Economic forum draws attention to low incomes in county

An economic and demographic snapshot of Mohave County presented to community leaders Wednesday highlighted lower than average wages paid area workers and limited post high school education of the workforce.

The Arizona Department of Commerce (DOC) economic study found 30 percent of the Arizona workforce has a community college, 4-year college or advanced degree.

Just 15.5 percent of the employees in the Mohave County workforce have any kind of post high school degree.

The industry wages in Mohave County are below average in most kinds of employment.

The average wage in Arizona for all jobs is $32,610 per year according to Federal Bureau of Labor statistics.

Mohave County figures were given by the kind of industry, all lower than that state average.

In Mohave County, workers average annual earnings were from a high of $30,600 per year in fabrication of metal products to a low of $13,693 at gasoline stations.

Mohave County District 1 Supervisor Pete Byers said the presentation gave an accurate picture of the county demographics and issues that need to be addressed.

"Education beyond high school to upgrade the workforce is a need that must be met," Byers said.

"Mohave Community College has key resources and a strong desire to help."

Byers was encouraged by the large turnout of city and county people, the interest of leaders throughout the county and the open communication at the meeting.

"We need to take a regional approach for successful economic development," he said.

"Today, we made a step toward that goal."

District 2 Supervisor Tom Sockwell agreed with Byers on the need for a regional approach.

"I think we should locate interested businesses anywhere they want to be in Mohave County," he said.

"A rising tide raises all boats.

If a company locates in Golden Valley rather than the I-40 corridor, that company still helps everyone."

Sockwell said the study by DOC highlighted the deficiencies in the education of the local workforce that is tied to the lower than average wages.

The DOC study done by Elliot D.

Pollack Co.

identified the industrial machinery and light manufacturing sector and the transportation and logistics sector as strengths in Mohave County.

The county industrial and manufacturing base is stronger than most rural areas of Arizona.

Future economic opportunities would likely build on those sectors.

Higher wages in those sectors would come with better education of the workforce.

Tom Belshe, deputy director of DOC, said money is available at DOC for job training to increase the education of the Mohave County workforce.

"The money is targeted for current workers to improve their skills," Belshe said.

"These programs are employer driven."

His comment indicated that the current workforce could increase skills, earn more money and encourage higher paying manufacturers to come here.

Byers said MCC is anxious to work with economic development efforts in Mohave County and increase the educational level of the local workforce.

Carol Anderson, former county supervisor and former Kingman mayor said MCC is a good resource for economic development both in education and facilities.

"MCC is present in all three major population centers and in a position to help upgrade job training," she said.

"That could help Mohave County recruit cleaner, higher tech manufacturing."

Hospitals and health care jobs may have been under reported in the economic study, Belshe said after comments from the attendees.

"We employ 900 at Kingman Regional Medical Center," Dave French, Kingman city councilman and businessman said.

"Some of the best paying jobs are in hospitals."

Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City have regional hospitals with similar high tech, well-paid jobs.

The regional approach to economic development would have to overcome some hurdles, according to comments from the discussion group.

A regional approach would depend on ways to go beyond traditional divisions between the county and the three major cities.

Belshe said that is not a problem unique to Mohave County and can be overcome with communication and partnerships.

The Kingman meeting was part of the DOC outreach to rural areas while planning a statewide economic development strategy for Arizona.

Belshe said the plan would go to the newly elected governor in December.

"We need to hear from you at the local level to target Mohave County needs," he said.

"Information sources are best direct from you."