Month: June 2015

Placemaking Chicago’s Principles for Placemaking

According to Placemaking Chicago, placemaking is a people-centered approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Put simply, it involves looking at, listening to, and asking questions of the people who live, work and play in a particular space, to discover needs and aspirations. This information is then used to create a common vision for that place. The vision can evolve quickly into an implementation strategy, beginning with small-scale, do-able improvements that can immediately bring benefits to public spaces and the people who use them.

Placemaking Chicago adheres to 11 principles in its work:

1. The community is the expert.

People who use a public space regularly provide the most valuable perspective and insights into how the area functions. They also can help identify issues that are important to consider in improving the space. Uncovering and incorporating their ideas and talents is essential to creating a successful and vital community place.

2. You are creating a place, not a design.

Design is an important component of creating a place, but not the only factor. Providing access and creating active uses, economic opportunities, and programming are often more important than design.

3. You can’t do it alone.

A good public space requires partners who contribute innovative ideas, financial or political support, and help plan activities. Partners also can also broaden the impact of a civic space by coordinating schedules for programming and improvement projects.

4. They’ll always say, “It can’t be done.”

Every community has naysayers. When an idea stretches beyond the reach of an organization or its jurisdiction and an official says, “It can’t be done,” it usually means: “We’ve never done things that way before.” Keep pushing. Identify leaders in the community who share your vision and build support. Talk to your alderman and get him or her engaged.

5. You can see a lot just by observing.

People will often go to extraordinary lengths to adapt a place to suit their needs. A raised curb can be used as a place to sit, sort mail, and even—believe it or not—cook clams. Observing a space allows you to learn how the space is used.

6. Develop a vision.

A vision for a public space addresses its character, activities, uses, and meaning in the community. This vision should be defined by the people who live or work in or near the space.

7. Form supports function.

Too often, people think about how they will use a space only after it is built. Keeping in mind active uses when designing or rehabilitating a space can lower costs by discouraging unnecessary and expensive landscaping and monuments, as well as potentially eliminating the need to retrofit a poorly used public space.

8. Triangulate.

The concept of triangulation relates to locating elements next to each other in a way that fosters activity. For example, a bench, trash receptacle, and coffee kiosk placed near a bus stop create synergy because they are more convenient for waiting bus passengers and pedestrians than if they were isolated from each other.

9. Start with the petunias.

Simple, short-term actions such as planting flowers can be a way of testing ideas and encouraging people their ideas matter. These actions provide flexibility to expand the space by experimenting, evaluating and incorporating results into the next steps and longrange planning.

10. Money is not the primary issue.

A lack of money is often used as an excuse for doing nothing. Funds for pure public space improvements often are scarce, so it is important to remember the value of the public space itself to potential partners and search for creative solutions. The location, level of activity, and visibility of public spaces—combined with a willingness to work closely with local partners—can elicit resources from those involved to activate and enhance these spaces.

11. You are never finished.

About 80 percent of the success of any public space can be attributed to its management. This is because the use of good places changes daily, weekly and seasonally, which makes management critical. Given the certainty of change and fluid nature of the use of a place at different times, the challenge is to develop the ability to respond effectively. A good management structure will provide that flexibility.

Graduating Class 2015 Career Prospects: New Careerbuilder Survey Results

From Careerbuilder
June 2015

Class of 2015, things sure do look good for you. I remember back in my day, during the recession, things were different. We applied for jobs uphill, both ways!

In the highest outlook since 2007, 65 percent of employers say they plan to hire recent college graduates this year—up from 57 percent last year, according to a new CareerBuilder survey. And the news just keeps getting better: One third of employers will offer higher pay than last year, and 1 in 4 will pay $50,000 or more.

“New college graduates have better prospects this year than in years past – both in terms of opportunities and salary offers,” says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder. “They still face challenges, however. One in five employers feel colleges do not adequately prepare students with crucial workplace competencies, including soft skills and real-world experience that might be gained through things like internships. Job seekers with a good mix of both technical and soft skills will have the best prospects right out of college.”

Keep reading to find out what employers are expecting from recent grads, and how you can capitalize on hiring trends to negotiate a lucrative entry-level position.

