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WUNC reports from Greensboro about Guilford County and surrounding area.

Some Growth For Greensboro Economy

Across the state elected officials, business leaders and job seekers continue to monitor unemployment rates, local economic growth and job opportunities. In Greensboro the Chamber of Commerce touted some good news this week, hoping to spark a little optimism. Jeff Tiberii reports there are signs of improvement, but also lingering problems in the workforce.

Jeff Tiberii: More than a thousand people filed into a Greensboro ballroom this week for one of those chicken lunches. Bosses touted recent successes and growth; educational leaders noted accomplishments and new initiatives; and Chamber of Commerce President Deborah Hooper provided the results to a year old plan aimed at encouraging local businesses to hire one additional employee, and create 1,000 new jobs.

Deborah Hooper: We surpassed that goal by adding 1,560 new jobs.

Indeed some job numbers are mildly encouraging, for instance the 8,600 jobs the Greensboro Metro area has added since last August. The workforce in Guilford County climbed to 345,000 people this summer, the highest it has been since the fall of 2008. And although unemployment remains at just above 10 percent it has improved by more than a percentage point since this time a year ago. In nearby Winston-Salem and similarly sized Durham, there are also signs of marginal job growth and slowly improving unemployment numbers.

However, the most ear-catching number at the primarily positive luncheon was this: In a survey conducted by the Chamber of Commerce, nearly 80 percent of local businesses reported difficulty this past year in finding qualified workers for vacant jobs.

T. Dianne Bellamy Small: The problems as they're saying as far as connecting jobs to people is real.

T. Dianne Bellamy Small is on the Greensboro City Council.

Bellamy-Small: A lot of our folks do not have the skilled sets, do not have the training and a lot of them can't even get the training because if they haven't graduated from high school they can't go to G.T.C.C. and get that kind of training.

Guilford Technical Community College does provide vocational training, but there are simply not enough candidates for some companies. Kevin Carter is the CEO of TIMCO Aviation Services - a Greensboro company that does maintenance and repairs to commercial, cargo and government planes.

Kevin Carter: We have a lot of senior guys that are kind of the Vietnam era guys, who are getting close to retirement; and then we also have some younger guys. But there is a big gap there in the middle that is going to strain the industry moving forward. So what we're all trying to do is figure out how to bring people along quicker and get the work force to where we need it.

Business is good for TIMCO. The company hired 300 new employees last year. It has been working with a couple of local community colleges, as well as visiting high schools and middle schools to get younger students thinking about a career in aeronautics.

Just across the parking lot from that hotel luncheon was a job expo at a local mall. Phyllis Craddock from nearby Reidsville has been looking for work since the spring.

Phyllis Craddock: Well I've been a tour guide, I've drove a fork life, I've been a secretary, I worked at Parks and Rec, I've been a camp counselor.

Craddock has an associate's degree to go with her variety of past positions.

Craddock: We have some good jobs out here today at the job fair, so I'm really impressed with it. What specifically, which jobs caught your attention? Truliant customer service; I have a lot of skills, so I've worked in manufacturing and clerical jobs. A lot of places here I'm interested in. So, I'm positive.

The job expo and ballroom event offered a symbolic balance to the conversation about where things are headed locally. Council Woman Bellamy-Small tried to do the same.

 I think the state of the community is one that is still struggling. You know, we lost jobs over a period of about 10 years, we're not going to bring them back in 10 months.

So, little by little lost textile positions are replaced with new, 21st century opportunities. TIMCO is looking for another 125 aircraft technicians. They just have to find the trained workers who can do the job.

Jeff Tiberii is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Jeff joined WUNC in 2011. During his 20 years in public radio, he was Morning Edition Host at WFDD and WUNC’s Greensboro Bureau Chief and later, the Capitol Bureau Chief. Jeff has covered state and federal politics, produced the radio documentary “Right Turn,” launched a podcast, and was named North Carolina Radio Reporter of the Year four times.
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