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editorial 10/31/00 - Morning Herald

November 01, 2000

Commuter skills study may lead to stronger community



What kind of a job would it take to make you stay at home?

That's the question Jefferson County, W.Va. officials will soon be asking, as they try to develop a new marketing tool to draw new businesses to the area. It's an idea we've suggested in the past, because most workers commute out of the area for employment because they feel they must, not because they enjoy long train or car rides.

According to Jane Peters, the head of the Jefferson County Development Authority, the county's work force of 22,000 includes 12,000 who commute out of the area every day. But where they go and what jobs skills they possess is unknown now.

To find out, Peters' group will team up with Shpeherd College's Business and Economics Department to send a two-page questionnaire to 3,000 county households. It will poll workers on a variety of questions, including how far they commute, the jobs skills they possess and how much they're paid.

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Some of those folks may hold jobs on Capitol Hill or in lobbying firms in Washington, D.C., Peters said, jobs that it wouldn't be possible to reproduce in Jefferson County. But she said there probably will be several "clusters of jobs skills" that could be used as marketing tools.

We would suggest a second component to this survey, perhaps as a follow-up to the questionnaire. Talk to commuters directly, at train stations or commuter car-pool lots. You'd be surprised at how much good information can come from a face-to-face chat.

This project is important for two reasons. The first and most obvious is to develop a marketing tool for Peters' agency.

But second and just as important is that giving commuters an extra two hours a day in the community frees them up to volunteer for youth sports teams and other organizations and to spend more time with their own families. Bringing the good jobs here is important, but so is keeping good people who might strengthen the community from wasting their valuable time running up and down the road.

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