Top of the class
Demand for students with business and technical majors has typically been high among employers, and this year is no exception, with 38 percent of employers naming business as the most sought-after major. Other in-demand majors include:

Computer and Information Sciences (27 percent)
Engineering (18 percent)
Math and Statistics (14 percent)
Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences (14 percent)
Communications Technologies (12 percent)
Engineering Technologies (12 percent)
Communication and Journalism (10 percent)
Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities (9 percent)
Science Technologies (8 percent)
Education (7 percent)
However, those graduates may be expected to bring their education and apply it to a variety of different industries, requiring creative and critical analysis skills from grads. Information technology (30 percent) and customer service jobs (28 percent) top the list of position types hiring managers are primarily looking to fill. Opportunities also abound in finance/accounting (22 percent), sales (21 percent) and business development (19 percent).

Payday prospects
Good news for anybody who’s making plans to move out of their parents’ basement this summer: One third (33 percent) of employers who plan to hire recent college graduates will offer higher starting salaries than they did last year. Nearly half of employers (48 percent) say they will make offers to students before they graduate. Expected starting salaries for recent graduates break down as follows:

Under $30,000 (26 percent)
$30,000 to less than $40,000 (28 percent)
$40,000 to less than $50,000 (20 percent)
$50,000 and higher (26 percent)
These numbers, however, are not set in stone: The majority of employers (65 percent) say they are willing to negotiate salary offers.

Real skills needed for real-world work
Hiring trends are in your favor, recent grads, but you’re still going to need to use your brains and change some perceptions to get the job. Twenty-one percent of employers do not feel academic institutions are adequately preparing students for roles needed within their organizations. When asked to name which skills they think recent college graduates lack for the workplace, most of these employers cited interpersonal or problem-solving skills:

Interpersonal or people skills (52 percent)
Problem-solving skills (46 percent)
Oral communication (41 percent)
Leadership (40 percent)
Written communication (38 percent)
Teamwork (37 percent)
Creative thinking (36 percent)
Project management (26 percent)
Research and analysis (16 percent)
Math (15 percent)
Computer and Technical (13 percent)

To overcome these negative expectations, highlight any experience that you have in these areas, as well as awards, certifications or accolades.

Class of 2015 job search tips:

1. Search early, search often
The majority of employers who plan to hire recent graduates (54 percent) begin recruiting college students in their senior year, but more than 1 in 4 (27 percent) start courting students as juniors, sophomores and even freshmen. Start researching companies you’re interested in as early as possible and don’t be afraid to reach out to inquire about part-time jobs or internship opportunities, which are some of the best ways to get your foot in the door.

2. Play up your “real world” experience
Of the employers who believe colleges fail to adequately prepare students for the roles needed at their firms, nearly half (46 percent) say colleges do not put enough emphasis on real-world learning. Be ready to showcase your street smarts by playing up relevant experience from classwork, volunteering and extra-curricular activities, in addition to previous jobs and internships.

3. Update your status
A lot of employers check candidates’ social networking profiles when considering them for a job, so make sure your online presence is ’employer-friendly’ – either by changing your privacy settings or using your social media profiles to highlight your skills, creativity and relevant interests.

4. Think “big picture”
When considering a job offer, focus on the whole compensation package, not just the paycheck. The salary offer might not meet your expectations, but there could be great learning and advancement opportunities, benefits and other perks that make accepting the job worthwhile.

Reprint from Crain’s Cleveland Business: Manufacturers Look to Produce in Content Marketing

This past April, Lincoln Electric Co. unveiled a new product. It’s not a new type of machine for welding, or equipment to use for training. In fact, it’s not a machine at all: It’s a magazine.The Euclid-based welding equipment maker launched ARC Magazine to try to attract more welders to the field at a time when the industry sees a worker shortage on the horizon.

“I think we need to inspire people to do something for the first time,” said Craig Coffey, the company’s U.S. marketing communications manager. The magazine is a clear example of content marketing, an approach aimed at establishing a company as a resource or expert in a field, instead of selling a product.

Lincoln Electric isn’t the only local manufacturer practicing content marketing, but as a whole, the industry has been a bit slow to embrace it in a big way. According to a 2015 study on B2B manufacturing content marketing from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs LLC, about 82% of manufacturers reported having done some content marketing, but just 20% said their company had a documented approach in place. But identifying an audience and creating a strategy is critical.

