• Growing the Workforce

    Growing the workforce

    JENKINS TWP. — Recruiting workers has been a challenge for Valley Distributing & Storage Company, which has locations in Laflin, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. Carol Keup, chief operating officer of the family-owned warehousing, logistics and transportation business, said some employees struggle to get to and from work.

    “Some don’t have cars. Some have shared cars. Some have issues with reliable transportation,” she said. “Some take a bus but the bus stops are maybe a half mile from the facility and it’s three stops to get there.”

    Keup was one of about 50 business leaders who participated in a forum Tuesday at Benco Dental about growing the workforce in the region through improved transportation. The NEPA Equitable Transit Council hosted the forum and invited business leaders from Luzerne and Lackawan­na counties to share their challenges and insights on how to improve workforce development through a better transportation system.

    The Institute for Public Policy & Economic Development at Wilkes University completed an analysis of public transit demand in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties and it showed few bus routes serve some medium and high employment density tracts in the region. According to the analysis, 10.9 percent of Luzerne County households and 8.6 percent of Lackawanna County households do not have access to a vehicle.

    Teri Ooms, executive director of the institute, said transportation barriers limit access to a host of things including educational opportunities and quality health care as well as getting to work and maintaining a job. “We know we have a workforce who wants to work. They just can’t get there,” Ooms said. “We know businesses are struggling for a workforce because our workforce all over the country is shrinking.”

    Business leaders, who split up into groups at Tuesday’s forum, talked about how transportation has been an issue for them in recruiting and retaining workers and they discussed possible solutions. Ooms said one possible solution is to talk to public transit officials in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties to get bus service to the edge of a business park. Businesses then could collaborate and offer shuttle service.

    “There’s private bus service and all sorts of solutions,” Ooms said.

    Of the four industrial parks in the Greater Pittston area, some have public transportation available in and out of them and some don’t, said Michelle Mikitish, executive vice president of the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce. “It’s challenging for employers to consistently bring employees in,” Mikitish said. “In some cases when they are car-pooling and the car goes down, you don’t just lose one person that day, you lose four. They might be out for three or four days by the time a person can fix the vehicle.”

    Luzerne County Transportation Authority offers daily bus service in CenterPoint Commerce and Trade Park that Mericle Construction built in Jenkins Twp. and Pittston Twp. Discussions are underway about finding a hub in CenterPoint to transport employees, Mikitish said.
    Contact the writer:

    dallabaugh@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2115; @CVAllabaugh

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