Commuters urged to try ‘Work Local’

Jefferson County Development Authority wants resumes from Panhandle workers

CHARLES TOWN – If good jobs are available locally, wouldn’t some Eastern Panhandle residents who now spend hours commuting to Washington, D.C., and elsewhere switch plans?

Whitney Burch thinks so.

Officials from the Jefferson County Development Authority have launched a “Work Local, Hire Local” campaign. They hope to reach local residents who commute to D.C. and other nearby cities as well as anyone living in the Panhandle in the market for a new job.

Officials from the Jefferson County Development Authority have launched a
“Work Local, Hire Local” campaign.  They hope to reach local residents who commute to D.C. and other nearby cities as well as anyone living in the Panhandle
in the market for a new job.

The Jefferson County Economic Development Authority official says there’s an easy way for commuters to test the Panhandle’s employment waters: By signing up with the JCDA’s Workforce Database.

Earlier this month, the JCDA sent mailers to alert 14,000 county households about the “Work Local, Hire Local” campaign. So far, hundreds of local residents have signed up for it.

The latest labor statistics show that Jefferson County has a work force of some 25,000 residents, and that some 40 percent of those residents now work outside Jefferson County.

According to Burch, 85 percent of those workers say they would work locally if a comparable position were available.

The county created the database six years ago, but Burch said there’s a fresh push to let more workers know of its availability.

“We decided to refocus our marketing efforts on the site as we’ve heard that some companies are having a hard time finding people to fill open positions,” Burch said. “We know we have the talented labor force and we know that our local businesses are hiring. We want to connect them.”

Come April – once the county has added as many commuters’ resumes as possible – Burch said the development authority will turn its attention to local employers, asking them to use the database for fill job openings.

Higher gas prices are helping drive more commuters to consider finding a job closer to home, Burch said.

The JCDA’s website at jcda.net/workforce.php has added a “Calculate Your Commuting Costs” button so that residents can see just how much their commute is cutting into the salaries they earn.

To further entice commuters, Burch said anyone who registers a resume before midnight Sunday will be eligible for a drawing for a $100 gas card.

But the database isn’t for workers in a particular industry or even focused exclusively on commuters, Burch said.

“This is something that’s open to anyone in any field,” she said. “A person can upload a resume whether or not they have a job now. They don’t need to be actively looking for a new job either – this can just be a chance to see if there’s a better opportunity closer to home.”

Burch said the database also is available to workers and businesses in neighboring Berkeley County.

Helping Panhandle residents ditch a hectic commute in favor of satisfying work for a local business is rewarding, Burch said.

“We’ve had several success stories [already],” she said. “We were able to connect someone with a local IT firm and save them four hours of commuting. Now they’re able to ride their bike to work.”

For workers, the effort needed to become part of the database is a small one, Burch said.

“It’s a great tool that requires just a little time to create an application,” she said. “But the payoff can be huge. Finding a good job that doesn’t involve a commute has a big impact on a person’s quality of life.”

 

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