What started as an initiative from the city of Surprise Economic Development Department quickly turned into an unprecedented work force study on the entire West Valley spearheaded by WESTMARC. The study came about through a collaboration of communities, corporations, government entities and educational institutions that contributed more than $150,000 to fund the report.
“West Valley communities have experienced tremendous growth since the 2000 Census. They were having difficulty addressing questions from business prospects concerning the size and skill levels of the regional work force,” says Surprise Economic Development Coordinator Megan Griego, who sits on WESTMARC’s economic development committee and was chair of the Workforce Labor Study of the West Valley. “The communities of the West Valley formed a consortium to better understand their region’s work force and to better promote its growth and development.”
Russ Ullinger, senior project manager of economic development for SRP, and WESTMARC co-chair and member of the economic development committee, adds that the concept for the study developed out of necessity.
“Numerous surveys and studies have identified work force as one of the most important assets when national site selection consultants consider different regions and locations for businesses,” he says.
“This is relevant in good economic times, as well as poor economic times. This study truly drills and provides specific labor information unique to the West Valley.”
Harry Paxton, economic development director for the city of Goodyear, who also acted as co-chair of the study, credits WESTMARC’s partnerships with the Maricopa Work Force Connection, as well as Maricopa Community College in the development and funding of the study. He also praises WESTMARC for bringing together work force professionals to get their input on what the study should entail.
In May 2008, WESTMARC enlisted California-based ERISS Corporation to prepare the comprehensive labor market analysis.
“That analysis involved a survey of all businesses in the West Valley with 20 or more employees — all such businesses were contracted and 1,100 completed the survey — and a detailed review of newly available government information,” Griego says.
The detailed data developed by the survey and the analysis of various government data sources is also available through www.usworks.com/westmarc, which presents the comprehensive information and data relevant to businesses, site selectors, economic development professionals, work force development professionals and educators into convenient and customizable reports.
In general, the study found there are more than 450,000 workers available to fill jobs for the right offer. In addition, there are growth and expansion opportunities in the industries of transportation, wholesale trade, traditional and non-store retail, as well as education. Regarding industry growth, health care leads the trend with a 6 percent growth rate. Construction and transportation/utilities follow closely with a 5 percent growth rate each, and retail in the West Valley has a 4 percent growth rate.
As part of the study, businesses were asked to rate their own work forces on a scale of one to seven, one representing the lowest productivity rating and seven the highest.Sixty-six percent of the area’s employers ranked their employees in one of the two highest categories.
“We found that we have in the West Valley, even in this economy, a very large and qualified labor supply, and we still have some industries that are currently growing and that anticipate growth,” he says, adding that results also show West Valley communities need to implement a live/work/play strategy to avoid the problems with transportation issues.
Landis Elliott, business development director for House of Elliott, says the benefits of the study are numerous. “The study is a tool that the West Valley cities can use while working with potential locates to validate the high-quality employees we have in this region,” she says.