Emsi Case Study (See Full Archive)
Summary: South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance (SCTWA) served as part of the team that recruited Gruppo Concorde (an Italian tile manufacturer) to Mount Pleasant, Tennessee—resulting in $80 million in capital investment and adding 180 jobs to the rural region. The ability to demonstrate workforce and demographics information, using Emsi data, was key to this process.
- Although the region didn’t always have the exact occupations that Gruppo Concorde wanted, SCTWA used Emsi’s compatibility index to show that the local workforce could meet the company’s needs.
- Age demographics data helped ease Gruppo Concorde’s concerns about the age of the local workforce—a common concern among manufacturing companies.
- SCTWA provided percentile earnings to help Gruppo Concorde assess what it would take to be a competitive employer in the region.
After a site selection process that lasted two and a half years, Gruppo Concorde (an Italian tile manufacturer) announced plans to open its first American plant in Mount Pleasant, Tennessee—a town of less than 7,000 people, about an hour south of Nashville in Maury County.
Gruppo Concorde’s 600,000-square-foot facility, which is currently under construction, will result in $80 million in capital investment and will add 180 jobs to the area. That’s a major win for Maury County and for the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance (SCTWA), which worked with a variety of community partners to recruit the manufacturer.
And although the availability of land was a major consideration, SCTWA Executive Director Jan McKeel insisted that workforce was the No.1 priority for Gruppo Concorde’s site selectors: “The big thing that Gruppo Concorde was interested in, like most other projects like that, was that they wanted to make sure we had the workforce…And everybody always wants experienced folks.”
Emsi data—housed in Analyst, our labor market and education data software—made demonstrating workforce availability a cinch. “If you’ve asked the right questions and know the information you are trying to get, it is so easy to get it from [Analyst],” McKeel said. “And I think often that’s how we end up stealing projects because we can give a level of detail that perhaps employers aren’t getting elsewhere.”
Demonstrating Workforce Availability and Compatible Skills
SCTWA started its recruitment process by supplying Gruppo Concorde with an economy overview of Maury County—a print-ready report from Analyst. Then, the company asked SCTWA for information about specific occupations. That’s when SCTWA got creative.
“[Prior to Gruppo Concorde,] we didn’t have any tile manufacturers. So we did not have some of the exact positions,” McKeel said. “But when we took it out a little bit broader and were able to show occupations with comparable skills, we could show them that we did have the workforce.”
Using Analyst’s compatibility index, SCTWA was able to assess whether two or more occupations match up in terms of knowledge, skills, and abilities. For example, to gather information on the local availability of kiln operators, SCTWA pulled data on terrazzo workers and finishers, tile and marble setters, brick masons, and block masons—all of which have similar skills and abilities.
SCTWA also used Analyst to zero in on workforce availability in particular ZIP codes. “Gruppo Concorde was really curious about specific sections of the county, so when I went into Analyst, instead of just running the report for the entire county, I did some by ZIP codes,” said Stephen Webb, SCTWA’s Business Services Manager. “So I did the data pull using the Mount Pleasant ZIP code specifically and then expanded it out based upon ZIP codes for the surrounding sections of the county, too.”
Employers are also highly concerned about employment pipelines. Before moving to an area, businesses need to be certain that a large portion of the workforce won’t be retiring in a few years. This concern is even more exaggerated in manufacturing because youth are sometimes discouraged from pursuing manufacturing careers, and there isn’t a strong understanding of what a career in advanced manufacturing looks like, said McKeel.
Using the demographics overview report in Analyst, SCTWA demonstrated that its younger workforce is rapidly growing. In fact, between 2014 and 2024, the most growth of working-age populations in Maury County will occur in the 35-39 and 40-44 age ranges (see chart).
“One of the things that Maury County kind of touts itself on is retirement age people. So I think [Gruppo Concorde] probably saw something about that and thought, ‘If we go in there, and the majority of the workforce is 55-plus, what is that going to mean for us five years down the road?’” Webb said. “But once we showed them that some of the highest rates of growth will be in the 35-39 year range, they were perfectly fine with that.”
Percentile earnings were also critical to the recruitment process. This data helped Gruppo Concorde assess what it would take to be a competitive employer in the region.
“A lot of times prospective employers are familiar with wage data, but they really want to home in to become a premier employer,” McKeel said. “So we are able to use [percentile earnings] and work to that employer’s advantage so they can set those wages a little bit higher and get the best of the best when they come to town.”
“We’re always part of a team, and it really is a wonderful feeling, if you will, to be able to know that the report that you’re presenting is valid, number one, and number two, very easy and concise.”—Jan McKeel, SCTWA
Webb added that this information is also useful for retention of businesses that are struggling with recruiting or retaining employees: “I’ll sit down with them and ask, ‘What are you paying for this occupation?’…And I’ll show them, ‘Here’s what your entry-level wages would be; here’s what the median wages are,’ and hopefully they’ll take that into consideration. The few times they have increased that pay, I never heard another word from them about retention.”
This high-quality information helps validate SCTWA as a key member of the economic development team in the South Central Tennessee region. “We’re always part of a team,” McKeel said, “and it really is a wonderful feeling, if you will, to be able to know that the report that you’re presenting is valid, number one, and number two, very easy and concise.”
About South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance
The South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance (SCTWA) is a nonprofit that works to develop the workforce through efforts with economic development, education, and employment. SCTWA provides oversight to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) services of America’s Job Centers (formerly Tennessee Career Centers) located in the eight South Central counties of Giles, Hickman, Lawrence, Lewis, Marshall, Maury, Perry, and Wayne, and assists over 20,000 job seekers a year with career development and training throughout the region. Tennessee consistently ranks as a high performer in WIOA (formerly Workforce Investment Act) performance standards, and the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance consistently exceeds its performance standards and receives incentive dollars for outstanding performance.
Emsi turns labor market data into useful information that helps organizations understand the connection between economies, people, and work. Using sound economic principles and good data, we build user-friendly services that help workforce planners, regional developers, and other organizations build a better workforce and improve the economic conditions in their regions.