The city is embarking on a project to develop regional talent profiles as part of its initiative to redevelop the Mill Street property
in the city's southwest section, which formerly housed a steel plant. The site is being targeted for light-industrial, mixed-use. Ecorse was one of 43 communities selected for the first round of Michigan Site Readiness grants designed to support communities in marketing old industrial properties facing challenges to redevelopment. The $100,000 grant will allow Ecorse to address environmental contamination issues, create a conceptual site plan and access plan, plan for enhanced recreational assets and habitat
, as well as to study talent and workforce assets and gaps to support future employment at the site.
"In economic development, workforce matters," says Sally Hodges, Ecorse's city planner with McKenna consultants. "One of a company’s considerations when selecting a site is the availability of sufficient properly skilled employees. Ideally, the employee base is matched to the employers – the supply and demand are in balance."
The information to be gathered in this study will be a valuable tool for understanding the area’s talent and workforce, according to Hodges. Data from multiple sources will be evaluated in a model that will describe the availability and location of talent in the region, including pipelines to build future talent including educational institutions, business schools, technical training programs, workforce support training, and others. City officials and prospective employers can then use that data to understand the types of skills that are in demand and understand the resources available to supply those skills.
Ecorse City Administrator Richard Marsh leads a workgroup to study the region's workforce and talent assets and needs.
Jim Perry, executive director of the Downriver Community Conference, says part of that equation will certainly involve a focus on training in the skilled trades.
"The way forward is going to have to be getting our young people involved in the building trades, the electrical trade, all of the skilled trades," says Perry. "Going to college costs a lot of money. Going to a trade school trade, you go to work and earn while you learn. We want to keep our young folks here, and for that, we need quality job quality good-paying jobs in the skilled trades."
Marsh is looking forward to having more information on the region's workforce as he works to attract companies to the city.
"In the Downriver area, we're known to have a workforce with a good work ethic," says Marsh. "It will be a matter of if we have the availability of enough workers, because of how the economy is going right now, to fill some of the positions that are available."
According to Hodges, the information gleaned in the workforce study will have immediate and practical use as the city markets not only the Mill Street property, but projects across the city.
"Armed with the talent profiles, the city and its partners will be able to target and market to specific types of businesses for the Mill Street site (and elsewhere in the City) that utilize employees with the skills available," she says. "On the supply side, by understanding what work skills people in the City have, community leaders can make judgments about whether there is an adequate supply of workers to support desired new businesses and industry."
And if the data shows a prospective shortage in a particular area, steps can be taken to fill the gap by networking with technical and community colleges, and investing in other training programs and initiatives to fill current, as well as changing labor market needs, according to Hodges.
"The ultimate goal is to have a pool of talent with the skills needed to fill the positions that come with new development, fostering full employment and added tax base for the City," says Hodges.
"I think we're sitting right on the cusp of hoping to see some good things in our future. I just feel it," says Perry. "I know it's going to happen one step at a time, and I know we'll do it the right way."
Interested parties should inquire with Richard Marsh at 313-386-2520.