Rain, rain, go away! But even with these dreary days, the momentum for economic and business recovery and development in Harrison, Boone County and the region continues to move forward!
We see new businesses opening monthly, others breaking ground for new facilities, and others expanding their operations with new equipment and processes. All are creating net-new jobs. And that’s what prosperity is: opportunity for each individual to be more successful and grow the future for themselves and their families.
With this economic development we’re also experiencing something we’ve not seen recently: worker vacancies. Today, I estimate we have over 350 vacant jobs just in Boone County, not counting several hundred more within 30 minutes’ drive of our community … and more jobs are on the way! Drive through your community and note the numerous ‘help wanted’ and ‘now hiring’ signs. And these are not minimum wage jobs either, they’re well-paying starting wages. Several businesses are even offering sign-on and stay bonuses, from $300 up to $2,000.
Today, a full-time employee with little-to-no experience and high school diploma/GED can earn over $34,000 annually with benefits, plus overtime hours with several of our prime businesses. With some mechanical and technical literacy or experience, that annual starting wage can jump to over $43,000 annually! It’s not uncommon today in Boone County to find annual blue-collar wages in the $75,000 to $80,000 range.
All of this is good … if there were people willing to work. Sadly, one of the unintended consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant government action to assist those unable to work because of closed/downsized businesses, has negatively impacted us here in the Arkansas Ozarks. Unemployment stands at 3.8% in Boone County, and a little higher in Arkansas, at 4.4%. Couple the regular unemployment insurance with the $1,200 per month Cares Act supplement, and some people are simply not willing to work. While those combined dollars are helpful for a few, too many people are taking advantage of the circumstances and electing to not work. This hurts the community overall.
Governor Hutchenson has ended the Cares Act supplemental benefit come June 21. We believe this will drive some on the unemployment rolls to return to the workplace. And when they do, they’ll find ready and willing employers to hire them. The businesses will demand some basics when starting back, like coming to work every day and on time, and that’s OK. We all must contribute to the workforce and productivity of our region.
There are jobs available now! Good paying jobs! Incentives make working even more enticing. All while we continue Taking Care of Business. Cheers, Bob