The Golden Triangle Development LINK announced plans this week to launch an in-depth analysis of the local labor force in Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties in an effort to take a more informed and proactive approach with respect to the future of the regional economy. 

LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins

LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins 

The LINK said in a press release that local residents and businesses are being called on to help the economic development engine get a better understanding of the myriad workers and businesses who make up the local labor force by participating in a brief survey. 

According to LINK officials, the in-person survey takes only a couple of minutes to complete. Names will not be collected and survey responses are completely anonymous. 

LINK Chief Operating Officer Macaulay Whitaker said the project will help position the region as businesses continue to compete in the global economy for the best economic development opportunities and jobs. 

“In the short term, this data will assist existing businesses in finding qualified available workers and help workforce agencies match workers with jobs and training program,” Whitaker said. “Long term, this project will provide planning data to prepare the workforce for our future, high-skilled economy.” 

Officials hope to tap in to a regional labor force that makes up roughly 4 percent of the state overall labor force, which consists of everyone of working age that either has a job or is actively seeking employment. 

By county, Lowndes leads the way with the largest labor force of 24,570, according to the latest data from the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, while Oktibbeha reported a labor force of 20,430 and Clay at 7,590 . 

This study will be conducted by Sharon Younger and Associates — the firm selected by the LINK for the project — and includes a labor supply survey which is being conducted among working-age people via brief personal interviews at numerous local business sites. 

Younger’s firm is an an economic research and strategic planning firm that provides services to businesses, economic development organizations and transportation agencies. 

According to the company’s website, Younger has 25 years of experience in her field and is a frequent speaker at national conferences for professional organizations. She is also an instructor for the Economic Development Institute, University of Oklahoma, Auburn University, University of Tennessee and CETYS University in Mexico.The Tennessee-based firm has also conducted strategic planning and target industry analyses for communities and economic development agencies including Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Memphis Regional Economic Development Council and the North Mississippi Economic Alliance, to name a few. 

The LINK said the survey team will be on the ground in the three counties March 20-24. 

Economic development officials hope to build on past success since the LINK was opened in 2003 to eventually represent the Golden Triangle region, which has since seen nearly 6,000 jobs added to the regional economy along with $6 billion in investments.

Whitaker then stressed that in order to achieve the greatest level of success, those involved with the survey will need the help of individuals in the community. 

“We ask people to stop and talk to our surveyors for a couple of minutes when they are in the area,” she said. 

The survey of local residents will seek to identify workforce information, including: Special and high-demand skills available among regional workers; Untapped labor force segments (newcomers, people returning to the workforce); The extent of underemployment among local workers and interest in training, and preferred fields of training 

LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said workforce skills and availability are some of the most critical factors for businesses considering a new location or expansion and leading communities must understand and address the workforce issue.

“We appreciate the local organizations that are providing places for our survey team to work,” Higgins said. “And we thank our local people in advance for participating in the survey.”

For more information about the study contact Whitaker at (662)-574-3733 or email at mwhitaker@gtrlink.org

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