Thoughts about business and economic development in rural areas.

 

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Helping Dislocated Workers – Will it Matter?

Ok, the title sounds dumb. Of course it matters. Or at least we sure want to think so. But how can you know for certain?

Anyone involved with communities over a period of time will sooner or later come face to face with a major plant closing or business failure that puts a relatively large number of people out of work. I use the term ‘relatively’ with a bit of trepidation because to the individuals affected, even the loss of one job (theirs) is a traumatic experience and we should never lose sight of that fact.

But it’s at times when large numbers are affected that agencies and communities really seem to come together. My personal experience with a situation like this came in 1996 when I was Executive Director of the Grant County Economic Development Corporation. On February 8th of that year we received notice that one of our largest employers, Advance Transformer located in Platteville, was closing its doors within six months and resulting in the permanent loss of 620 good manufacturing jobs.

We did everything you might expect in dealing with the closure but did our efforts really have an impact?

About a year ago leaders at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College called some of those representing agencies involved back then to discuss doing a survey of the affected workers as the 10th anniversary of the event approached. Where were they today? Did they recover? Did our efforts to help them make a difference? We went ahead with the survey and were able to contact almost all of the 620 affected workers. We were overwhelmed with the response as over half of them took the time to not only complete the rather extensive survey, but they also provided personal comments that would fill 26 single-spaced typewritten pages in the final report.

We just officially released the report yesterday at a press conference at Southwest Tech in Fennimore. Did our efforts matter? I invite you to read the full report and draw your own conclusions. Follow these links to the Executive Summary and the Full Report which are online in pdf format.

In case you’re wondering, the answer was, “Yes.” Working on this survey and the resulting report was a graphic reminder of the difference we can, and MUST, make as we work together to help each individual dealing with the loss of their job.

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