Milestones: COMMENTARY: Madison County’s future is bright
By Sean Hughes
The future of Madison County is what Madison County Future, Inc. is all about.
Madison County Future, Inc. is a public and private partnership economic development agency that is owned and managed by its public and private investors. A win for one is a win for all in this concept.
You have most likely read in prior articles of the Milestones series about some of Madison County Future’s accomplishments, such as combating the recession and significantly lowering unemployment to 5.6 percent through the creation and retention of more than 3,700 jobs, and the drastic increase in our local average wages to bring us more in line with the national average.
Economic development is as much about wealth generation as it is job creation and retention. This wealth generation is for the residents, businesses, government entities, schools, libraries, hospitals and nonprofits.
As the average wage increases and more residents work, businesses sell more products and services. Both pay more taxes to the government entities, schools and libraries due to this new wealth as well as give more to their hospitals and nonprofits. The residents and businesses see stronger services from the government entities, schools, libraries, hospitals and nonprofits due to increased funding. Basically, everyone begins to thrive and benefit from economic development.
If you think about it this way, it is easy to see that economic development is really the foundation to a community’s prosperity. A community’s prosperity makes it a much more attractive place to live.
Being an attractive place to live is important now, but will be critical and even lifesaving to communities across the country as the following happen.
First, the youngest of the largest generation of history, the baby boomers, is turning 50 this year. Many of this generation are already at or nearing retirement age. Thus, the American workforce will see an onslaught of people leaving the workforce at a rate we have never seen before.
Combine this with the facts that the next generations were smaller and that the U.S. birth rate is only 2.1 children per adult woman in the U.S. (population sustainability requires a birthrate of a minimum of 2.1.) and we see a situation where companies will not easily be able to replace retired workers.
Of course, this will be a global phenomenon and one that will have an even more consequential impact on other countries with even lower birth rates such as China (1.55), Japan (1.39) and Germany (1.41).
What does this mean? It means that for the first time in history, companies will have to compete more for a very limited pool of employees. Employees will be able to dictate more to their employers including where the employers locate.
A company will no longer be able to move to a location based on cost effectiveness, efficiencies, transportation, infrastructure, etc. and hope that employees will follow them for a good job. Instead, companies will have to go where employees want to live.
Why is this important to us? We just came full circle. The communities that will continue to be prosperous will be those where potential employees want to live. Our jobs as community leaders and economic development professionals will be more about attracting quality employees to live in our communities and growing our own residents into being the best quality employees possible rather than trying to attract companies.
Fortunately, we have already begun this work, but we have so much more work to do. We must continue to strengthen and support our schools, libraries, hospitals, businesses, nonprofits and government entities if we want to continue to be prosperous. These are the things that make up the fabric of a community and attract people to living in that community.
Let’s not forget that the foundation needs support as well. Support economic development by supporting Madison County Future, Inc. If every Madison County household gave as little as $5 to this tax deductible 501c3, it would have nearly the budget of competing economic development organizations.
A community’s prosperity starts with a strong foundation.