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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Area unemployment at record lows, yet problems still persist

Indiana Third District U.S. Representative Jim Banks
Indiana Third District U.S. Representative Jim Banks
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Companies need qualified job candidates, yet are having trouble finding them

Wednesday, August 02, 2017 04:30 pm

When it comes to attracting and retaining residents in northeast Indiana, the glamour of downtown Fort Wayne revitalization and riverfront development can definitely entice in the short term.

But for sustained growth and stability, two factors loom larger than any other — high-paying jobs and cost of living.

Thankfully, Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana continue to be one of the country's leaders in the latter. Research and data company Niche recently listed Fort Wayne No. 1 in its 2017 ranking of cities with the lowest cost of living in the United States.

But what about the former?

Third District U.S. Rep. Jim Banks and his staff, along with WorkOne and IPFW, sought to do their part in improving job numbers in northeast Indiana with a job fair at IPFW on Wednesday.
Nearly 100 companies and 4,000 jobs were advertised at the event, the largest turnout in the annual event's history.

"Obviously, we have a great cost of living in northeast Indiana," Banks said. "Now all of a sudden, we have an abundance of open, available jobs as well."

While unemployment remains steady below 3 percent throughout most of Indiana's Third District — including 2.9 percent in Allen County — companies expressing their concerns with Banks as he visits businesses firsthand nearly all boil down to one thing, the lack of qualified candidates for job openings.

"The message is the same, 'We have jobs, we can't find people to fill them,'" Banks said. "That is the economic challenge we have. Now, it is a better challenge than having (high) unemployment. Now, we have to resolve the workforce development issue."

When explaining the efforts on tackling the problem, Banks points to the cooperation and partnerships between area chambers of commerce, economic development groups and other non-government, non-profit organizations that are working together to lure working professionals to an area that is in desperate need of qualified candidates.

"These businesses are looking to find people who are willing to show up and go to work every day," Banks said. "That's why the immigration subject is so interesting. More and more businesses I've spoken to are relying on immigrant labor to fill jobs that they can't fill otherwise.
"That is one reason why we need to address the gap where we can make legal immigration more available and at the same time address illegal immigration issues."

Banks is confident that events such as Wednesday's job fair, as well as increased efforts to secure working professionals of all demographics by other northeast Indiana entities, will ensure the area grows.

Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership's Vision 2030, which, among other things, aims to increase the population of northeast Indiana to 1 million residents, largely hinges more on the job market and living costs than any other factor.

Of course, area amenities and beautification efforts can go a long way to luring top companies to Fort Wayne and the surrounding area.

"We are ripe for a period of time over the next decade where we are going to see great things in northeast Indiana that will keep the next generation here to find good-paying jobs," Banks said.

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