HOLDREGE – A new study pinpointed seven categories of business and industry that Phelps County should target in its future recruitment efforts and revealed interesting facts about the area’s population and labor force.
Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) conducted the Targeted Industry study for PCDC at no cost as part of its contribution to the community. Results were presented to PCDC board members and key community leaders in mid-September.
Dr. Kenneth Lemke, economist, explained that he identified the industries that Phelps County should target by looking at what businesses were already doing well in the county as compared to the rest of the state and nation and then identifying what industries would complement these existing strengths.
He narrowed the focus to industries that are already doing well locally, or local or outside businesses categories that are projected to grow faster than the national average, and industries that pay an average compensation of at least $42,000.
“If we are successful in recruiting jobs that pay at that level, then we lift the entire community,” said PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery.
While the study encouraged PCDC to seek out new business and industry, it also indicated that economic development officials should continue to focus efforts on supporting and growing current local businesses and industry as well.
The seven broad categories that were pinpointed as possible targeted industries for Phelps County were
1) Crop and animal production and related manufacturing (including food processing)
2) Metal, metal products and machinery manufacturing
3) All other manufacturing (medical equipment, motor vehicle and trailer, etc.)
4) Wholesale trade
5) Transportation and warehousing
6) Professional, scientific and technical services
7) Health care
Tillery said the next step in the process will be for the recruitment committee to meet, drill down into the research and designate which of these industries would resonate best with the community. Once those industries are further narrowed, PCDC can tailor its marketing efforts toward those industries.
In addition to helping PCDC focus its efforts on specific industries, the study also revealed some interesting labor and population trends.
Here are some of the key findings:
n Phelps County has more jobs than people to work in those jobs, meaning that many employees are commuting to Phelps County to work. The study showed that Phelps County has 640 (or 16.2 percent) more primary jobs in the county than residents working in the county (4,590 people working in Phelps County and 3,950 Phelps County residents working).
PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery sees these numbers as an opportunity. He hopes to partner with the Holdrege Housing Authority and other local groups to create more “workforce housing” to encourage commuters to become residents.
“Developing workforce housing is going to be very important moving forward,” he said. “We are going to need a lot more houses than we’ve ever had before,” Tillery said.
n Phelps County has high-paying jobs. The study showed that in 2014, Phelps County’s median household income was $51,396, which is higher than five of the other six surrounding rural counties. Phelps County’s per capita income of $27,126 also was higher than all of the other counties in the study area and 99.2 percent of the state average of $27,399.
The high-paying jobs available in Phelps County are part of the reason why so many workers are willing to commute to Phelps County.
“That’s a good thing to have,” economist Kenneth Lemke said. “That’s attractive to businesses.”