Visions: Commissioners: Lucas County focused on workforce developmentWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
Editor’s Note: This guest column is part of an annual special section called Visions, in which Toledo Free Press asks local economic development and business leaders to share what they see ahead for Toledo and Northwest Ohio in the coming year.
This past year, the Board of Lucas County Commissioners streamlined its economic and workforce development efforts with the creation of the Department of Planning and Development. With this step, economic and workforce development in our county began anew — focused on driving economic growth through a data-driven, results-oriented process with a special emphasis on matching employers’ needs with potential employees’ skills.
Work Ready Lucas County
While we are encouraged by lower unemployment figures in Lucas County, we recognize too many people are being left behind and too many businesses are having difficulty recruiting skilled workers. Businesses looking to improve, expand or relocate to Lucas County demand a strong workforce with demonstrable skills. That is why we were proud to launch Work Ready Lucas County.
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It seems only fitting that the board begins its second decade of workforce development programming by ushering in this new initiative. The framework allows us to quantify and improve the skill levels of our workforce through a standardized skill credential and a robust data infrastructure that helps measure, identify and close skill gaps — part of a national strategy for work readiness.
Over the next two years, Work Ready Lucas County will endeavor to certify over 2,000 citizen job seekers and nearly 200 businesses. Once we hit that goal, our county will have earned its own certification. We will prove to the world that Lucas County has an excellent workforce with demonstrable skills — and businesses will take notice. Work Ready Lucas County is fully integrated into the county’s economic development efforts. We believe workforce development helps drive our region’s economic engine — and Lucas County isn’t going to step off the gas. For more information, visit OhioMeansJobs.com/lucas.
Lucas County has a proven track record when it comes to urban revitalization, having invested nearly $200 million in Toledo’s Downtown core. As the owner of Fifth Third Field and Huntington Center, we remain committed to the success of Toledo. Lucas County is proud to be a major partner of Hensville. We believe Hensville will help transform this rapidly growing neighborhood into a showcase for our region, which will attract even more residents, employees and visitors.
Most recently, the Lucas County Commissioners directed our community improvement corporation to purchase and demolish the former Hotel Seagate. We are busy forging a private-public partnership to ensure the elimination of this blighted building from Downtown’s skyline, provide a clean site for redevelopment and encourage further investment. We are also working with the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority to attract a strong nationally branded hotel Downtown.
Growing local businesses
Lucas County has been working to facilitate the growth of local businesses in our community. Some recent examples include facilitating Allermuir’s new North American headquarters in Monclova Township, helping Matrix Technologies add dozens of engineers in Maumee and ensuring that The Andersons new corporate headquarters will be situated in Lucas County. We also supported less traditional economic development strategies such as playing a major role in connecting local businesses to cutting-edge technology through the NASA Roadshow, hosted by the University of Toledo in June.
Regional strategic planning
The modern global economy has ushered in a new era in which regions must work together to achieve their potential. As a means of enhancing our global competitiveness, Lucas County joined the Regional Growth Partnership, alongside Wood and Ottawa counties in Ohio, and Monroe County, Michigan, to create a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for our region.
The CEDS will provide our region with an effective means to coordinate infrastructure, workforce, business and other capital investments and policies into a regional vision and plan of action, whereby projects, activities and decisions are prioritized and integrated to maximize economic development outcomes.
Going forward in 2015
Lucas County and our region offer incredible opportunities for economic prosperity and an outstanding quality of life. We will continue to work with our local economic and workforce development partners to ensure we provide a unified, regional approach to development. We are committed to furthering economic prosperity by enhancing our workforce, investing in urban revitalization efforts, growing local businesses and engaging in regional strategic planning.
On behalf of the Lucas County Commissioners, we look forward to working on these and new opportunities, as resources permit, for the benefit of our citizens throughout the New Year.
Carol Contrada, Tina Skeldon Wozniak and Pete Gerken are Lucas County Commissioners.