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    Why Workforce and Economic Development Work Best Hand In Hand
    July 25, 2017
    Special to Bradco Report

    Why Workforce and Economic Development Work Best Hand In Hand

    By Reg Javier, Deputy Executive Officer for Workforce and Economic Development, San Bernardino County

    San Bernardino County has been experiencing tremendous growth. In its 2017 report Chmura Economics and Analytics stated that employment growth for the entire region has advanced at a markedly accelerated rate. Since 2013, the Inland Empire’s economy has outperformed California in employment, wage, and retail sales growth; and employment has grown at a rate more than double the average annual rate of growth for the nation.

    Chmura further states that employment gains are expected across all 21 major sectors of the region’s economy over the next 10 years. Expansions in healthcare and social assistance, retail trade, and accommodation and food services will each account for more than 10 percent of total employment demand. Relative to annual average growth rates, the most rapidly growing sectors are forecast to include healthcare and social assistance; construction; and professional, scientific, and technical services.

    Looking at these indicators, it is important to note that it is not enough to simply assume the ongoing growth of these target industries. When we look at this growth through the lens of economic and workforce development, we recognize our role in fully aligning our systems to better leverage each department’s resources to the benefit of the county, its businesses and residents, and in turn to support continued economic growth.

    Our vision for a complete county recognizes the valued alignment between economic development and workforce development. As stated in our Countywide Vision, we envision a vibrant economy with a skilled workforce that attracts employers who seize the opportunities presented by the county’s unique advantages and provide the jobs that create countywide prosperity.

    To make that happen it’s necessary for our agencies to understand how these industries are being disrupted through the integration of technology and global competition. Industries such as healthcare, retail, construction and technical services, among many others, are all evolving, and our business resources and workforce training are evolving as well.

    To fulfill our role as a magnet region for continued investment, our educational institutions need to be fully aware of the future labor skills that are in high demand. We are comparing data on the most in-demand jobs and skills with the degrees, training programs and curriculum offered by our local education partners. In addition, our education stakeholders are working with workforce and economic development as well as business leaders to evaluate the effectiveness of program offerings and engage directly with business in the development of new programs.

    This model is already at work in our County at the Industrial Technical Learning Center (InTech Center) on the campus of California Steel in Fontana. This County-wide training program is close to celebrating its first year and is already an important advantage for our manufacturing community. InTech provides new skills to workers who are then able to quickly fill jobs in manufacturing, distribution and related technology sectors, at little or no cost to employees or students. Approximately 400 employers throughout the County send people to be trained at InTech in courses that cover electrical, mechanical, electronics, robotics, computer skills, AutoCAD, CADCAM and related skills. These training programs are all designed with the input of local business.

    The High Desert Manufacturer’s Council is working on creation of a High Desert training center that would offer programs similar to InTech, engaging all of the stakeholders needed to make it happen.
    This represents an industry-led response to the area’s talent demands.

    This industry-driven focus is important. For example, Stirling Development recently welcomed Arden Companies, a leading US manufacturer and marketer of outdoor cushions, furniture, and d├ęcor, for 211,000 square feet of space and added more space to existing tenant Newell Brands, a leading consumer goods company that has been a tenant at Southern California Logistics Center in Victorville since 2007. Stirling also recently announced the expansion of another manufacturer, Plastipak Packaging, Inc.

    These firms are indicative of the manufacturing growth we expect to see in the region. Chmura reports that during the five-year period leading up to the second quarter of 2016, the Inland Empire manufacturing sector added more than 11,000 workers, growing at an annual average rate of 2.5 percent per year, which is more than three times the rate of growth for the state of California, and more than double the rate of growth across the nation during the same period.

    Looking ahead, a number of factors bode well for continued economic growth. The County, and especially the High Desert, provides favorable costs of business expansion (relative to other areas in Southern California) and the County has a relatively young population mix that will ensure a ready workforce for years to come.

    Finally, I want to provide updates on a number of San Bernardino County Transportation Authority projects.

    The completed Devore Interchange is another example of how collaboration makes a difference in the economic future of the County and more specifically the High Desert. What was once one of the worst grade-related bottlenecks in the nation, is now an opportunity for economic growth. It generated more than 5,000 much-needed direct and indirect jobs at an estimated cost of $324 million with funds coming from federal, state and local Measure I funds. By allowing for easier access for people and commerce, we will now greatly enhance the economic future of the High Desert.

    In addition, the widening of US-395 is a $57 million project that is currently in the design/right-of-way stage.  This project would widen 395 between SR-18 (Palmdale Road) and Chamberlain Way in Adelanto, from two lanes to four lanes, along with added turn lanes and signals at various intersections.

    The I-215 Bi-County HOV Lane gap closure is a $207 million project that is under construction and will add HOV lanes in each direction of I-215 between Orange Show Road in San Bernardino and Spruce Street near SR-60/SR-91/I-215 junction in Riverside.

    There are also improvements to the interchanges in Bloomington at Cedar Avenue ($72 million), Pepper Avenue in Rialto ($10 million) and Mount Vernon in Colton ($37 million).

    The Downtown San Bernardino Passenger Rail Project ($103 million) is near completion and will go online this year.
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