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Getting Workers to Columbus

[imgbelt img=columbus1.jpg]Columbus, Nebraska, has a problem. The rural town has jobs, but it can’t find workers to fill them. Columbus officials have gone on recruiting missions to find new residents, but they’ve discovered that there are reasons people can’t move.


[imgcontainer left] [img:columbus2.jpg] Visiting teachers stand in front of a wind tower section built at Katana Summit, which is trying to hire 100 new welders.

These were skilled people, with talents that are highly sought-after in many places, including Columbus, Nebraska.  As a result of those visits and others, we have learned at least some of the reasons this dichotomy continues to exist in America: the split between tent cities of unemployed and jobs-gone-begging on the Great Plains.  

I would offer a few recurring themes that we heard in small towns in northern Michigan, which you would likely hear in Ohio, Illinois, California, Nevada or other high-unemployment states.

Most often, because many of these folks have been unemployed for a long time they have expended virtually all their resources.  So, if you ask them to fund a move to Nebraska, you might as well ask them to fund a relocation to the moon. The money simply isn’t there.  

The next challenge many of these families faced was owning a home in a market in which, well, the market no longer exists.  If they had managed to hold on to their house, they knew there was no way to sell it and they clearly could not afford just to leave it behind and start paying rent, much less a second mortgage. Job or no job, they weren’t going to leave their unsold, and unsellable, houses.

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