“If you don’t have a plan for going into this, you’re not going to succeed,” said Todd Morgano, a partner at marketing agency Marcus Thomas LLC.

Content marketing isn’t a new practice by any means — John Deere’s 120-year-old The Furrowmagazine is commonly cited as an early example — but it’s one that started to gain a lot of popularity about five years ago, said Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute. That’s when Google’s algorithm started to reward content with relevant links and when companies began to get on the social media bandwagon, he said. Companies quickly realized they could talk to their customers, but they had little original information to share with them.

There are so many content marketing opportunities for manufacturers in guides and how-to materials, said Phil Van Treuren, senior digital marketing strategist at Fathom, who believes more companies are primed to get on board. He said traditional media is less influential now, and more people are looking to brands for news and entertainment. This gives companies the chance to foster “brand advocates.”

“It builds trust in the mind of the consumers for these brands,” Van Treuren said.

Though more industries have been delving into content marketing, which can range from blogs to podcasts to white papers, manufacturers face some challenges.

Pulizzi said the industry has been slower to adapt because it has a “sales-driven culture,” and it’s a different kind of approach than in the past. Van Treuren said manufacturers face challenges due to their complexity, as they have many products to sell and many audiences to address.

But it’s important that manufacturers take part, or they could find themselves left behind.

Morgano said the way people shop business-to-business has “fundamentally” changed. Before, salespeople might have been the company’s first interaction with a customer, but today, much of the search happens before a buyer even reaches out.

Content marketing also can help companies stand out, as products and prices have become more similar, Morgano said. Companies need to demonstrate that they can help customers do their jobs better.

“It’s more than just the products and service,” Morgano said.

Cleveland-based Sherwin-Williams Co.’s content marketing for its Krylon brand spray paint focused on “inspiration and possibilities,” said Denise Patterson, Sherwin-Williams diversified brands director of marketing for retail aerosols. The company has been using the approach for about four years, Patterson said. It allows it to demystify the product, highlight its attributes and show consumers that it’s simple to use.

The company does this through individual project videos or instructions, as well as through larger annual campaigns like its Krylon ColorMaster Challenge in 2013. Over the course of two, 12-hour days, DIY professionals and bloggers completed 24 projects with the Krylon products over a live stream. The projects were designed for users of different skill levels, and after the project aired on the stream, the company provided instructions.

“It really became an instant how-to center for consumers,” Patterson said.

Good buzz

Though beekeeping supplies are no longer the core business for A.I. Root Co. in Medina, the company’s Bee Culture magazine is an important part of the company’s heritage, president Brad Root said. Sharing beekeeping news and information from Bee Culture on the company’s social media channels shows consumers that it’s more than just a candle company.

The monthly magazine started out as an ad circular and turned into a way for A.I. Root to respond to customer questions, editor Kim Flottum said. But the 142-year-old publication grew — Root even wrote about the Wright brothers’ flight in Dayton after taking a trip to watch it — and Bee Culture has adapted with the times. The magazine launched a new website in January and has plans to start another magazine at the end of the year aimed at new beekeepers. The magazine is supported through advertising and subscriptions. It has two full-time employees, including Flottum, and four part-time employees. Lincoln Electric’s magazine might be a bit newer, but it’s not the company’s first foray into content marketing.

In 2013, it launched an online campaign to highlight the ways welding affects the world. WithARC Magazine, the company plans to target it to beginners, as well as experts. Each issue of the free, quarterly magazine (which also has a tablet version) will include features on celebrities and groups involved in welding, as well as projects, welding tips and what it’s calling a “master class” for experienced welders.

The magazine is being overseen by internal employees, but the company is making a conscious effort to have people outside its internal marketing team write the majority of the articles, Coffey said. He doesn’t want writers to feel like they have to specifically ask sources about the brand or even welding, which internal employees may struggle with.

“If we seek first to entertain, everything else falls into that halo,” he said.

Source: Crains Cleveland Business

Growing Skills Gap in Healthcare Services

Between 2008 and 2013, healthcare overtook manufacturing as the largest private employer in most U.S. counties (Pew Charitable Trusts). And while much attention has been paid to the manufacturing skills gap, the healthcare sector faces its own hiring challenges as well.

Manufacturing remains the largest job provider in Ashtabula County, but clearly healthcare services job growth in terms of the numbers and growth rate outpaces manufacturing.

