May 4, 2016

Beulah, the obvious choice

By Kate Johnson

Mercer County Economic Development swirled with ideas of how to make Mercer County the obvious choice to live when hiring new people.
MCED chairman John Phillips began the meeting by stating the magnitude of evening traffic that hums along Hwy 49, concluding that many people are commuting to bigger cities instead of living in Mercer County.
Wes Gunsch representing Mercer County mentioned that he has spoke to the people who are commuting and they rather live in Bismarck because they have “good eats.” Bigger communities have a variety of restaurants, shopping and night life.
Phillips felt as though it isn’t the night life keeping Mercer County workers in Bismarck, turning the attention to Bill Suter who works Human Resources with Coteau Properties. He asked Suter what it is they communicate to their potential employees in the hiring process.
Suter focused on housing and the fact that this area hasn’t had a lot of it for quite some time. “When you’re recruiting for people and looking for the best people you can get, you make your community the obvious choice for them to live in, you don’t force them to live in it.” says Suter.
Suter mentioned when bringing in new employees they will take them through the downtown districts and capitalized on each town’s amenities.
“You take them around and show them the medical community, schools, your downtown districts and they have to make the choice themselves.” says Suter. Again referencing the housing situation and pointing to the people around him. “For a long time we didn’t have housing available and everybody around this table knows that.” says Suter.
Another comment made that potentially deters  people from living here is the availability for spousal job opportunities and child care. The discussion took a turn onto housing and how today’s generations have different requirements and needs compared to 20 years ago. Mentioning there is no such thing as a “starter home” anymore. People aren’t wanting to live in a trailer home or have an unfinished basement. Having the “I want it all now” attitude.
Commuting isn’t an issue for these workers. Gunsch made the comment when looking at a used car these days it isn’t uncommon to see 150,000 miles on a vehicle that is only a few years old discussing how driving has changed and people can do so much more while spending time in a vehicle.
Suter make the comment that this item has been a topic of discussion ever since he joined the board and is touched on at every meeting. Begging the question that some of these items are out of MCED control. “You can’t change a spouse occupation opportunity, you just can’t.” says Suter.


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