Collaboration Key to Growth in Wood County | News

PERRYSBURG — Collaboration was the key word at the Toledo Metropolitan Council of Governments roundtable on workforce development.

Last week’s general meeting event featured four speakers from the Workforce Development Panel, all of whom agreed that Northwest Ohio, and in particular Wood County, were experiencing business growth, but employee attraction and talent growth were not keeping pace with needs.

“Regionalism is really going to be key. I know that’s a dirty word, but this organization does it best,” said Russell Mills, senior director of the Center for Regional Development at Bowling Green State University.

He added that regional support must include helping small businesses and attracting employees, by improving the quality of life.

He called the jobs issue “the new normal” and said “I think it’s here to stay”.

Mills said the number one trend is “so many people starting their own businesses, and frankly, we’re not doing well in Ohio.”

Support for these businesses will be needed to ensure the sustainability of this trend.

President of Monroe County Community College, Kojo Quartey, Ph.D. is an economist who advises his school’s students to “get a degree with economic value.”

To that end, he supports Michigan’s plan to create a free community college. That’s toward the state’s goal of having 60 percent of working-age Michiganders with a college certificate or degree by 2030. He noted Ohio has a similar goal.

Edward Ewers, superintendent of the Penta Career Center in Perrysburg, was also on the panel.

Penta worked with manufacturers to determine their employee needs.

Part of the Penta plan is to maximize on-the-job learning. The school recently brought industrial companies into its labs to help write the student curriculum, for real-world application of knowledge.

He used the example of Rosenboom Custom Crafted Cylinders, Bowling Green, who participated in this project.

At this point, 97.4% of on-campus programs are aligned with in-demand jobs.

Mary DeWitt of OhioMeansJobs Wood County Center suggested that employers invest in employees, training and developing the existing workforce.

“People are there, they just don’t have the skills,” DeWitt said.

She also suggested that employers become family-friendly. A key part of being family-friendly is childcare.

“I could talk for half an hour about child care,” DeWitt said.

Mills supported what DeWitt saw, with the pandemic accelerating retirements and a generally declining workforce. He said the birth rate had fallen since 2008.

In 2004, the immigration rate was around 1.2 million and it fell to 707,000 in 2022, Mills said.

Timothy Murphy, director of Civil and Environmental Consultants Inc., commented after the panel presentation.

“The labor market is very tight, we already knew that, but it will continue like this, I think. One of the things I heard there is that they don’t really see the end in sight, which is hard right now. We’re an engineering and environmental company and we’re having a hard time finding good candidates to hire and we’re constantly looking, and it looks like that’s going to continue,” Murphy said.

The company is spread across several states and has an office in Toledo, with most of its current work in northwest Ohio in Wood County.

“We’d love to hire local people and keep them local, and help them grow their careers,” Murphy said.

During the general assembly session, Perrysburg Mayor Tom Mackin was elected Vice President of TMACOG. He said he looked forward to working with newly elected president, Bowling Green Mayor Mike Aspacher.

Mackin also commented on the labor market and the role of municipalities.

“There needs to be a real collaborative effort on how to train and prepare for job opportunities. If we can move forward that would be great for the area and it would attract more business and improve the quality of life,” Mackin said. “Competition for quality trained employees is really going to be something to consider. It also means that we have to invest the necessary resources to train people.

Prior to the main event, caucus sessions were held between the different levels of government.

State Rep. Haraz Ghanbari, R-Perrysburg, attended the county caucus.

“We had a lively conversation about the big projects in northwest Ohio right now,” Ghanbari said. “Let’s face it, if Ohio doesn’t take advantage of those federal dollars, then those federal dollars will go elsewhere in other states.”

Discussions focused on topics related to various modes of transport, including the use of rail, both for freight and passenger transport.

“I’m also talking about Amtrak. There are federal dollars for that right now, and I signed on to defend some of those federal dollars,” he said. “It’s not just your traditional east-west corridors, but also potential north-south rail traffic.”

Ghanbari added that they also discussed a transportation corridor from Columbus to Toledo in a link to the East Coast.

Ghanbari said he had conversations with Tim Brown, president of TMACOG, about legislation to commit federal monetary support to Amtrak.

Comments are closed.