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Third of local workers leave Clark for job

Thousands in Clark County work in neighboring areas.

More than 34 percent of Clark County residents with jobs are commuting to other counties for work, a result of a more regionalized economy.

“You will always have a fluid workforce that will go where skills are in demand,” said Eric Welty, workforce supervisor for both the Champaign County and Logan County workforce development arms of Job and Family Services.

About 52 percent of Champaign County workers are traveling to surrounding counties to their jobs — primarily in Clark and Union counties.

The Springfield News-Sun analyzed census bureau commuter data from 2006 to 2010 and also looked at 2012 annual county unemployment rates to determine where people are going for work. Major employers — such as state government, hospital systems such as Community Mercy Health Partners and large manufacturers — lure workers regardless of unemployment rates in a community.

“We look regionally in scope for both for attracting (businesses) and also for employment opportunities for our folks,” said Tom Franzen, Springfield assistant city manager and director of economic development.

He said that people will travel farther depending on how much the job pays and noted that more people have been commuting since the economic downturn.

“Because there were not many jobs available, people were willing to drive a little further to maintain that job,” Franzen said.

Montgomery County has the highest unemployment rate in the 10-county region studied, yet it draws 7,000 people from Clark County to work. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is one of Clark County’s largest employers, with 920 employees from here and around 29,000 total.

Wright-Patt spokesman Daryl Mayer said the base recruits from everywhere in order to diversify. The base seeks diversity in education, race, culture and more.

“We do go to job fairs, and we send people out to local communities. We just hosted a job fair (Wednesday),” Mayer said. “We also reach out strongly to the minority community such as historically black colleges to try to increase diversity in our workforce.”

The base needs people with varying skill sets, anywhere from carpentry to engineering to finance, he added.

While many people in the area leave for Montgomery County, others come from there to work in our area.

John Fleeger, of Washington Twp., travels to Springfield daily for work. Fleeger, who was raised in Springfield, runs his family’s business but moved to the Centerville area after he married his wife so her children could remain in Centerville schools.

“It was easier to move me there than bringing them all to Springfield,” Fleeger said in an e-mail. “Besides, it was a no-brainer whether to let the boys finish out at Centerville High School or transfer them …”

Fleeger also had to think about his business, Home City Tent & Awning Co., which has been in town for more than 100 years.

“Relocating outside of Springfield or Clark County (after the move) would most likely have impacted our customer base in negative way,” Fleeger added. “So I suck it up and drive 35-40 minutes one-way each day to keep it all going.”

Community Mercy Health Partners is the major attraction to Clark County, which sees many workers from Montgomery and Champaign counties. CMHP, which includes Springfield Regional Medical Center, Mercy Memorial Hospital and all ancillary services and nursing homes, is the largest employer in Clark County and has 2,700 employees.

Don Austin, CMHP’s human resources consultant, said the new Springfield Regional is attracting interest throughout the region.

“We’re looking at candidates applying from Montgomery County, Hamilton County and also Columbus,” Austin said. “In the last (quarter of last year) and first quarter of this year, we did several recruitment events targeting experienced RNs.”

Austin said CMHP reached out to 10,000 RNs from seven different counties to get the staff needed to improve patient care.

Looking for candidates with a regional view allows companies to seek out skill sets that are hard to come by.

“If we have residents of Champaign County with a particular skill set, they have been willing to commute for work,” Welty said. “In today’s economy we have a mobile workforce … it makes it a little easier to serve employers because we can draw from a vast job seeker market.”

The WorkPlus One-Stop Centers of five different counties — Clark, Champaign, Madison, Logan and Union — are in constant contact and are connected with Ohio Means Jobs at the state level to find the best matches for people and businesses across Ohio, Welty said.

Franklin County’s Central Ohio Workforce Investment Corporation is a non-profit organization that is separate from Job and Family Services. But COWIC’s director makes an effort to collaborate with surrounding counties, attending a monthly meeting with leaders of all workforce areas in the state, said COWIC spokeswoman Brittany Westbrook.

“The new reality is that job seekers will travel for a good opportunity,” Westbrook said in an e-mail. “Our goal is help our workers and businesses to thrive, care for their families and have access to the training they need to obtain the jobs that they want.”

Springfield resident Rachel Huffman has worked in Troy for 6 years after a stint at a local fast food chain. Huffman said she needed a better job to make ends meet.

“Jobs at the time here (were) far and few between, and I just didn’t know where to look without going to a temp service,” Huffman said in an e-mail.

Many employers have to look regionally to find a certain skill set. CNC programming — used to operate machinery at manufacturing plants — is an area-wide skills deficit that many employers are seeking, Welty said.

“The other thing that we have in our county is engineers,” Welty added. “We’ve had several companies looking for engineers. We definitely draw from other communities for applications and resumes for those engineering positions.”

Honda’s Marysville Auto Plant in Union County is one of the top employers in the region. About 1,500 people — including 860 from Champaign County — from the area commute to the Marysville plant.

Honda has manufacturing plants in three area counties — Union, Logan and Shelby — and pulls from as far south as Dayton, up through Springfield and Urbana and as far as Columbus.

The company is working with area colleges to train a workforce as maintenance technicians and engineers.

Honda spokesman Ron Lietzke said the company is looking for maintenance technicians to work on equipment.

“Because of the nature of our operations that are dispersed in several counties, we do have a large pool of people to draw from,” Lietzke said.

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