One of Q5’s most important programs is Business Retention & Expansion (BRE). It is a fact that the majority of job growth will come from our community’s existing businesses, and the purpose of a BRE program is to retain the businesses already located in our community and assist with their expansion. Additional objectives of the BRE program are to keep a pulse on our community’s business climate and address overall barriers to growth in our community.
In 2017, Q5 staff met with approximately 65 businesses in Springfield and Sangamon County with 39 of those businesses completing a business survey. All BRE visits are confidential and all information, unless otherwise noted, is an accumulation of the information gathered from the 39 businesses who took part in the survey.
The data in this report is not scientific in nature and only represents the information gathered from the businesses met with in 2016. One of the themes in 2016 is a continuation of a more pessimistic mood in the business community about the overall economy. This often contrasted with the projection of increased sales, market share and overall growth in their own businesses.
This theme is also consistent with the Economic Outlook Survey conducted by the University of Illinois Springfield, which has had a downward shift in expectations of the overall Sangamon County economy since the spring of 2015. The fiscal situation in the state, a lack of a budget and the backlog of unpaid bills that cause cash flow issues for our local businesses likely feeds this sentiment.
Overall, several businesses in the area are planning expansions, implementing new technologies or diversifying their product to stay current with the market. Businesses are much more optimistic about their own business than the overall economy. No businesses indicated that they were leaving or shutting down and only two businesses filed Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notices with the state. One was AIG’s continual transition and another was a retail service industry that sold with the anticipation that workers would be retained by the new company.
Wabash & I-72 Business Park
During the 2015 BRE program, a critical need for additional telecommunication services and options in the Wabash & I-72 industrial park area was identified. Q5 staff were able to facilitate conversation between businesses in the area and telecommunication providers. Staff have since followed up with the businesses who originally brought this issue to our attention and they have reported that they are satisfied with the new options and services available to them.
During the 2015 BRE program, staff from Q5 and the Springfield Airport Authority worked with Standard Aero as they announced their plans to grow at their Springfield facility at the airport. They identified a need for a larger pool of workers specifically trained in certain areas, including: airframe & power plant (A&P) mechanics, painters, avionics technicians, and upholsters. Shortly afterward, Levi, Ray & Shoup donated the needed funding for Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC) to expand their A&P program at the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.
Closing the Communication Gap
In the first quarter of 2016, Q5 staff met with a local business undergoing construction work to expand and grow their business. Their project had been on hold due to a service issue with a local provider. Staff were able to assist the company in closing the communication gap holding up the project and work resumed the next week. While the project is considered confidential, this type of assistance is one of the most important parts of a BRE program since it helps our local businesses grow and create jobs and wealth within our community.
While the purpose of the BRE program is to build relationships, assist local businesses and identify business retention and expansion projects, there is value in gathering data to analyze trends and common problems and solutions. The following breakdown is from various segments of the survey.
The business dynamics section is designed to engage participants in a series of questions aimed to achieve a better understanding of their business. The figures depict the overall vitality of a business and offer an opportunity to provide assistance for those who may need it.
Of the 39 businesses that participated in the survey:
Workforce is a growing concern for businesses, both in retaining their current workforce and their ability to attract needed talent for the future. The 2017 program will include enhanced effort to identify future workforce needs and current issues affecting businesses. In 2016, businesses were surveyed regarding their staffing needs as well as their satisfaction with current employees.
Of the businesses who participated in the survey, 63 percent reported having problems recruiting qualified candidates. Of those who identified recruiting problems, 40 percent identified the community as being part of their recruiting problems and 60 percent identified that the industry as a whole had workforce shortages. Businesses could identify the community, industry, both the community and industry, or neither, and the fact that it came out to 60 percent for industry and 40 percent for community is coincidental.
One of the largest workforce issues identified in 2016 was finding talent for management and sales positions. Usual issues were identified as filling technical positions that mirror national shortages, and competing with large metro areas for top technical talent. Ninety-seven (97) percent of respondents provide on-site training to their workforce with 58 percent indicating that they are increasing spending on training their current workforce.
The data collected as part of the 2016 BRE survey is consistent with what we have heard from businesses through everyday interactions, as well as the Economic Outlook Survey conducted by the UIS Survey Research Office. Businesses are optimistic about their own success, more pessimistic about the overall economy, weary of the state’s financial issues and lack of budget, and worried about finding a qualified workforce.
Changing Direction in 2017
The BRE program has collected a large amount of data over the past three years with completed surveys from 230 businesses. Moving forward, Q5 staff will take a portfolio approach where we identify businesses that bring wealth into the community, monitor interactions with their company, and assist with workforce needs.
Q5 staff will also work to enhance workforce assistance needs, collecting data and information from businesses and working with the education and workforce development community to ensure our businesses have access to the workforce they need for the future.
For information, contact Josh Collins at (217) 535-1173 or email@example.com.