The American Staffing Association reports thatseven of the top 10 hardest-to-fill jobs of 2015 are in the healthcare field (EMSI). These include:

  • Occupational therapists,
  • Occupational therapy assistants,
  • Physical therapists,
  • Speech-language pathologists,
  • Family and general practitioners,
  • Nurse practitioners, and
  • Physician assistants.

While many of these are high-skill positions, the healthcare sector offers plentiful middle-skill jobs as well (U.S. News & World Report). In the Columbus, Ohio, region alone, it is estimated that 4,700 healthcare-related jobs will be created each year through 2018, nearly half of which will be middle-skill. These jobs pay an average of $22.30 per hour, 36 percent more than the $16.37-an-hour living wage for the region. Better alignment among policymakers, employers, and workforce boards can ensure locals reap the employment benefits of the growing sector.

Hospitals and other anchor institutions can themselves serve as workforce development institutions for the broader community. The Evergreen Cooperative in Cleveland has developed a cluster of worker co-ops created to do business with hospitals and universities (Grist). The goal is to move participants beyond entry-level skills to managerial level and ultimately to start their own businesses. The cooperative has provided laundry, local food, and solar energy services to Cleveland hospitals.

Measuring Access to Opportunity

From the Annie Casey Foundation:

The Supplemental Poverty Measure gauges the effectiveness of government programs in alleviating economic hardship. In a new data snapshot that explores the measure, KIDS COUNT calculates the national child poverty rate with and without government interventions. The supplemental measure shows that 11.2 million more kids would be living in poverty without key safety-net programs.

Via 2015’s Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States

Reprint: Admitting Failure: Learning From Mistakes in Philanthropy

Foundations in Ashtabula County might find this article to be of interest. It’s about leaning from mistakes in philanthropy. On the flip side, we might view this article as offering some tips on increasing success in civic investments by foundations.

Reprint: Admitting Failure: Learning From Mistakes in Philanthropy
Bob Giloth, Annie Casey Foundation

I was recently invited to speak about mistakes and learning in philanthropy at the  annual conference. My talk and panel presentation argued that admitting failures contributes to high-quality implementation, innovation of new strategies and improved governance and transparency. It’s good medicine that doesn’t always taste so good. Yet despite increasing philanthropic interest in mistakes and learning, many foundation staff still find it difficult to have conversations about mistakes.

Many factors contribute to this challenge. First and foremost is the jarring language of mistakes and failure itself, which suggests dismal finality rather than a natural step in the virtuous cycle of trial and error that leads to better grants and better programs. These words also ignore the social sector’s common language of “bright spots” that inspire us to build upon emerging solutions to difficult problems.

I find the mistakes language bracing, but many do not. I suggest foundations and nonprofits adopt language that works for them, such as do-overs, lessons, midcourse corrections, truth-telling or self-reflection. And it may make sense to discuss successes and failures together.

Another question I frequently get is how to start the conversation about mistakes and learning. Should one start with the foundation’s CEO, board of trustees or program directors — or with a few trusted colleagues? There are noteworthy examples of foundation and social sector CEOs — such as Paul Brest, former head of the Hewlett Foundation, or Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank — laying down the gauntlet about speaking truth about mistakes, whether in American Idol type contests, “fail fairs” or “fail fests” or annual failure reports.

My belief is that there are many ways to start conversations about mistakes and at many organizational levels. No matter where you start, key ingredients for productive discussions are sufficient time, a safe place and a champion who supports such learning.

Talking about mistakes only on special occasions is a common mistake, however cathartic it may be to blurt out a failure story. The purpose of talking about these failures is to build our capacity to recognize mistakes earlier and to make smart midcourse corrections. This requires an ongoing commitment to making these conversations a habit.

I learned this lesson the hard way from a group of partner grantees. A few years back, I co-edited a book called Mistakes to Success that compiled mistakes stories in the field of community economic development. We followed up with a toolbox for starting and sustaining mistakes conversations, called the Mistakes to Success Roadmap. We then tested these tools with grantees.

