Abilene could add more than 1,400 jobs in near future. Where are workers to fill them?

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Abilene isn’t just open for business. It’s open for more business.  

In October, data indicated the Abilene Metropolitan Service Area (which includes Taylor, Callahan and Jones counties), was projected to add 919 jobs in the next three years, said Robert Puls, business development consultant at Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas. 

Health care and social assistance was expected to add the lion’s share with 566 jobs, followed by accommodation and food services (125 jobs). Close behind is a category called administrative and support and waste management and remediation services (113 jobs). 

That last group encompasses businesses that support other businesses, such as cleaning, hiring and documenting employees, surveillance and administrative services. 

Puls believes the jobs projection is low. 

He said the data he pulled at the time he created the report in October did not factor new manufacturing jobs that will come with the opening of Great Lakes Cheese and the expansion at Primal Pet Foods.

Great Lakes Cheese will employ about 300 people initially when it opens at the end of the year, building up to 510 when fully operational. The pet foods company will hire about 250 more people, Puls said. 

Adding 300 and 250 means more than 500 new manufacturing jobs this year alone on top of the 919 projected for the three-year period, Puls said. That three-year projection report forecasted a loss of 43 manufacturing jobs.   

More: Abilene labor market recovering from COVID-19 slump, faces favorable outlook in 2022

From where will the workers come?

With Abilene’s unemployment rate at 3.7% in November, where are the additional workers?

Puls listed four sources:

► Labor transfers: These are employees who come from other companies because of new opportunities and higher wages.

► Labor pipeline: Recent graduates from universities, colleges and high schools will enter the labor market.

► Regional commuters: People living outside Abilene will travel to the city for employment.

► People not in the market yet: The local labor force participation rate is 56%, lower than the state average of 62.6%, Puls said.

A deeper dive on that last source shows that “when you look at prime age workers (ages 25 to 54), our labor force participation rate is 72% compared to the state average of 80.%,” he said.

In addition, the latest census data shows that individuals with disabilities represent about 14% of the local population, compared to 9.6% for Texas, Puls said.

“Increasing the employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities could provide a reliable source of good labor,” he said.

One other potential source of new workers, Puls said, is people moving to the city for work.

“It’s a natural progress for individuals who have lower-paying jobs who’ll have new opportunity to move into a higher-paying job,” Puls said.

More: Bring on 2022: Lone Star Powersports among new businesses revving up in Abilene

Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News.  If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com

Read More: Abilene could add more than 1,400 jobs in near future. Where are workers to fill them?

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