Opinion

Jobs Will Be Top Local Story for 2016

Opinion

By Jeffrey Ciuffreda

 

Jobs are coming our way, but are we ready? And what about the jobs already here?

As we start the new year, it is time to ask these questions and, more importantly, answer them. Actually, the process of doing so got off to a good beginning in 2015. However, there is much more to be done in 2016.

CNR Changchun Rail Vehicle Co. is coming to Springfield with between 150 and 300 jobs, many requiring skilled engineers and machinists. MGM Springfield is finally underway with construction, requiring 3,000 jobs upon its planned 2018 opening, and efforts are already underway to be sure that the vast majority of those workers will come from this region, an effort that requires training programs to be up and running soon.

These are the jobs we know are coming our way, and with these two internationally known companies coming here, you can be sure other companies will become more focused on our region and, therefore, its workforce.

The Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce is pleased to be working with the EDC of Western Massachusetts and the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, along with our community colleges and others, to help ensure that we not only have a trained workforce ready to fill these positions, but that we have enough of those trained in the workforce to fill them and other positions that might be vacated by those moving from existing employers.

At the same time, we must acknowledge that far too many of our area resident, for one reason or another, do not have the skills necessary to take advantage of certain opportunities, but might have abilities suited for other types of jobs. What are those jobs?

The Springfield Regional Chamber is proud to have joined with a few other organizations in and around Springfield to hire an internationally known consulting firm to look at this specific area — not only what types of jobs we should try to attract, but what skill sets might already exist so that we could readily entertain specific businesses to locate here. While we will always strive to do better and attract higher-wage jobs, we should not overlook any opportunity to bring any employment to the area. The results of this study will be an invaluable tool for our future growth.

Speaking of the jobs that are already here, let us never overlook the fact that so many of our long-time businesses in this area have been here not only for years, but for decades. Let us also not overlook that many of those companies are small businesses, and by small I mean under 25 employees and in many instances under 10. These are the businesses that we count on year after year after year to employ our residents and that continually add jobs.

These are the same businesses that often get caught up in new legislation and new regulations ranging from mandating certain benefits to setting wages to regulating how they operate. While I am not saying every piece of legislation and regulation is bad, I am saying that these small businesses often struggle to comply with one, and then, just as they adapt, they find they are faced with another new one, two, or three new measures with which to cope.
Special efforts should be undertaken to ensure that no harm is done to these small businesses, which have been, and quite frankly always will be, the backbone of our economy.

The year ahead will be a time of growth as new businesses prepare to enter our market, but it should also be a year when great care is taken to not only not harm the businesses we already have here, but also take steps to assist them in their efforts to stay and expand here.

We all can do our part by supporting local businesses and products as well as our local teams and venues.

Jeff Ciuffreda is president of the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce; (413) 787-1555.

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