FHSU Docking Institute study inspires $10 million expansion

An investment of $12,000 in a 2000 labor availability study performed by Fort Hays State University's Docking Institute of Public Affairs recently inspired one company to commit to a $10 million expansion.

Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI), Columbia, MO, gave the Docking Institute $12,000 in 2000 to conduct a survey of that area's labor basin -- Boone, Audrain, Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau, Monroe and Randolph counties.

Docking Institute researchers telephoned 906 respondents in the nine counties in question and discovered that 82 percent of workers in Columbia's labor pool would change jobs for the right opportunity.

Contrary to the local belief that expanding companies would not be able to find enough qualified workers because of historically low unemployment levels, the researchers also found that nearly 18 percent of employed workers were looking for new jobs.

The discovery that the labor pool is large enough to accommodate existing employers who want to expand facilities -- as well as new employers that might come to the area -- inspired Textron Automotive, now Collins & Aikman, to commit to a large plant expansion.

According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, the corporate office of Textron had some reservations about the expansion because of the low employment. The findings in the Docking Institute's 44-page study changed their minds with the proof that there would be enough employees.

The plant expansion is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

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