HYP Roundtable Discussion Recap
The Catawba County Chamber of Commerce along with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) hosted a Young Professionals Roundtable Luncheon on March 1st in Hickory, North Carolina. The goal of the day was to gain young professionals’ viewpoints of the economy to be used in a comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS) process, a study being performed by the WPCOG along with County leaders.
Taylor Dellinger, Data Analyst for WPCOG, presented slides showing data for the Hickory Metropolitan Statistical Area, or the “Hickory MSA”, which include: Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, and Catawba Counties. Presenting statistics for these Counties over a period of 5 years (2005 – 2010) and included the trends for growth in total population, ethnic groups, age groups 25 – 34, etc. He then presented a slide showing projected population growth of only 0.12% per year for these Counties through 2035. As conveyed by these statistics, people are moving away from this area. Why? This is precisely what the WPCOG and the Chamber are trying to determine. According to the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, over the last seven years the labor force of the Hickory MSA shrunk by 3.9%, and the number of bodies actually employed grew by 5%. This most likely means that the number of jobs available out there have increased, but because of retirement or people moving out of the area, the labor force has declined.
After presenting data, the audience was asked to form teams and complete a series of questions. Among those questions were:
1. What is the biggest asset in the region that is not being utilized to its full potential?
2. What are our barriers for economic progress as a four-county region?
3. What economic opportunities are we missing in this region?
4. How do we fundamentally improve our workforce?
5. Where do you think our future leadership in the region will come from and will your children or grandchildren be staying here for a career after high school and college?
Answers were discussed and submitted at the end of the discussion for future analysis by WPCOG. If you missed this session and would like to provide feedback, please visit www.wpcog.org and look for CEDS 2017, CEDS Community Survey. This survey is open to anyone living in the four-County region. The Chamber will also be hosting an event on March 22nd at Moretz Mills, LLC titled “Future of Catawba County Summit”. To register, call 828-328-6111.