These nonprofit partners taught me two important lessons. First, they wanted to test the tools in the context of regular organizational processes like budget, strategy, or policy priority cycles — not one-off experiences. Second, after a few months, they asked me, the “mistakes guy,” how we had institutionalized mistakes and learning at Casey. I gulped. We had convened a few mistakes potlucks, which involve each participant bringing a mistake to share with the group, and I had shown my supercool mistakes PowerPoint presentation during a staff development session. But we hadn’t made mistakes and learning an organizational habit.

For the past year I have tried to correct my mistake within my team, which focuses on economic opportunity and community change. We have learned about emergent learning techniques that help look for themes across mistakes stories (in the Roadmap toolbox), trained staff in facilitating emergent learning and practiced before- and after-action reviews to build up our ability to recognize mistakes and adapt accordingly. It’s still a work in progress, whether it involves debriefing after a board presentation, a site visit, a new grant-making procedure or a new programmatic investment.

I concluded my Grants Management Network presentations by recommending a few do’s and don’ts for encouraging and sustaining mistakes and learning.

Do

  • create time and space to discuss mistakes and learn from them;
  • find a champion, testing different tools;
  • make it regular; and
  • have fun!

Don’t

  • blame grantees;
  • do it only once;
  • gripe rather than find solutions; and
  • put off change.

My most important lesson from talking about mistakes with colleagues is that we shared our core aspirations, what kept us up at night and the dilemmas we felt in supporting change. For me, that sharing makes it worth saying tough words like mistakes and failures.

Five Social Disadvantages That Depress Student Performance: Why Schools Alone Can’t Close Achievement Gaps

This article reinforces the importance of After School Discovery’s work in Ashtabula County. This is a reprint from a recent Economic Policy Institute (EPI) publication.

Five Social Disadvantages That Depress Student Performance: Why Schools Alone Can’t Close Achievement Gaps
By Leila Morsy and Richard Rothstein
Economic Policy Institute
June 10, 2015

That students’ social and economic characteristics shape their cognitive and behavioral outcomes is well established, yet policymakers typically resist accepting that non-school disadvantages necessarily depress outcomes. Rather, they look to better schools and teachers to close achievement gaps, and consistently come up short.

This report describes how social class characteristics plausibly depress achievement and suggests policies to address them. It focuses on five characteristics for purposes of illustration:

  • parenting practices that impede children’s intellectual and behavioral development
  • single parenthood
  • parents’ irregular work schedules
  • inadequate access to primary and preventive health care
  • exposure to and absorption of lead in the blood.

These are not the only characteristics that depress outcomes, nor are they necessarily the most important. This report makes no judgment about the relative importance of the many adverse influences on child and youth development. Parental unemployment and low wages, housing instability, concentration of disadvantage in segregated neighborhoods, stress, malnutrition, and health problems like asthma are among other harmful characteristics.

Certainly, some children with severe socioeconomic disadvantages achieve at higher levels than typical children without them; a range of outcomes is associated with every characteristic, and descriptions of the impacts of social class characteristics only describe averages, not the performance of any particular child. Likewise, this report does not imply that all lower-social-class families have each of these characteristics. But all have many of them.

Because characteristics of lower-class status overlap and may be interdependent, available data do not permit the isolation of any one. Econometric studies that identify the effect of a particular characteristic by holding others constant are valuable, but no study controls for all, and few control for very many.

For each characteristic reviewed here, this report describes its average incidence by race (black versus white) and socioeconomic status. Data limitations preclude similar descriptions of Hispanics’ characteristics. Where research is available, we then review what is known about the characteristic’s prediction of cognitive (academic performance or IQ, for example) and non-cognitive (behavioral) outcomes. We next review the “plausible pathways” by which the characteristic influences youths’ outcomes—i.e., how these predictions might reflect causality. We conclude by recommending policies to reduce the intensity of these specific disadvantages.

