In its effort to connect with the community’s industry leaders and be responsive to their needs, Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) hosted its first Industrial Leaders Breakfast Aug. 15 at Somerset Community College.
This quarterly initiative brings the leaders of Somerset-Pulaski County’s largest employers together to network and discuss issues they face on a daily basis.
“It is imperative that we as a community listen to and do our best to meet the needs of our business and industrial leaders,” SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler said. “We must take care of our existing industries first and foremost and create a thriving environment for them and our citizens.”
More than 50 people representing 25 local companies and entities attended the inaugural breakfast, ranging from manufacturers like TTAI, Hendrickson and Gatormade to the community’s educational institutions and public utilities. In addition to introducing the group to SPEDA and its upcoming endeavors, Girdler discussed opportunities to offer training to employees and the importance of strengthening programs in schools that help educate and train the next generation of the workforce.
Girdler also spent time asking attendees to share concerns and issues they face. The common thread among them: How to strengthen the community’s workforce.
“The equation for industrial recruitment and retention is no longer location. It’s workforce,” Girdler said. “The education we provide, the skills we teach and the ways in which we foster leadership in our youth will help build and maintain a healthy workforce in Pulaski County.”
To that end, Girdler told the group SPEDA plans to offer soft-skills training to any existing business in Pulaski County. This training will teach interpersonal skills — communication, team-building, problem-solving, leadership and work ethic — vital to successful collaboration in the workplace.
SPEDA also plans to partner with local school districts to plan improvements to the Work Ethics Seal program, which will raise the level of soft-skills training needed to be successful in the workforce. Students must meet certain criteria in order to earn the seal.
Girdler stressed the importance of continuing these gatherings, which will highlight the needs in the business community and add accountability for addressing them.
“SPEDA is committed to growing a strong workforce, maintaining a seamless transition for new industry partners and keeping the lines of communication open for existing businesses,” Girdler said. “I’m excited for SPEDA to launch this series of meetings where we will hold each other accountable and ensure that we are hearing their concerns and doing our best to address them.”