Business

Survey says Rock Hill has knowledge-based workforce

The Lowenstein Building at the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. site, also known as the Bleachery, sits in the area being developed as Knowledge Park.
The Lowenstein Building at the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. site, also known as the Bleachery, sits in the area being developed as Knowledge Park. aburriss@heraldonline.com

Each day 52,000 people leave York County for work, and many would forgo that commute if there were local knowledge-related jobs, according to a recent study.

“Rock Hill is ready. . . it’s a field of dreams, there are people waiting in the corn rows, all we need is the companies,” Winthrop University professor and study architect Scott Huffmon said Tuesday.

The Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. commissioned the survey to find out if the county has the workforce to support a knowledge-based economy. Results of the survey were released Tuesday at the RHEDC’s monthly meeting.

A May 2014 consultants’ report said Rock Hill would need to attract talent from Charlotte to make Knowledge Park – the city’s economic development strategy to create jobs as well as redevelop the Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. site – viable. Marketing to the Charlotte labor pool would give potential Knowledge Park employers access to a larger pool of qualified talent, according to the consultants’ study.

The study said Rock Hill’s current talent pool “is not large enough to attract a medium- to large-sized technology company requiring highly educated/highly skilled talent.”

That study was based on standard labor data, said city officials.

RHEDC asked Winthrop’s Social & Behavioral Lab to look at where people lived, asking if there was a similar “knowledge-related job” in Rock Hill that paid the same, or possibly 5 percent to 10 percent better, would they work locally?

The lab contacted people by email, telephone and cell phone. Areas where people are known to commute were oversampled, Huffmon said.

More than 600 county residents, who the lab identified as having knowledge economy job skills such as managing people, managing equipment and systems, managing finances or managing knowledge, responded to the survey, Huffmon said.

The survey estimates about 21,600 of those commuting have “knowledge-related jobs.” Of that group about 14,000, or 65 percent, would work locally if there was a similar job, Huffmon said. “There is an immense amount of talent leaving York County,” he said.

According to the survey, about 9 percent, or 4,649 people, who commute from York County write computer programs. About 70 percent would work in Rock Hill for the same pay.

Huffmon said the survey results can be used to help recruit companies for the Knowledge Park or other areas of the county. The number one reason most companies relocated is not lower taxes but an available, skilled workforce, he said. That skilled workforce will not come from the unemployed but from those already working, Huffmon said.

After that it will be up to the city, the county and the companies to recruit the knowledge workers to work locally, Huffmon said.

Don Worthington: 803-329-4066, @rhherald_donw

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