Study Paints Bleak Picture Of Payson's Work Force

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Of those in the Rim Country who could be productive members of the local work force, almost half of them are retired and do not plan to return to work.

Of those who remain, many lack the education level for skilled labor. Only a quarter of the population willing to work has an undergraduate degree or higher, according to "The Workforce of Payson, Arizona, 2007 Analysis," a study recently released by the Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation in cooperation with the Arizona Department of Commerce's Rural Economic Development Initiative.

The study found that Payson's work force is aging. The percentage of people ages 20 to 54 -- considered to be the prime wage earning years -- is 28 percent lower than the state average and 30 percent lower than the national average.

The study began after the PREDC reviewed the results of its 2006 study, "Building Bridges to Business." The study showed that the biggest barrier to economic development in Payson is the quality of the area's work force.

"The study made clear the biggest challenge facing our business community is the fact it cannot recruit or maintain a qualified and stable work force," said executive director of the PREDC Barbara Ganz. "If this challenge can be met, there is a potential for an estimated $24 million in business expansion over the next three years in the area."

According to the study, most of the people in the area who could be in the work force are not.

Approximately 14,000 people in Payson and Pine are considered to be "potential" members of the work force. "Potential" is defined as anyone between the ages of 18 and 64. Of those 14,000 people, 55 percent are between the ages of 45 and 64.

A likely 43 percent of the potential work force is not working because they are retired.

In Payson and Pine, 8,000 people are willing to work. Of those, 7,060 people are actually employed (not counting the residents who commute to work out of the area).

Among the employed work force, approximately 6,000 have full-time jobs. The others work multiple jobs.

The study shows that two-thirds of the employed workers would change jobs for more money and benefits, even if it meant their commute would triple. The average "commute" for the employed worker in the Payson area is from five to 10 minutes.

For a better job, a majority would be willing to travel as much as 60 minutes.

The PREDC analysis of the study is, "The Payson area work force has four issues that are of particular importance to the economic development of this area. These include such considerations as availability, salary and benefits, skills and training/education, and viable career options."

From the numbers gathered through the work force study, PREDC has concluded, "The results of this study present a view of local work force conditions that are in need of remediation. Everything from work force availability; salary and benefits; skills, training/education; and career options are all a source of concern as it relates to overall work force well-being and the economic viability of the Payson area. These concerns can best be addressed proactively and with the cooperative efforts of diverse local resources. The mitigation of these issues can, to a large extent, improve the local economy by meeting the present work force expectations of employers and by paving the way for the enhanced recruitment and development of target industries to Payson."

A variety of groups have been working for quite a while to address work force needs, Ganz said. In fact, a new nonprofit has been organized for the specific purpose of work force training, retraining and placement.

"There are all these groups out there working toward the same goal and now they are all starting to come together," Ganz said.

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