Headline local news in my area is Neiman Marcus is coming to town in a few months. No, not the glamorous to-die-for store with the Louboutins; a 198,400-square-foot distribution center in a not-sexy-at-all industrial park – with an expected 151 jobs and investment of $12 million for leasehold improvements, equipment purchases and employee training.
The reviews are mixed. One woman interviewed on 6pm news on TV said she thinks it’s great, people will be able to support their families. Online the comments are much less favorable and contrary. For example..
This area is not perceived to have a highly skilled workforce (rightly so) and doesn’t attract many companies that ‘pay well’ (unfortunately). You might think with no less than 16 colleges and universities around here companies would be flocking in. However, that’s not the case and getting college students to stay here is quite a challenge (over 50% are out of state students). Our regional colleges pop out so many mass comm, marketing and accounting grads (because that’s what students like and they are in the business of selling education) – area industry simply cannot support them all and so they leave for greener pastures creating the very real phenomenon of ‘brain drain’. Combine that with low levels of high school diploma and college degree attainment of the native home grown populous and it’s quite a catch 22.
Ask engineering and IT companies in the area if they can ever fill ALL their positions – the answer is a resounding no, yet at the same time, the local cost of living doesn’t support external recruiting because of the low salaries compared to other markets. It’s quite sad really…
Northeastern PA (NEPA) is a logistics and transportation corridor due to its accessibility to interstate highways – this was a planned strategic initiative by regional chambers and economic development agencies and the State of PA over the past 40 years or so, as the ‘solution’ to replace the loss of mining and then manufacturing jobs – in part because such a significant sector of the population wasn’t prepared to transition to higher skilled work. However, this type of nearsighted bandaid strategy has sorely held us back.
Despite the abundance of educational opportunity available in Northeastern Pennsylvania, only approximately half of the local population pursues higher education, which irrefutably enhances the quality of any workforce. The concept of “brain drain” continues to be an issue in our region, which basically means that our own students seek education elsewhere, while our own colleges and universities attract students from other parts of the country – especially Southeastern PA, New York and New Jersey – who, in turn generally leave our region upon graduation.
Written Testimony to the US House of Representatives
Raymond S. Angeli, President
What to do?
Entrepreneurism must grow stronger, seed and root here, train here, and hire local. The state should invest money in local entrepreneurial initiatives – not in trying to attract low skill, low pay big boxes and retailers with tax incentives that benefit ridiculously wealthy commercial real estate brokers but not workers who need and deserve to earn family sustaining wages.
And that’s my two cents for today. What’s yours?
P.S. If you do want go after one of these upcoming sure to be highly sought after jobs, I don’t suggest you wait till the masses apply. They aren’t posted yet but why leave what you can do today for tomorrow? Establish relationships now! I checked LinkedIn and many of their key HR people are on there and they are way big on networking. Hint, hint…