Maury County is a growth engine in the Nashville area’s booming economy. Making sure the county has a full pipeline of workers with the training, skills and opportunity to maintain that energy is the goal of the ALIGN Maury workforce development initiative.
“No doubt, this is an extraordinary time of economic expansion in Maury County. Job creation from new businesses locating in the area and the expansion of existing businesses is unprecedented. This growth is occurring at a time when the market for skilled workers is already tight,” says Brian Williams, CEO of First Farmers and Merchants Bank in Columbia and a member of the steering committee putting ALIGN Maury’s recommendations into action.
Since 2014, new and expanding employers have announced more than $5.5 billion in investments and the creation of 6,500 new jobs in Maury County, says Travis Groth, vice president of economic development for the Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance. To meet the talent demands of today’s and tomorrow’s employers, the chamber partnered with Boyette Strategic Advisors to assess Maury County’s workforce assets and labor market competitiveness.
“We wanted actionable intelligence, and we very quickly moved into implementation,” Groth says.
The first successful step was to ensure state funding of the Southern Regional Technology Center, to be built on the campus of Columbia State Community College. The facility will train workers for the health care and advanced manufacturing sectors, the top industries in Maury County. The technology center will also house programs for Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology in Hohenwald and Pulaski.
“It helps create those talent pipelines that everyone is looking for, all available in one place,” Groth says.
Other priorities are to address talent attraction and obstacles to workforce participation. A diversity, equity and inclusion advisory panel will seek ways to ensure Maury County is seen as a welcoming community for talented workers. ALIGN is also assessing the need for child care to free parents to fully participate in the workforce.
Highlighting Maury County’s quality of life is another priority.
“In essence, we’re competing for talent,” Groth says. “We see ourselves as the Goldilocks community, close enough to Nashville to have all of the advantages but just far enough away.”
Addressing workforce issues will help Maury County maintain the momentum of recent “economic wins,” says Russ Adcox, chairman of ALIGN Maury’s steering committee. He is also lead pastor of Maury Hills Church.
“A growing community comes with growing challenges. One of those is workforce development,” he says. “Many employers are struggling with staffing and ALIGN Maury was created to address those challenges from a broad perspective, both through the recruitment of new talent to the area and additional training-education for our existing workforce.”
Recent successes include GM and LG’s decision to invest $2.3 billion in Spring Hill for an electric vehicle battery factory and Fiberon’s announcement of a new manufacturing and distribution operation. Fiberon, a maker of wood-alternative decking and other products, is creating 310 jobs at the Columbia Tennessee Rail Site.
“These companies bring in good paying jobs and new opportunities for our community. In order to best leverage those opportunities, we need a strong workforce,” Adcox says. “That’s exactly what ALIGN Maury was created to do.
“I got involved with ALIGN Maury as a pastor because I know that building a great community is all of our responsibility,” he says. “It’s not just something for business leaders or elected officials. It takes all of us pulling in the same direction to create and sustain a great community.”
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