Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Is Housing Boom in Area Related to Population Growth?

Posted by: Jeff Rea
President and CEO
St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 12:00:00 am
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I had an opportunity last week to join the celebration of the grand opening of the River Rock Apartment Project on West Mishawaka Avenue in Mishawaka. The $15 million project includes 73 one- and two-bedroom units close to downtown and the popular Mishawaka Riverwalk.

The site has special meaning to me and my family. My great-grandfather started his business on the site in 1932 and was a prominent part of the block for next 25 years. Over time, the block included a number of notable landmarks like the North Side Theater, Joey’s Restaurant, several apartment and residential buildings and municipal parking. The block, however, is probably best known as the site of the former Pleasureland Museum.

Mishawaka envisioned something greater for the downtown and the riverfront area and the Redevelopment Commission worked to assemble the land for future development opportunities. A downturn in the economy and several starts and stops on other downtown projects left people wondering about whether the site could ever reach its full potential.

A private sector developer teamed up with the city and took great risk to make the project happen. That developer may have been the only one who thought the concept could become a reality. Fast forward and you have a finished project with 63 percent of the units occupied and the developer looking at other downtown opportunities.

Elsewhere, construction should begin early in 2017 on several other downtown Mishawaka housing projects, including the River Walk Apartments, River Front Forge Condominiums (33 units), and the Mill at Ironworks Plaza (230 units). Add to those construction at Grandview (200 units), Fir Road North (400 units) and Fir Road South (516 units), and Mishawaka is going through a mini high-density housing boom.

But that tells only part of the story. South Bend has a housing boom of its own underway. Recently, the former Hoffman Hotel (48 units) and the Colfax & Hill Development (17 units) have opened. In the midst of construction is the renovation of The LaSalle (67 units), the JMS Building (52 units) and the former Chase Tower (83 units). On the drawing board are the East Bank Flats (12 units), the Wharf site Project (24 units), River Race Flats (32 units), the Commerce Center (250 units), the former Madison Center (55 units) and Berlin Flats (120 units). Another 90 residential units are planned on the former Transpo site, just east of downtown.

Projects like those above, especially in the downtown areas, are complicated. They take a significant amount of time to develop and require the right public-private partnership to make them a success. Developers could reap great rewards or could experience significant losses. These developers feel the great momentum happening in South Bend and Mishawaka and hope the timing of these developments helps them capitalize. Constructions workers should remain busy in the foreseeable future.

The high-density housing boom in the urban core is a result of efforts to attract and retain young people and give them more urban options for living. Their efforts are critical to the efforts to grow population in our area as each contributes to our area having attractive places for people to work, live and play.

New construction in South Bend and Mishawaka has both communities positioned to capitalize on new people discovering our region. How can you help? Have a former classmate, son or daughter, family member or friend not living in the area, make sure they know about the great new opportunities that await them here in our region.

Source: South Bend Tribune

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Role of Business in Talent Development

Posted by: Jeff Rea
President and CEO
St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, October 12, 2016 at 12:00:00 am
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So who is responsible for making sure today’s students are prepared for tomorrow’s jobs? Ask different people and you’ll get different answers. The truth is that responsibility doesn’t fall to any one individual or organization but instead rests in widespread community collaborative effort.

Traditionally, the bulk of that burden has fallen to our schools and the teachers, administrators and guidance counselors. They’ve been tasked with giving students a broad knowledge base, helping students hone specific skills, identifying student interests and encouraging career paths that align with those special skills and knowledge.

Parents play a critical role too, often influencing and guiding students as they seek to answer that age-old question of what they want to be when they grow up. Parents also provide that crucial home support base that supplements the work going on in the schools with their children.

Businesses are recognizing they also must help develop that pipeline of workers. A recovering economy with low unemployment has left a fierce competition for talent. As the quality of applications for open positions has deteriorated, businesses know that the status quo won’t do and that the time is now to roll up their sleeves and make sure future employees know about opportunities in particular industries.

Many of yesterday’s most reliable positions and industries are finding it hard to attract young talent to open opportunities. Positions like manufacturing workers, mechanics, plumbers, electricians and other skilled trades are currently filled by an aging workforce that will need to be replaced in the near future.

The nature of many of the positions has changed over the years, and the perception of those jobs doesn’t always match the current reality. Last week in St. Joseph County, four school corporations, 30 businesses and more than 600 students came together to help change that perception on Manufacturing Day 2016.

The local effort was organized through a partnership that includes the Chamber, National Tooling and Machining Association Michiana Chapter, Ivy Tech Community College, Purdue Polytechnic South Bend, South Bend Community School Corp. Career & Technical Education, Career Academy, Mishawaka High School, Penn High School and many manufacturers and supporting organizations who hosted tours and shared their stories with students.

Similar days were organized across the country, including other local efforts in Berrien and Cass counties in Michigan and Elkhart and Marshall counties in Indiana. Manufacturing remains a key part of our local economy, representing about 15 percent of our total workforce in St. Joseph County. That number is higher in neighboring counties like Elkhart.

During the course of the day, students visited with local businesses and Ivy Tech and had an opportunity to see first-hand the work environment and ask questions that ranged from pay and benefits to training requirements for specific positions.

nufacturing? Demand is driving the attention. Eighty-four percent of executives surveyed agree there is a talent shortage in the industry and six out of 10 open skilled production positions are unfilled due to this talent shortage Also, today’s manufacturing is technologically advanced, with ample use of automation, 3-D printing, robots and screen technology. And manufacturing jobs traditionally pay well. In the South Bend region, the annual average salary of manufacturing workers starts in the range of $33,000 to $40,000 with the ability to grow into positions that could average more than $75,000. Manufacturing employees also traditionally have long tenures on the job and most have medical benefits.

Manufacturing Day was a great example of what happens when businesses and schools come together to collaborate. The winners are the students who now have a better understanding of career options in our community. The community also wins, as the Manufacturing Day model is easily replicated with other high growth industries.