Workers' Openness to Change Spells Chance for Jobs Skills, Attitude Can Attract Firms, Officials Say

Article excerpt

St. Charles County is falling behind in providing jobs for its residents, a survey shows.

But that trend may be turning around as a result of efforts by county government and business leaders.

County Executive Joe Ortwerth said last week at a news conference in St. Charles, "We want to work at getting ourselves to a point where at least a majority of our residents are able to work in jobs close to home and to stay within the perimeter of the county."

Ortwerth was commenting on a survey completed this summer in which more than 70 percent of the respondents said they commuted out of the county for their jobs. The survey was conducted by Paragon Decision Resources Inc., a consulting company hired by the county Economic Development Council.

Nearly 2,000 people answered questions on the survey, out of 15,000 sent randomly to households.

The answers to survey questions reflected a county work force that is well trained in skilled occupations. The survey suggested that nearly 80 percent of the county's workers had some education beyond high school.

One surprising response to the survey, says Greg Prestemon, president of the county Economic Development Council, is that 87 percent of the commuters said they would take a comparable job if it were available in St. Charles County, and 82 percent said they would take a comparable job at the same or less salary.

Reviewing the survey results, Ortwerth said, "What is encouraging is that not only are we able to say that four out of five people of this county have a secondary education . . . but also that almost nine out of 10 people who are employed across the river are not so wedded to their jobs that they would not take a new job here - and maybe even for less money."

These statistics, he says, can be used to attract new industry and jobs to the county.

"That is a heck of an incentive to take to future employers, to be able to say, `Yes, the unemployment rate is low here, and yes, people are for the most part working across the river, but no, they are very willing to change their habits. …