A Practitioner’s Perspective On Understanding And Developing Industry Clusters

August 14, 2014

By: Dave Olson
Via: Inforum

Photo credit: Nick Wagner / The Forum


MOORHEAD – A workforce study released Thursday confirms what many employers have been painfully aware of for some time: There aren’t enough people living in the Fargo-Moorhead area to fill available jobs.

But the study went one step further and stated that over the next five years, at least 30,000 new job openings are expected, with close to half of those being low-paying positions that make it difficult for workers to cover the cost of child care, transportation and housing.

“If we don’t address this problem, this issue is going to get worse and worse,” said Jim Gartin, president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp., speaking to an audience of community leaders who gathered in Moorhead to hear highlights of the workforce study.

The 100-page report was prepared by TIP Strategies, a consulting firm based in Austin, Texas.

Tom Stellman, president and CEO of TIP, told the group that the Fargo-Moorhead area is at a tipping point. The community is small enough that individuals feel they can still make a difference, but large enough to be a competitor nationally when it comes to attracting a qualified workforce.

He said the challenge becomes how to convince people to live here when many areas around the country are also striving to attract and retain workers.

“This is a national issue,” he said.

One thing the study highlighted is a pay gap when median wages in Fargo-Moorhead are compared to national numbers.

Local numbers tend to lag the national figures, particularly at the high end of the wage scale, where the difference between what companies pay here and what they pay elsewhere is greater than 20 percent, Stellman said.

Charley Johnson, president and CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, said local employers have started raising pay, but he said the pace may be too slow to make an impact when people are deciding where they want to live and work.

“This (pay gap) is a huge part of it,” he said.

Some other findings of the report:

• The number of jobs in the Fargo-Moorhead area grew by nearly 30,000 between 2004 and 2014, a 24 percent increase.
• That compares to a 5 percent increase in the total number of jobs in the U.S. for the same period.
• There are now about 6,700 job listings posted online in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Stellman said one approach to attracting more people to the area would be to embrace one of its perceived weaknesses, its northern climate.

“Embrace the cold,” Stellman said, adding that organizing something along the lines of a communitywide winter carnival should be made a priority.

He said current efforts that promote the Fargo area as a hotbed of innovation and entrepreneurial drive should be supported and he suggested a contest could be organized that invites the public to offer ideas on how the worker shortage can be turned around.

Gartin agreed community input will be valuable in finding solutions and he challenged those attending Thursday’s gathering to give of their time and energy.

“This is just the beginning and we need your help,” he said.

TIP Engaged By The East Michigan COG For Regional Prosperity Strategy

August 10, 2014

By: John Karras, Consultant, TIP Strategies

The State of Michigan has embarked on a cutting-edge experiment in regional collaboration, the Regional Prosperity Initiative (RPI). Michigan has created 10 Prosperity Regions with the goal of aligning the efforts and programs in five domains—economic development, transportation, workforce development, adult education, and higher education—within each zone. The East Michigan Council of Governments has engaged TIP Strategies to develop a Regional Prosperity Strategy for an eight-county area in East Central Michigan centered on the cities of Saginaw, Midland, and Bay City. The region and the state of Michigan have endured a multi-decade decline in their manufacturing sector, largely driven by the automotive sector. Manufacturing is making a partial comeback, with solid job growth since 2010, but the region has many assets that can be leveraged to grow the region’s economy beyond manufacturing.
Created by Governor Rick Snyder in 2012, the Regional Prosperity Initiative is a voluntary competitive grant process intended to encourage local private, public, and non-profit partners to create vibrant regional economies. The RPI recognizes that local partners are often in a better position to determine and affect the factors that drive economic prosperity. Establishing a formal mechanism for regional collaboration also provides opportunity for shared service delivery and technical assistance for local communities from their regions. In addition, by creating a strong regional strategy for economic prosperity, local partners will be better able to compete locally in an increasingly global economy.
To find out more about about the Regional Prosperity initiative:
Official Site
Frequently Asked Questions

Lubbock EDA Hires TIP For Strategic Planning Services

August 9, 2014

By: John Karras, Consultant, TIP Strategies

The Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA) has engaged TIP Strategies to provide economic development strategic planning services for the city. This effort will build on prior work including an Industry Cluster Study completed by TIP Strategies in 2013 and the Imagine Lubbock Together community visioning exercise which took place in 2013. The Lubbock economy has performed well in recent years thanks to the steady growth of Texas Tech University and the region’s health care sector and, increasingly, the oil and gas boom in the Permian Basin region just south of Lubbock. LEDA recognizes that the timing is right for this Economic Development Strategy because the city is in a stronger position than ever before to pursue new avenues for economic growth and long-term prosperity.
Find out more:
The Lubbock Report, a quarterly report that provides updates regarding LEDA and Market Lubbock.
Imagine Lubbock Together on Facebook