As many of you know, I’m a news junkie when it comes to things that are happening here in Georgia. After reading articles in several papers this week, I’m going to ask a question I know most of you have a very passionate answer for: Is it possible that we need MORE people to move to Atlanta?
I’m pretty sure I know the knee-jerk reaction answer that most of you just blurted out, making those around you look at you with concern for your well-being. It’s no secret that the biggest complaint residents in Atlanta have is our traffic. I know most of you scoff at the idea that we need more people moving to Atlanta. So I’m making this paragraph long so as to get distance from my question and the rest of this article so you can calm down and look at it soberly.
From articles I’ve been reading, our job market is growing faster than our growth in new residents. And our unemployment rate is basically at what most experts consider “full pool.” Meaning everyone who wants a job, has a job.
The Georgia Labor Department reported that 9,600 new jobs were created in the Metro Atlanta area just last May. It’s actually a good bit down from the 15,900 that were created in the same month a year earlier. But in the last 12 months, 52,400 new jobs have been
The next article I read was in the Atlanta Business Chronicle that talked about workforce shortage and what specifically North Fulton officials are trying to do about it. This wasn’t really news to me. I sat for several years on the Steering Committee for the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce’s
Workforce Development Committee called The Talent Coalition. It was spearheaded by Gary Campbell, director of community affairs for the staffing agency Hire Dynamics, and Bethany Usry, who served the chamber as vice president of Talent and Economic Development. We took aim at the tech and healthcare sectors in North Fulton, trying to determine where there might be skills gaps.
In working with our area hospitals and tech companies, we amassed data and learned a great deal about their workforce needs. The committee found that both sectors were having to hire less-qualified professionals, then spend a good deal of money and resources to train them on the job. The result was a collaboration with Fulton County Schools, Gwinnett Tech and other local entities to start up new certification classes at Gwinnett Tech, an information campaign to let people know that these jobs were out there, and a closer collaboration with Fulton County Schools. School professionals and elected board members like Katie Reeves were highly involved and the committee was highly influential in the creation of and development of the new STEM-focused high school under construction in downtown Alpharetta. The school, in addition to the help from Gwinnett Tech, should provide the opportunity for more people to ease into quality tech and healthcare jobs. But if we are at full-pool employment, to fill all of the jobs, we may also need more people.
Julie Haley, CEO and co-founder of Edge Solutions, a tech-company in Alpharetta, was also plugged into the Chamber’s Talent Coalition and said that there are more than 20,000 tech jobs going unfulfilled right now just in Alpharetta. In the same Atlanta Business Chronicle article, Wellstar North Fulton President John-Paul Croom echoed the sentiment for his industry:
“It’s a constant struggle to find critical care nurses, operating room nurses, lab technicians, radiology technicians, central sterile, respiratory therapists,” he said.
Certainly our workforce is growing every year with the graduation of new workers out of high school and college, but it seems it is not keeping up. And with employment at full-pool, companies in those industries are either going to have to pull employees from other companies within their own industries, or pull employees from companies in other industries.
The upside to this is a competition for workers, which should drive up wages, something that is needed in the metro area. My next article will touch on that, as I had the pleasure of talking with Kerry Armstrong, who currently serves as the chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission. While many have been complaining of an affordable housing shortage, he suggested that it’s also a wage shortage. Meaning the rise in home values has outpaced the rise in workers’ wages.
So while many of you would love to put up a wall around Atlanta until our transit systems catch up, the risk is giving new businesses reasons not to move here, and existing businesses reasons to look elsewhere. There is a fine and steep line between growing and the other thing.
Geoff Smith is a mortgage banker with Assurance Financial focusing on residential home loans for refinances and home purchases.
*The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of Assurance Financial Group