Regions that rely on seasonal tourism for their economic backbone swell to almost-bursting during the high months - in terms of population, workforce and revenues – and then huddle down for the long quiet season. This cyclical rise and fall of tourism-based economies has many benefits, not the least of which is the ability for a region to prosper all year based on the financial success of a few short months, and maintain a quiet community the rest of the year.
However, for the year-long businesses that sustain the region through all seasons, it can make hiring a qualified and committed long term workforce challenging.
There are many areas that fit this description, such as Cape Cod and the Outer Banks in the summer; Colorado ski towns like Telluride or Aspen in winter; spring break hot spots like Orlando, Florida; and autumn foliage destinations in New England. Looking at how these well-known destinations help support their year-round businesses offers insight into the local economy’s ability to weather national (or global) downturns, foster a tight-knit local community during slower seasons, and encourage more diverse commercial growth beyond the tourism sector.
Let’s look at how Currituck County, N.C. (host to some of the most populated areas of the Outer Banks) helps local businesses find and retain qualified employees.
Currituck County’s local economic development department helps connect businesses with contacts at the state’s workforce training program, NC Works Online. NC Works is an online resource that connects job seekers with employers, promotes job fairs and training events, and features an active job listing database.
In addition, the North Carolina Community College system and North Carolina Department of Commerce work together to design and pay for custom training for new employees as an incentive to new, relocating or expanding businesses.
A collaborative project between Currituck County and the local College of The Albemarle includes a 40,000-square-foot training and workforce development facility that is dedicated to providing programs that teach a range of workforce skills, including: manufacturing, machining, graphic design, and FAA Part 147 certification for aviation overhaul. The Regional Aviation and Technical Training Center is focused on occupational preparation, and works with local businesses to tailor the coursework to the job skills that employers need.
Currituck County assembles and makes available local demographic data to aid businesses in identifying ideal targets for potential employees. This data can help companies understand that potential recruits may be found among the thousands of graduates that are produced each year by ten colleges, universities, and technical schools in nearby Hampton Roads, Va. In addition, several nearby military bases lead Currituck County to become home to many veterans and military families.
The county and state also work together to continually strengthen infrastructure such as utilities, water and sewer, and transportation options, and to provide diverse business incentives to support the economic growth of a wide range of industries within the region.
While the tourism that floods the Outer Banks during the warm months is certainly a primary economic driver in the region, the area continues to diversify by strengthening its broad appeal and skilled workforce.