeer County Community Foundation, said the forum was just the beginning of a conversation on how to attract and develop talent locally.

Patricia Lucas, executive director of the Lapeer Economic Development Corp, said it was “very worthwhile,” adding that Lapeer County’s central location in the region suggests the county will be the site for more talent gatherings.



Jessica Billig leads a group of area educators in a discussion on employment issues during Wednesday’s I-69 Thumb Region Talent Forum. Jessica Billig leads a group of area educators in a discussion on employment issues during Wednesday’s I-69 Thumb Region Talent Forum.

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