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Strategic use of data: Site selection & the "underemployed"

Many people find themselves effectively underemployed. Economic developers can use online data tools to market this appealing labor force to site selectors.

Bryan Beatty
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on September 27, 2017
Bryan Beatty
Director of Sales

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal published a fascinating article discussing how site selectors target communities based on an underemployed labor force. With unemployment at record lows, businesses are now looking for people who have “settled” into jobs that are beneath (sometimes far beneath) their education and experience level.


Sometimes this is a lifestyle choice; people may choose to live in a certain metroplex because of quality of life, family and friends, and accept a lower skilled or lower paying job as a compromise. Sometimes this happens out of necessity: the 2008 recession drove many people out of good paying, fulfilling jobs into positions that pay the bills but do little else. And sometimes long term unemployment and perceptions of suitability (“you’re too young/old/whatever”) are a factor.


Consequently, businesses and site selectors have caught on to the fact that there are a plethora of great potential hires out there, often in places one would not expect. But how to locate and recruit this desirable group of potential employees?


Sure, there are the traditional passive ways, such job fairs and placing job ads in various online job portals. LinkedIn has also become an important recruiting tool. But there are more sophisticated and effective ways to target communities with likely populations of underemployed people using powerful online data tools. For example, you can compare demographics such as educational attainment and the number of college and university degrees with the labor force statistics for a specific community.


Take Richmond Virginia, one of the communities mentioned in the WSJ article. Below is a chart showing Educational Attainment for the city, updated June 2017. There are 34,845 people with a Bachelor’s Degree in the city. The Talent Pool Report, on the same website, shows 10,003 people attained a Bachelor’s Degree from the College and University system in and around Richmond as of academic year ended 2015. (*Note: that total comprises all Bachelor Degrees from all Colleges and Universities in a 50 mile radius from the center of Richmond).

Henrico talent pool

Source: Henrico County ZoomProspector Enterprise site: http://www.henricoproperties.com/


Next, when we look at the labor force statistics for Richmond in the chart below, we find a decent mix of professions represented, with an outsize number in the services and retail areas. It’s a fair bet that many businesses could have the same good luck finding highly skilled and motivated employees just as software company AvePoint, profiled in the WSK article, did.

Henrico labor force

Source: Henrico County ZoomProspector Enterprise site: http://www.henricoproperties.com/


Site selectors can search for communities with similar characteristics across the U.S. by filtering on the same criteria (and adding their own filters to reflect their specific needs) on the national site selection portal ZoomProspector.com.


For economic developers, the primary takeaway here is that if the numbers of under-employed workers in your community make you an attractive location for companies searching for skilled talent, then take advantage of the data tools at your disposal and build a compelling case with supporting evidence. You can promote this online in blogs, videos, webinars, online ad placement and white papers. Using data to tell the story of your location in this way will be a defining feature of place marketing going forwards.


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Site Selection online data tools Economic Development data