Quality of Life or Jobs Analysis?

Article excerpt

The work force survey commissioned by the El Reno Industrial Development Corp. surprised everyone.

With hundreds of new jobs and a new industrial park on the horizon for the Canadian County seat, ERIDC officials thought an area employment survey would prove a good educational tool for both finding new workers and luring expanding companies. And the results didn't disappoint -- the survey by the University of Oklahoma Center for Economic and Management Research determined El Reno is the home of a highly educated, underemployed work force.

While the unemployment rate in Canadian County is just 2.3 percent, the study demonstrated a pool of labor exists in this far west Oklahoma City suburb among workers who are employed but do not fully utilize their education and skills. About 15.6 percent of the city's workers fit the criteria and were identified in the survey as underemployed.

Most of these said they would be willing to commute 20 miles or more for a job that pays 10 to 15 percent more than current wages.

But that's where surprise and confusion set in. Randle Lee, executive director of the ERIDC, suggested El Reno residents commute to Oklahoma City for a different reason. "In the survey we saw the people of El Reno driving to Oklahoma City would do so no matter what jobs were available closer to home. People simply like to live in El Reno."

More than 23,000 persons in the Canadian County area commute to jobs in Oklahoma County, the survey stated.

According to Dr. Larry Devane, chairman of the ERIDC and president of Redlands Community College, the survey shows even if residents were able to make 10 to 15 percent more by working in El Reno, they would still choose to commute to other areas outside the town.

"This tells us that people want to live in El Reno because of our quality of life, but also enjoy their current job outside of El Reno," explained Devane. "Information such as this gives us the knowledge that there may be more families looking to live outside the metropolitan area while still working within that area. …