Workforce survey presented to public

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On March 5, community members gathered at the Crowder College Cassville Center auditorium to hear the results of Cassville Comments, a survey designed to assess the local workforce climate. The survey was conducted by the Workforce Investment Board (WIB) for Southwest Missouri.

"I think you will all find the information in the survey is very good," said Cassville Mayor Tracy Holle. "I hope it will help you see what's good about Cassville. It's an excellent way to see the direction that we are going in and where we need to be going.

"This is the best time to plan," said Holle. "Once the economy shakes itself off and starts moving again, we will be ready to move with it instead of being left behind."

The City of Cassville and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) identified 100 businesses for the Cassville Comments survey. According to Gary Box, WIB business retention coordinator, responses were received from 51 local companies.

"Of those, seven said no," said Box. "We sent out 44 surveys and 28 were returned. Eugene (Dilbeck, Cassville economic development director) and I visited 20 businesses for one-on-one discussions."

The top three suggestions that Box received from business owners included: control growth; construct a community auditorium; and enforce planning and zoning and building inspection ordinances fairly.

"The survey really showed that the Cassville community embraces the businesses that are here," said Box. "Most people saw the local retail as good but would like to see an improved campaign for shopping locally.

"Some stated that the city council and administration seems disconnected from the business community," said Box. "The mayor and council are aware of this and are working to improve it."

Other suggestions submitted by business owners included: create more parking downtown; eliminate septic systems in the city; increase the quantity and quality of available housing; place curb and guttering throughout the city; and place new signage at all city entrances.

"One comment I heard was that the community needs more jobs for educated women," said Box. "When men move to the area for mid- or upper-level positions unless their wife can work at the school or in healthcare, there is nothing for her to do."

In addition to finding ways that the community can be improved to support the business community, Cassville Comments evaluated employment trends.

"The survey indicated that the average business had 34 employees. That is the average from mom and pop businesses to the large industries," said Box. "Workforce growth is gradual, but there is growth. You are not stagnant or losing out."

According to Box, local business owners expressed concerns about recruiting and retaining younger employees. Most employers said that their average employee was middle age.

"When you have a middle age or older workforce and you are not able to bring in younger individuals, your employees are working longer and must be there to train more," said Box.

The fact that the average local employee is middle age could also be due to the fact that Cassville employers often retain employees for many years. Over 80 percent of the business owners interviewed indicated that they have no problem retaining employees.

"When developing a planning mission for the city, don't make yourself into something that you are not," said Box. "Utilize your good aspects and detract from the things that diminish.

"The Cassville community is great," said Box. "The community spirit is great, and the complaints are not that bad. You have a good future ahead of you."

The City of Cassville is preparing to complete a master plan that will guide growth over the next few decades. On March 2, the Cassville City Council hired BWR, of Kansas City, to complete the master plan.

"We will look at what we need to do to double our size in the next 25 years," said Dilbeck. "In the process, we will survey Cassville citizens. The survey will be sent to every resident and BWR wants to receive at least 400 completed questionnaires."

The public will also have opportunities to give input during community meetings that will be held during the planning process.

"We are very fortunate to have the view points of the industries in Cassville," said Stan Kelley, IDC chairman. "I know everybody would like to have new jobs coming into their community, but we can't sit back and know that the jobs we have now are going to stay here.

"We need to be proactive in maintaining the businesses that are here and proactive by looking at industries that might be interested in coming to Cassville," said Kelley.

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