By Jeff Whitten, Bryan County News
RICHMOND HILL — Twenty-two companies currently advertise job openings on the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Joint Development Authority website, which includes the disclaimer, “this does not represent all current job opportunities available.”
Some of the jobs posted are with Hyundai Motorgroup Metaplant America, the massive electric vehicle plant under construction on the nearly 3,000-acre Mega- Site in Bryan County.
Other companies now advertising on the JDA website, such as Briggs & Stratton in Bulloch County and Georgia Transformer in Effingham County, have been in the JDA’s four-county footprint for years.
But it’s clear the arrival of Hyundai and several suppliers — which combined with the Metaplant add up to a projected 13,116 new jobs and more than $10 billion in investment so far — has put in focus a growing demand for skilled labor.
While officials caution the need for workers related to Hyundai and its suppliers will be gradual, in some cases over a nine year-period beginning this year and ending in 2031, the JDA in January began conducting a workforce study using consultants Wadley Donovan Gutshaw to help “identify the labor supply challenges facing existing employers and develop initiatives that will minimize the exposure to existing and future labor supply shortfalls,” according to a presentation at the JDA’s July 19 meeting in Black Creek.
That study is expected to be complete at some point in August, according to the JDA.
Among the study’s first actions was to extend the JDA’s pool of potential labor to within an hour’s commute of Bryan, Bulloch, Chatham and Effingham counties.
That added eight counties in Georgia: Candler, Emanuel, Evans, Jenkins, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Screven and Tattnall. It includes Beaufort, Hampton and Jasper counties in South Carolina.
Up next were surveys, panels and focus groups and discussions involving a number of area employers and representatives in education, transportation, the military, recruiting services and so on.
Those conducting the study also researched projects similar to Hyundai but outside the area to see what worked and what didn’t work.
The consultants promise to provide the JDA “a full definition of skillsets in demand, talent deficiencies, etc.,” as well as a “deep dive into the actual implementation of a workforce development program.”
The last three words are in bold in the JDA presentation.
They’re followed by a third item: “Framework for executing plan to have buy in of all stakeholders.”
A fourth step will include a regional workforce marketing strategy, which will be completed in partnership with consultant WDGC’s place marketing firm Development Counsellors International, according to the July 19 presentation.
Its aim is to “identify markets and marketing recommendations to help Savannah JDA attract workers to the Savannah region.”
It’ll apparently do so using analytics to create what it calls an “attraction index.”
According to JDA, it will get “six to eight actionable marketing recommendations based on DCI’s Talent Wars research to consider.”
Industries in the area already are offering or preparing to offer a number of incentives to attract workers, according to early phases of the study.
They range from higher wages and promotion opportunities to flexible working arrangements and flexible pay, “including you choose the day you want to get paid or daily pay.”
Onsite child care, free lunches, “pet friendly” jobsites and less wait time for benefits to start or compensation for not taking benefits were among the incentives listed, along with a number of bonus programs.
The last item listed? “Fun at work.” Which perhaps ties in to ongoing JDA efforts to market manufacturing to students in the area. The Development Authority of Bryan County, for example, has long held an Industry Day in which it invites middle schoolers to spend time at local manufacturing facilities to learn what they do, one of a number of ways in which the JDA and others are hoping to “help break the myth of trades and manufacturing careers” as being “dirty or deadend jobs.”
That was followed by a single statement that JDA perhaps hopes to get across to students as it prepares for the long haul of finding workers to fill jobs across the region: “Manufacturing is cool!!”