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‘Jobs-centered’ focus seen boosting economies

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Gayle Williams

Gayle Williams

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – As the recession chips away at jobs in North Carolina, a new approach to workforce development has shown promise in recent years, a new report says.

“Jobs-centered development” goes beyond touting low costs to recruit companies to specific communities, says the report commissioned by the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation and conducted by South by North Strategies.

Instead, jobs-centered development aims to boost the entire community by meeting the workforce needs of businesses while also meeting the skills-development needs of local residents, particularly low-income workers.

“For some time, communities around the South have recognized that development strategies that simply sell a place on the basis of low costs seldom create living-wage jobs for the long term,” Gayle Williams, executive director of the Babcock Foundation, says in a statement.

Successful economic-development efforts contain five elements, the report says — understanding of the overall business context; knowledge of the regional economy; familiarity with the realities facing companies; commitment to workforce development; and the existence of solid organizations that can serve as intermediaries.

To better weather the recession, the report recommends economic-development practitioners leverage federal funds to benefit low-income workers and communities, invest in intermediary organizations and improve social insurance and educational policies.

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