This report’s key findings are as follows:

  • Parenting practices that impede children’s intellectual and behavioral development: Lower-social-class parents engage in fewer educationally supportive activities with young children, such as reading aloud or playing cognitively stimulating games. Lower-social-class parents also exert more direct authority and offer children fewer choices in their daily interactions, leaving them less prepared for “critical thinking” when school curricula expect it. Parents’ failure to engage in educationally supportive activities is associated with children’s poorer academic and behavioral outcomes. There are well-validated programs that can offset these effects. High-quality early childhood care and education centers provide intellectually stimulating environments that disadvantaged children may miss at home. Nurse home-visiting services assist disadvantaged mothers with health problems and teach developmentally appropriate parenting skills. High-quality after-school and summer programs that offer cultural and organizational activities are typically attended by middle-class youth, not students from lower-social-class backgrounds.
  • Single parenthood: Mothers raising children alone are more likely to be low-income, African American, and less educated. Their children typically have lower test scores, are more likely to drop out of school, and have greater emotional and behavioral difficulties (more delinquency and violence, more school dropout, more suicide). Sex education and school-based health centers that provide long-lasting contraception to teenage girls are important, but they will not be as effective as they have to be if African American men remain poor marriage partners—unable to help support families because of excessive unemployment and discriminatory arrest and incarceration. Full employment as well as labor market and criminal justice reforms that enable fathers to earn middle-class incomes are needed to improve children’s outcomes.
  • Parents’ irregular work schedules: Computerized scheduling and the weakening of norms governing employers’ responsibility for employee welfare have combined to produce irregular work schedules for many hourly paid low-wage workers, disproportionately African Americans and the less educated. Unpredictable schedules make it difficult, if not impossible, to place children in high-quality child care centers and to establish regular home routines in which children can thrive. Children of mothers with non-standard schedules have worse verbal and other cognitive skills, mental health, and behavior. New regulatory policies—for example, requiring call-in pay for workers sent home before shifts end—could create incentives for employers to reduce use of “just-in-time” employee scheduling.
  • Inadequate access to primary and preventive health care: Minority children and those whose parents are less educated or who live in low-income neighborhoods are less likely to have personal physicians or nurse practitioners, or receive necessary referrals to specialists. No research directly associates physician access with children’s cognitive or non-cognitive outcomes, but a relationship is easy to intuit. Children with limited access are more likely to have routine and preventable illnesses, causing more frequent absences from school. Regulatory changes that support school-based health centers and Medicaid reimbursement changes to create incentives for primary care physicians to locate in low-access neighborhoods could address this.
  • Exposure to and absorption of lead in the blood: Children with high blood lead levels are disproportionately low income and African American. Lead reduces cognitive ability (IQ) and causes adverse behavioral outcomes, such as increased violence and other criminal behavior in adolescents and young adults. Although lead was removed from gasoline in the 1970s and 1980s, lead remains on the ground and is frequently stirred up into breathable air. Lead also remains in windows, window frames, the walls of older buildings, and pipes carrying water to residences. Lead cleanup is expensive, but it would result in substantial overall savings in reduced special education placements, reduced criminal behavior, and greater worker productivity from adults with greater cognitive ability.

U.S. Job Openings and Labor Turnover: A Larger Context for Understanding the Ashtabula County Labor Market

A recent Economic Policy Institute (EPI) report examines job openings and labor turnover at the national level. It offers some background for understanding the same issues in the context of the Ashtabula County labor market. Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report reflects the solid employment situation for April, which is considerably better than the weakness in March. Job openings were up, which, along with a slight drop in the unemployment level, meant that the job-seekers-to-job-openings ratio fell to 1.6 in April. While this reflects an improvement, it fails to include the 3.1 million missing workers in April and is still far above its low-point of 1.1 in 2000. Furthermore, it remains the case that even if we continue moving forward at the pace of average employment over the last six months (236,000 jobs per month), the economy won’t resemble the strength of the pre-recession economy (such as it was) until the end of next year.

The total number of job openings rose to 5.4 million in April while the number of hires was little changed at 5.0 million. While there has been a clear improvement, it is important to remember that a job opening when the labor market is weak often does not mean the same thing as a job opening when the labor market is strong. There is a wide range of “recruitment intensity” a company can put behind a job opening. If a firm is trying hard to fill an opening, it may increase the compensation package and/or scale back the required qualifications. On the other hand, if it is not trying very hard, it might hike up the required qualifications and/or offer a meager compensation package. Perhaps unsurprisingly, research shows that recruitment intensity is cyclical—it tends to be stronger when the labor market is strong, and weaker when the labor market is weak. This means that when a job opening goes unfilled and the labor market is weak, as it is today, companies may very well be holding out for an overly-qualified candidate at a cheap price.

