Filling open positions with a qualified workforce is the number one site selection factor in many companies’ decisions about where to locate or expand. This workforce gap is found in nearly every city across the United States. While it’s not a unique program to our region, Florida’s Great Northwest and Opportunity Florida, regional economic development organizations in Northwest Florida, hosted an event to explore the truth in data and dispel myths related to workforce challenges.
Kate McEnroe, a workforce and data strategist based in Chicago, spoke at the regional event on October 5, 2023 at the Watercolor Lakehouse in Santa Rosa Beach. Throughout the 13-county region, 115 community leaders gathered to hear Kate’s unique presentation titled “Difficult Conversations About Workforce.”
“Her presentation challenged common misconceptions about workforce issues and offered examples, recommendations, and opinions on optimizing and attracting a quality workforce,” said Jennifer Conoley, President & CEO of Florida’s Great Northwest.
During her presentation, McEnroe provided social demographic data, discussed public policy implications, and highlighted characteristics of a livable community. She emphasized that a growing population does not necessarily mean an increase in skilled labor talent and that access to affordable housing and childcare can impact an individual's ability to work.
After presenting her insightful data, McEnroe encouraged community leaders to continue engaging in transformative conversations. She believes that discussing topics such as housing, childcare, and empowering new individuals in the workforce can lead to positive regional transformation.
“This is our opportunity to stop admiring the workforce problem and work together to find solutions,” said Conoley. “Conversations will get us farther than data, and once we are able to have some small wins, we can scale up for ultimate impact, benefiting us all in Northwest Florida.”
Florida’s Great Northwest is the regional economic development organization for the 12-county region of the Florida Panhandle. The organization's purpose is to promote Northwest Florida for economic growth and diversification, to advocate for economic development issues that affect the region, and to collaborate to improve regional competitiveness. Beyond our beaches, Northwest Florida offers business competitive, bottom-line advantages in workforce training, upgraded infrastructure, access to a host of defense assets, and a diverse base of industries that already call the region home.
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