Choose your metaphor: a light at the end of the tunnel, any port in a storm, or the silver lining in 4-year-old cloud. With Southwest Washington employers looking for 1,000 new workers, we’re too elated to bicker over the most applicable figure of speech.
WorkSource — a statewide program that connects hiring companies with job seekers — typically has worked to fill about 400 jobs at a time in Southwest Washington. In recent weeks, though, that number has rocketed to about 1,000, thanks to another 545 openings added by 21 expanding companies in the area. According to a Tuesday Columbian story, about 300 of the new jobs are available in Clark County; the rest are in Cowlitz County. The employers are not identified, but the jobs include engineers, production workers, supervisors, human resources specialists, assembly crews and others. Pay range for most of the openings is $15 to $30 an hour, plus benefits.
That’s got to light some figurative fireworks for many of the 10,000-plus people who have lost their jobs since late 2007. If you’re one of those people and are ready to pounce on a job opening, a good way to start is by visiting http://www.go2worksource.com. However, many of the openings are not described on the website, and you’ll probably want to visit the WorkSource office in Vancouver: 5411 E. Mill Plain Blvd., No. 15. Or you can call 360-735-5000. In your efforts, The Columbian wishes you all the best.
Still, you won’t hear “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” echoing off the Cascades just yet. We’ve got a long way to go before we recover from those 10,000 local jobs lost.
In the meantime, the small triumphs are worth noting, if not celebrating. Another encouraging statistical advancement was the local jobless rate of 12.8 percent in April. That’s still way too high, but it’s an improvement over 14.4 percent in April 2010. In May of this year, about 127,700 folks were working in Clark County; that’s about 900 more than in April.
A few more bright spots are seen in the long-term picture. Hospital chain PeaceHealth, relocating it headquarters from Bellevue to Vancouver, has posted 17 openings here and could create as many as 700 jobs in the next 10 years. Farwest Steel plans to relocate about 100 jobs here in 2012 and could add 128 more.
This area’s recovery efforts are also boosted by global economic conditions. Bonnie Moore of the Columbia River Economic Development Council explained in a recent statement: “Many of the companies that are hiring have direct sales to overseas markets, which are recovering faster than the U.S. economy.” Again, we see the power and value of Vancouver’s and Clark County’s connections to international trade.
In the area of work force training, the Legislature this year created Innovate Washington, which will assist emerging technology and clean-energy companies. Operations will be established in Vancouver, Tri-Cities and Bellingham. Here, Innovate Washington will find a solid partner in Washington State University Vancouver, which is increasing its emphasis on innovation and research. This new state program will replace the current Washington Technology Center and the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute (SIRTI).
Overall, local residents are witnessing encouraging sprouts in the vast recovery garden. It would be better if a full harvest were under way, but at least now the local economy is growing slightly instead of withering.