Another indicator of the labor market’s continued weakness is the depressed quits rate. The figure below displays the rate of separations disaggregated into the hires rate, the quits rate, and the layoff rate. Layoffs shot up during the recession but recovered quickly and have been at pre-recession levels for more than three years. The fact that this trend continued in April is a good sign. That said, not only do layoffs need to come down before we see a full recovery in the labor market, but hiring also needs to pick up—the hires rate was down slightly to 3.5 percent in April. It has been generally improving, but it still remains below its pre-recession level.

Hires, quits, and layoff rates, December 2000–April 2015

8516
Note: Shaded areas denote recessions. The hires rate is the number of hires during the entire month as a percent of total employment. The layoff rate is the number of layoffs and discharges during the entire month as a percent of total employment. The quits rate is the number of quits during the entire month as a percent of total employment.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey

The voluntary quits rate fell slightly from 2.0 percent in March to 1.9 in April, the same rate it was in four of the last six months. In April, the quits rate was still 9.2 percent lower than it was in 2007, before the recession began. A larger number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs indicates a strong labor market—one in which workers are able to leave jobs that are not right for them and find new ones. Before long, we should look for a return to pre-recession levels of voluntary quits, which would mean that fewer workers are locked into jobs they would leave if they could. But we are not there yet.

Keys to Capitalizing on International Opportunities

Ashtabula County is the home to many internationally owned companies. The largest is Cristal USA, but there are many others which have been discussed in earlier forum articles.

Here are some insights aimed at metro areas, but many of the same tips apply to Ashtabula County, as a semi-rural county. The Brookings Global Cities Initiative’s new report, The 10 Lessons from Global Trade and Investment Planning in U.S. Metro Areas, recognizes that cities are the primary driver of the world economy and global engagement is necessary for the United States to remain competitive.

Half of the world’s population now lives in cities, a proportion that will increase to 66 percent by 2050 (United Nations). Furthermore, 600 cities now generate 60 percent of the world’s GDP (McKinsey & Company). And it is estimated that by 2030, two-thirds of the world’s middle class will live in the Asia-Pacific region.

The report identified 10 lessons for U.S. cities to harness global markets, stressing the importance of business retention and expansion, industry clusters, and workforce:

  1. The primary benefit of global trade and investment is increased competitiveness, not quick jobs.
  2. The most important firms are the ones you already have.
  3. FDI and exports are closely linked.
  4. Leading with real specializations opens doors for firms.
  5. The middle market offers outsized opportunities.
  6. Mergers and acquisitions are the dominant form of FDI.
  7. Global engagement must be a demonstrated priority.
  8. Global commerce is driven by relationships and networks.
  9. Metro areas are unsure of how to harness emerging forms of global capital.
  10. Competing on a global scale requires metros to intensify efforts on other critical economic issues.

Source: IEDC

Rural Small Business Trends

Trend 1. Stage 2 businesses bloom in towns under 5,000: These are businesses that have already hired between 10 and 50 people and have potential to grow even more, and you can find them in the smallest of towns. Economic developers are starting to notice.

Trend 2. Urban likes rural: Ruralism is taking root in design, urban planning and leisure time pursuits. Placemaking is pushing cities to be more like small towns: walkable, community‐oriented, human‐scaled.

Trend 3. Brain Gain brings 30‐44 year‐olds to small towns: After decades of the “brain drain” of young people graduating and leaving small towns, a significant return flow of adults is changing rural dynamics.

Trend 4. Entrepreneurs get creative about business forms Cooperatives, co‐working, pop‐ups, combination businesses and community ownership are changing the old definition of a rural business.

Trend 5. Energy transmission is lighting up business opportunities: Energy booms are ongoing in several key rural areas. Construction of the transmission infrastructure in wind, solar, oil and gas means spillover opportunities.

Trend 6. Everyone is thinking local: Consumers are much more aware of the importance of local business to their local economy, driving more activity to local businesses.

Trend 7. Rural eCommerce is up and down: Amazon is the dominant ecommerce player, and their sales tax and delivery changes affect the whole sector. Changes at the U.S. Postal Service are also affecting rural businesses.

Trend 8. Rural has the low cost advantage: Regional differences in cost of living and cost of doing business are making headlines.

Trend 9. Local manufacturing surges again: The reshoring of manufacturing is making national headlines, but it’s rural areas that are reaping the most new projects.