The Miami County workforce comes highly rated by employers in productivity and work ethic.

Labor costs in the region are lower on average for most industries, and Miami County’s cost of living is 5 percent below the national average.

Miami County has a high-school attainment rate of 94.2 percent, reflecting the high quality of school systems in the county. Unemployment and poverty rates are some of the lowest in the region.

But companies looking to relocate to Miami County to utilize a strong workforce will face some significant limitations.

The county has an extremely scarce availability of sites and buildings for companies looking to relocate or expand. Buildings that are available are generally suitable for commercial/retail purposes, and “shovel-ready” sites are not available.

Those descriptions of economic development opportunities and barriers are just a few examples found in a more than 280-page interim report produced by Ady Advantage. Economic Development Director Janet McRae and county commissioners reviewed the report during a Wednesday, Feb. 5, study session.

Miami County retained Janet Ady, president and CEO of Ady Advantage, last May to provide economic development consulting services. Her Madison, Wis.-based firm was tasked with completing an economic development competitiveness assessment of the county, summarizing its findings and making recommendations for next steps.

Since her initial visit in early June, Ady Advantage has conducted an assessment of opportunities and barriers through research, on-site observations and community roundtable sessions.

The analysis compared Miami County to Johnson, Franklin, Linn and Anderson counties in Kansas as well as Cass and Bates counties in Missouri. It also gleaned data from the Kansas City metropolitan statistical area which includes Miami County.

Miami County, with a population of 33,800, offers the standard mix of financing and incentives, which McRae said should be listed prominently on communities’ websites.

Ady Advantage conducted stakeholder interviews and roundtables in each of the main communities, as well as a countywide discussion. Participants included local business representatives, education institutions, city and county officials, economic development partner organizations and others.

The report notes stakeholders identified key issues that need addressing including infrastructure and workforce development and the expansion of broadband. Participants also noted the need for more housing in all the communities.

“Referencing the resistance to growth within segments of the communities, many stakeholders also identified the need to develop a shared vision for growth, as well as creating a regional identity that communities can rally around and support,” according to the Ady Advantage interim report.

Some of those stakeholders have been invited to participate in a Feb. 25 workshop that focuses on the interim report.

The interim report includes regional demographic comparisons; regional industry and occupation summaries; stakeholder summaries; opportunities, barriers and incentives; and a targeted industry review.

The full interim report can be found on Miami County’s website, miamicountyks.org, in the Board of County Commissioners’ agenda center. It’s attached to the Feb. 5 study session agenda. Readers should note this is a draft copy which will be revised and polished before the final report is released.

News Editor Doug Carder can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or doug.carder@miconews.com.

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