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The Journal Record [economic development blog] Gray Tsunami

By tim.burg
Tim Burg is Executive Director for the Shawnee Economic Development Foundation. He brings his 39 years of hands-on experience to share a unique perspective and insight into economic development.
Posted: 07:46 AM Monday, April 9, 2012

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If I told you the sky was falling, you would probably think, “Well he’s finally lost it.”  If I told you that we were headed for an economic collapse of biblical proportions, I’m sure you would be highly skeptical and dismay those comments as merely the early morning rants of a person who needs more caffeine.

While its is correct to believe we won’t see and chunks of the upper atmosphere laying around on the ground, we need to sound the alarm bell LOUDER and with more vigor at was is about to hit us.  This weekend I started reading a book by a author that I have a great deal of respect for. His name is Mark Lautman and he like myself is in the economic development profession.  Mark’s book is called, “When Boomers Bail.”  Boomers, you know folks just like you and me.

Mark’s book is a workforce horror story, except it isn’t fiction. It is reality and a pretty good indication of what will happen to a lot of the areas around the nation that are overlooking the number one incentive we have, which is a strong and qualified skilled workforce. Mark basis his thoughts on facts and figures, not hyperbole or voodoo. He hits home the fact that many more of us are going to exit the workplace and there will be less of us to fill those positions and even less of us with the necessary skills to do the jobs we now complete.  When that happens the melt down will start slowly, then reach an unstoppable downward spiral.  Great news for a Monday morning isn’t it.

About seven years ago those who make predictions suggested that the great workforce meltdown would occur in 2010. They offered that we would see huge numbers of shortages and that companies would move to where they could secured available skilled workers.  The reality of a recession derailed that meltdown, but as the economy heats back up, the brutal facts of those shortages are already beginning to show up.  In the book, “When Boomers Bail”, Mark speaks to the inverted labor curve and highlights the facts that we have more skilled workers retiring than we can create and less of a population to fill the long term gaps. Solving that problem won’t be easy, if it is even achievable.  Certainly we might suggest that immigration could offset some of the pending shortages, but so far our political leaders in DC can’t seem to agree what day of the week it is, let alone figure out something as complex as workforce shortages.

Several years ago an economic developer in a community in Northern Oklahoma said, “Those communities that consistently develop a skilled workforce, will be prosperous for decades to come.”   That’s all well and good for those that are able to rally together to try to stem the tide of what will be a massive reduction of workers. But what about those who ignore the alarm bells?  Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee… My suggestion?  Buy the book and make your own conclusions.