UNION COUNTY — A little girl wearing a pink necklace and holding a toy wand reminds her father not to be late for their tea party. A little boy at home plate getting ready to knock one out of the park asks his dad if he saw him at practice that day. A little girl as bedtime approaches asks her mother if they can read a story.
These questions and the pictures accompanying them are part of the Union County Development Board’s “You Could Be Here!” campaign aimed at convincing the more than 7,400 local residents that commute every day to jobs outside Union County that they don’t have to do that. The campaign seeks to dispel the myths surrounding the local economy, myths that Union County Development Board Executive Director Kathy Jo Lancaster said have created the perception in the minds of the public that there are no high-paying jobs with opportunities for training and advancement in Union County. She said this perception is what leads people to think they must work outside Union County and spend time on the road driving in and out of the county, time that they could be spending with their families if they worked closer to home.
“We’ve been looking at the numbers for the past two years and what we’ve found is we have over 7,400 workers driving outside Union County to work,” Lancaster said. “They are doing this because they believe they have to travel outside the county to get good-paying, highly-skilled jobs, because there aren’t any in Union County.”
Of the 14,098 individuals who work either within or without Union County, Lancaster said 3,763 live and work in Union County; 2,883 live in other counties and commute into Union County; and 7,452 or more than half live in but commute out of Union County to work.
The top five counties for workers who commute into Union County are Spartanburg, Greenville, Cherokee, York, and Newberry.
The top five counties for Union County residents who commute outside the county to work are Spartanburg, Greenville, Cherokee, and Richland counties in South Carolina and Mecklenburg County in North Carolina.
Lancaster said Union County residents are commuting as far as North Carolina to work because they believe the following myths:
• There are no jobs in Union County.
• I am over-qualified for jobs in Union County.
• I do not have the necessary skills; companies will not train workers.
• Employers only hire temporary workers.
• Wages are low.
Lancaster said the “You Could Be Here!” campaign aims to dispel these myths by publicizing the following facts:
• There are jobs in Union County.
• Industries are hiring skilled/technical workers in Union County.
• Companies will train workers through on-the-job training.
• Wages are competitive.
“There are good-paying jobs, highly-skilled jobs in Union County, people just don’t know about them,” Lancaster said. “We want to get the message out that we have high-paying jobs for highly skilled workers in Union County.”
Furthermore, Lancaster said industries in the county are increasingly hiring full-time workers on a permanent basis rather than obtaining temporary workers through a third party.
“We’ve talked to employers and local industries and they are hiring skilled workers and will provide those they see have initiative with on-the-job training and opportunities for advancement,” Lancaster said.” We’ve also see a migration of industries away from temporary workers. They are now hiring workers directly and not on a temporary basis. Furthermore, they are offering wages that are competitive with those offered by employers outside the county.”
Lancaster said the goal of the “You Could Be Here!” campaign is to use social media, billboards, and direct mail to make the public aware of the existence of high-paying jobs for highly skilled workers in Union County and convince those who are working outside the county to consider careers in local industry. She said this will benefit local industry which she said is continuing to grow and creating more high-paying jobs that need to be filled by highly skilled workers who they will hire directly and provide training for. It will also benefit the benefit the county as it will facilitate continued economic growth through the expansion of local industry and increased job creation.
Most of all, however, it will benefit the workers who are now working outside the county and paying the price for doing so, both financially due to the actual cost of commuting outside the county and in terms of time they are unable to spend with their family because they are on the road going to and from work.
“It costs to commute to and from work outside the county, costs that cut into the money they can take home,” Lancaster said. “It also costs them in terms of time they can spend with their families, time they could be spending going to their son’s baseball practice, having a tea party with their daughter or reading their daughter a bedtime story.”
For more information about the “You Could Be Here!” campaign and related issued go to www.workinunion.com.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.