Matt Gilroy, executive director of the Fulton County Economic Development Corporation, said attracting workers to Fulton County constrains county businesses.
“The lack of available workforce is the primary conversation that I have when meeting with company officials locally,” he said.
The same issue comes up in trade shows and conferences he has attended across the country.
“It seems that the communities in both urban and rural settings are struggling with these workforce constraints due to significant demographic shifts,” he said.
“As Baby Boomers begin to retire, there are not enough young people entering the workforce to make up for the production.
“This issue continues to drive down unemployment, which is an excellent thing.
“However, it also stifles economic growth.
“I believe the reason we have had such slow economic growth nationally over the past few years has been due to workforce attraction challenges that companies have faced.
“It’s likely that the attraction of workers will continue to be a high priority for businesses in retail, service and manufacturing industries locally, state(wide), and nationwide as retirees are replaced and as business opportunities continue to grow.”
Gilroy said agriculture is an economic driver in Fulton County.
Recent changes in Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) tax rates have helped the agriculture community statewide, “and these changes were important to farmers across the county,” he said.
“The transition of land from one owner to the next will likely increase over the next few years, thanks again to demographic dynamics.
“I expect that the average amount of acreage farmers own will continue to increase due to the productivity enhancements that have occurred in agriculture over the past decade.”
The epidemic of illegal drug abuse is a problem in Northwest Ohio, Gilroy said.
“Continued efforts by local and state officials to increase education and reduce drug abuse are commendable,” he said.
“One startling statistic that was shared with me recently by Beth Thomas from HC3 (Healthy Choices, Caring Communities, a Fulton County coalition formed to fight underage drug abuse) is that 22% of local 17-18-yearolds that completed its survey acknowledged marijuana use in the last 30 days.
“Employers that test for drug use consider this unacceptable.
“Unfortunately, people that otherwise would be able to secure good employment opportunities and increase their earning potential are failing their drug tests and unable to better their livelihood due to their abuse of drugs.”
Looking forward into 2018, Gilroy said FCEDC “will be prioritizing residential growth in Fulton County, which will alleviate some of the workforce attraction constraints our employers have.
“We will also be promoting the quality of life in Fulton County to people that reside elsewhere, to encourage them to look at the opportunities of living and working in our area.
“Locally, I anticipate that employers will continue hiring at a steady pace for positions that are currently open and to replace attrition.”
On the national level, he said there are questions about the future.
“New car sales in the United States have slowed a bit from record years in 2015 and 2016,” he said.
“We are on pace for 17.3 million new car sales in the United States in 2017, and analysts are projecting 16.7 million in 2018.
“New car inventories have declined in recent months nationwide, so car manufacturers seem to have recognized a downward shift in sales.
“Tax cuts by the federal government will likely create more opportunities for businesses large and small.
“However, the unanswered question that will determine the success of the tax cuts will be, can employers find the workforce that they need to increase production?”