Brian Brown, executive director of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), had some good news and some not so good news during a presentation Friday at the IDA board’s planning session, with some job sectors showing an increase in job opportunities, while others contracted.
Brown told board members the strongest forecast by numbers of jobs over the next five years is for health care and social assistance with a projected increase of 116 jobs, followed by information-related jobs with a projected increase of 14 jobs and utilities-related employment with a projected increase of 11 jobs.
According to Chmura’s Jobs EQ data, the best-paying jobs in Halifax County are utilities ($75,978), finance and insurance ($55,102) and management of companies and enterprises ($52,799).
Chmura also reported the average worker in Halifax County earned annual wages of $36,542 as of the second quarter of 2019, and that average annual wages per worker increased 3.7% in the region over the preceding four quarters.
For comparison purposes, annual average wages were $57,025 in the nation as a whole as of the second quarter of 2019, according to Chmura Jobs EQ.
In terms of a strategic plan, Brown asked how the board and staff can help their training partners, schools and community deliver information about job opportunities and teaching skills necessary to fill those positions.
A crucial first step, according to Brown, building on a comment by board member Nancy Pool regarding GO Virginia, is “tapping into our assets and partners and their capabilities.”
Entrepreneurial development should be part of a strategic plan, according to Brown, who asked rhetorically why the IDA would get involved in hotel development.
Brown estimated that an 80-room hotel would generate $40,000 in real estate taxes a year, and it would generate $88,330 in meals and lodging taxes during a year, minus any business or personal property tax.
The IDA could look at downtown development as a way of helping economic development for the community, Brown added in his presentation.
“Downtowns are the commercial hubs for most communities,” said Brown. “Not only do they generate sales and create jobs, but they also contribute to the quality of life as they serve the needs of residents, workers and visitors.”
Small cities and towns, often with limited resources, must be innovative and focus on their distinctive assets for economic development, according to Brown.
“In order to attract talent, we must develop our story and grow what we have as our quality of place,” Brown added.
During his presentation, Brown again referenced Chmura’s Jobs EQ to detail job opportunities in the Halifax County service region.
According to the Virginia Employment Commission, 656 employers in Halifax County employ from zero to four workers, and 152 employers have from five to nine workers.
The 50 largest employers include Halifax County Public Schools, Sentara Healthcare, Dolgencorp LLC (Dollar General) and ABB Service Company Division.
Four employers in Halifax County have between 250 and 499 employees, according to VEC.
Part of the process of creating a strategic plan is communication, with the board looking at Brown’s presentation and discussing how the IDA and staff could reach out to potential employees and tell them about the skills needed to get the jobs in the area.
Board members noted the IDA can fine-tune its efforts in helping the school system, training partners and continuing education partners assist them in matching jobs with the right applicants.
“It will be a shame if two or three of the larger employers can’t fill positions,” said board member Rick Harrell.