County’s declining population could hamper future growth | News

Bedford County has jobs to fill and room to grow, but the declining population could hamper the region’s future economic growth if steps are not taken to train the labor pool and create a supportive environment. which is bringing new people to the area, according to local officials.

The quality of place, or the assets a community boasts of, including affordable housing, quality school districts, accessible medical care, broadband access and recreational opportunities, are also a focus of agencies. local workforce development initiatives.

While some companies report few problems keeping their facilities fully staffed, others are forced to turn to staffing agencies to fill positions, creating an additional drain on profits.

Workforce development is key to ensuring the county continues to fill jobs effectively, and the Bedford County Development Association and Chamber of Commerce are taking steps to shape the future as needed of the county, both by engaging young people and examining what Bedford County has to offer potential new residents, according to representatives of the two organizations.

BCDA President Bette Slayton said the problem was simply supply and demand – more jobs create upward pressure on wages. If Bedford County has a pool of qualified employees, employers will theoretically raise wages and benefits to attract and keep them on their rosters.

“If we don’t have people in that pipeline, we can’t afford those higher salaries,” Slayton said. Encouraging skilled and trained labor among the county’s youth is one of them, she added.

“It’s not just old-fashioned manufacturing,” BCDA Vice President Jennifer Marsh said, explaining that today’s job market includes robotics, programming and remote work opportunities.

According to figures compiled by the Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation, Bedford County’s total workforce in 2020 was approximately 20,000 people to fill 14,300 jobs. About 8,300 people work locally, but nearly 12,000 commute out of town for work. There are 6,000 people who come to Bedford to find jobs. Understanding why people are leaving the area and what attracts workers is important in creating solutions to keep local businesses staffed and attract new ones to the county, Slayton said.

Dedra Pembrooke, director of human resources at Omni Bedford Springs, said past staff shortages have forced vacancies to be filled through recruitment agencies. These employees must then be accommodated at the resort and generally lack means of transport, which limits them to staying at the hotel or walking to town.

“It decommissions the rooms for us so we can sell them,” Pembrooke explained. She said they hope they can attract enough local help to fill their positions, but the company is battling what she said are misconceptions about low pay in addition to a small labor pool. work.

Slayton said the lack of affordable housing, especially move-in ready homes or apartment and condominium complexes, is a big problem when people consider moving to the area.

Dan Kramer, senior director of human resources for New Enterprise Stone and Lime, moved from Ohio to Pennsylvania last year and said it was difficult to find housing for his family. They turned to Airbnbs and rentals until they could find a home to buy that suited their needs.

“My wife was looking here, there and everywhere,” he said. “We probably searched pretty hard for three months.” He said they’ve seen a lot of repairers, but move-in ready homes in his price range are going fast.

Slayton said those issues come down to quality of place — a buzzword used to talk about capitalizing on an area’s amenities, including natural resources and recreational opportunities. This includes hiking, canoeing, camping, and other options for free time, but also amenities like high-speed internet, good school districts, and accessible medical care.

Kramer said he drove around the area before moving here and it made a positive impression on him and his wife.

“We really started loving the area the first time we saw it, even though it was mid-winter,” Kramer said. “There’s just a lot of natural beauty here. I feel like I’m already starting to take it for granted. We hike every weekend.

According to Slayton, “80% of new jobs come from growing companies.” In an effort to keep employees in the pipeline, Bedford County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kellie Goodman Shaffer said her organization offers the Chamber Foundation, which works with children to introduce career opportunities. jobs available in the area. These include Touch-a-Truck and other job fairs for school-aged children, as well as youth leadership programs and volunteer opportunities.

“We’re playing the long game in terms of workforce development,” Shaffer explained. The Chamber also recently held a job fair for senior residents seeking part-time employment.

County-wide high-speed internet access is in the works as part of a plan with six south-central counties: Bedford, Somerset, Blair, Cambria, Huntingdon and Fulton. Bedford County Planning Director Donald Schwartz said internet access is imperative these days.

“The Internet is almost like when the country was electrified during the Depression. It’s almost as important in the modern age to be successful,” Schwartz said.

Shaffer said the need to retain and attract people here in Bedford County benefits all area residents, not just those seeking employment.

When people move away and no one comes to replace them, “we become less and less represented in government”.

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