La Junta Economic Development has been in the local news quite a bit over the past couple of weeks. First it was the announcement of See The Change, then manufacturing tours, and finally an Economic Development 101 course for the city leadership. You might ask, “Why does economic development care about physics in middle schools”? Or you might ask, “Why are manufacturing tours important for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders”? Both of those questions go back to the Economic Development 101 course and the discussion of everything that economic development encompasses.
Creating primary jobs is La Junta Economic Development’s primary mission but did you know that 70 to 80% of business growth comes from Business Retention & Expansion (BRE)? La Junta Economic Development facilitates a manufacturing meeting every month to discuss the needs of the manufacturers and one of the primary concerns that was raised was the future of the workforce. In fact, the two most frequent questions that economic developers face are: “What is the workforce like”? And, “how is the local education system”? The recent news about physics going into the middles schools is a great win for our education system and it bodes well for the promising future of our students becoming a productive workforce. It is also a key piece to economic development because it shows prospective businesses that we are being proactive about looking at our future workforce and our education system. When doing marketing and sales calls, La Junta Economic Development can point to the collaboration across many different businesses to accomplish this goal and that speaks well to the type of business environment you can find in La Junta.
The manufacturing tours have a very similar story. It was important to our local manufacturers to make sure they are introducing the different types of jobs available in the La Junta Industrial Park. Prior to this year, there were area schools that were busing kids to Pueblo to do manufacturing tours. If kids are being bussed to Pueblo to see industry at work it sends a poor message to the kids about industry in our own backyard. This manifests itself later in their lives with people leaving the valley and looking for work elsewhere. The manufacturing tours were a screaming success with manufacturers tying the work they do back to science, math, and technology. Students can no longer ask, “When am I going to use this?” because the teachers now have local examples to point to. We also had manufacturers and workforce talking about soft skills such as being respectful to your coworkers and employees, showing up to work on time, integrity, drug free workplaces, and the importance of workplace safety. 8th grade is also when students start taking career interest assessments. Introducing the students to the manufacturing field in the years leading up to the assessment shows the students some of the options and career pathways that are available to them in the Arkansas Valley.
By taking a proactive approach, the manufacturing group has started to shape La Junta’s workforce of the future and has given La Junta Economic Development great examples to help differentiate La Junta from our competition. Thank you again to our manufactures: Debourgh Manufacturing, Falcon Industries, Lewis Bolt & Nut Company, Oliver Manufacturing, and Sprout Tiny Homes.
What can your business or organization do to help make a difference? Contact Ryan Stevens to discuss how you can start or build on your industry partnership.