State celebrates Clay County earning Certified Work Ready Community status

August 2, 2016

CLAY COUNTY, Mo. – Gov. Jay Nixon today was at iWerx, a co-working space in North Kansas City, to congratulate leaders in Clay County for being designated a Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC). The Governor said Clay County’s successful efforts to strengthen its workforce training program and certify its workers will help attract and support growing companies by connecting them with a pipeline of talent.

“Through programs like the CWRC, communities are expanding the skills of their local workforce to take on next-generation jobs that are being created throughout the state,” Gov. Nixon said. “Missouri is leading the Midwest in manufacturing growth and the country in new business creation. I congratulate economic development and education leaders here in Clay County as they work to attract and retain more jobs and more workers to this community.”

In 2012, Missouri was selected as one of the first four states to participate in the Certified Work Ready Communities initiative by American College Testing (ACT). The initiative aligns workforce training programs with the economic development needs of communities; matches appropriate applicants to jobs based on skill level; and strengthens businesses by strengthening the workforce.

By participating in the Certified Work Ready Communities initiative, Clay County is:

Helping workers understand what skills are required by employers, and how to prepare themselves for success;
Helping businesses effectively communicate their workforce needs to area education and workforce training programs;
Providing educators with the tools needed to close the skills gap by establishing career pathways for students with stackable industry-recognized credentials; and
Equipping economic development organizations with an on-demand reporting tool to promote the quality of their workforce.

Jasper County, Missouri was named the first Certified Work Ready Community in the nation, and Missouri has 78 counties that are actively participating in the Certified Work Ready Community initiative and 34 fully certified counties.

Through this initiative, ACT has also awarded more than 77,000 National Career Readiness Certificates to workers in Missouri, including more than 6,445 certificates to Missouri veterans. National Career Readiness Certificates are accepted by more than 10,000 employers nationwide to verify individuals’ work skills.

Today’s event took place at iWerx, a 33,000 sq. ft. facility where entrepreneurs will soon be able to access services and support to grow their business. Once the building is complete at the end of this month, iWerx will be the largest co-working space in Kansas City, offering 38 offices four conference rooms and event center.

“We’re thrilled and thankful that Gov. Nixon could tour iWerx today,” said John F. Miller, iWerx managing partner. “His visit reflects our shared support for small business and innovation, the heart of economic and community development.”

iWerx was made possible through a community partnership between the North Kansas City Business Council and the Clay County Economic Development Council. The facility is one of many community efforts to spur entrepreneurism and attract talent. The Clay County EDC recently formed the Northland Angel Investor Network to provide capital build up capital for small businesses to access and commercialize their products and services. In addition, EDC’s efforts will soon lead to a new facility for Missouri Science Technology College in nearby Gladstone.

“Earning the CWRC certification is a big step for us. The program helps our young people better prepare to enter the workforce and helps our companies get the talent they need to stay competitive in the global economy,” said Jerry Hickey, owner of Express Employment Professionals and co-chairman of the Northland Education and Business Alliance. “To further this movement, our organizations continue to have ongoing dialogues with business and education leaders.”

For the second consecutive month, the Mid-America Business Conditions Index survey recently reported that the state’s Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) is the highest index compared to Midwestern states west of the Mississippi. Missouri’s PMI in June was 54.0 percent, topping the national average, which was 50.1 percent for the month. A state’s PMI measures the economic health of the manufacturing sector using a combination of factors like new orders, production, supplier delivery times, backlogs, inventories, prices, employment, import orders and export. Any PMI figure over 50 represents an expansion in the manufacturing sector.

Additionally, data released by the U.S. Census Bureau and analyzed by the Kauffman Foundation show that there were 1,293 more businesses created in Missouri in 2013 (the most recent year for which data is available) than in 2012, an increase of more than 16 percent. Over the same time period, 39 states saw a decrease in new business creation. Of the states that did see an increase in the number of new businesses, Missouri outperformed them dramatically – experiencing a bigger growth in new business creation than all ten of those states combined.

Since 2010, Missouri employers have created more than 100,000 jobs, cutting the unemployment rate in half (4.5 percent in June 2016) and helping to keep it below the national average for the past two years.

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