A five-year look at the Obetz Jobs Initiative program

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By Ris Twigg
Staff Writer

Over the past few decades, Obetz has attracted more than 300 employers to its village, causing a labor shortage between residents and local employers.

To help address this issue, Obetz launched a job-matching program in 2014 called the Obetz Jobs Initiative.

The three-part program aims to connect employers in Obetz with good job candidates while simultaneously helping Obetz residents secure and sustain jobs near their homes.

More than 80 percent of Obetz’s revenue comes from income taxes, meaning the village has a financial incentive to increase both the number of jobs in the community and the number of residents in those jobs, according to a 2018 village financial report.

“It’s all geared at making sure that we attract companies to Ohio, and for us specifically Obetz,” said Rod Davisson, economic development director of Obetz. “And we wanted to ensure that Obetz residents had the first crack at those jobs.”

The first part of the Obetz Jobs Initiative is Obetzjobs.com, an online job board. Because of the high number of employment opportunities available, the village widened its recruitment area, allowing both residents and non-residents to submit applications to the site’s job postings free of charge.

Some residents are recruited by Brad Hyslop, a recruiting specialist from InnoSource, Inc., who determines what local employers want in a candidate and connects them with applicants he recruits.

Obetz entered into a public-private partnership with InnoSource, a Dublin-based staffing agency, for $110,000 in 2015 to both cultivate job postings from local employers for the job board and prioritize recruiting Obetz residents for those positions.

In its first operating year (2015-16), the initiative helped more than 70 Obetz residents find jobs in their community, according to a March 2016 ordinance. In 2017 and 2018, the program placed 31 and 49 Obetz residents, respectively, into local opportunities, Hyslop said in an email. Data was not provided for 2016-17.

Only about 60 employers out of the village’s more than 300 participated in the program during both 2017 and 2018. Employers are not required to participate in the program nor are they legally required to hire any Obetz employees.

Although the numerical results may seem small, Davisson still calls each one a success for the community.

“When we started this thing, we said what is the measure of success?” he said. “At the time, what we came down to was if we spend $150,000 in a year — about what it cost us when we started this out — if one person gets a full-time job that lives here in Obetz then its successful. Which we’ve blown past.”

The second part of the initiative brings Obetz’s educators and developers together through a “jobs board” to discuss job trainings, internships and skills educators can teach their students to make them more employable. Meetings are held approximately twice a year.

“Every kid’s path is different, so we try to figure out where those kids want to be and where they can fit into the 20,000 jobs we have here,” Davisson said.

The third part of the Obetz Jobs Initiative addresses an often overlooked but vital component of employment — transportation.

Many workers who ride the COTA bus into Obetz must walk half a mile or more to their job sites because of where the COTA route ends on Alum Creek Drive.

“We didn’t want these folks wandering up and down the streets in the wintertime, so we partnered with Groveport and COTA to create a circulator system,” Davisson said.

The result of the partnership is the Groveport Rickenbacker Employee Access Transit (GREAT) system, which takes riders from their last COTA stop directly to the front door of their employer for free, paid for by Obetz, Groveport and COTA. In September, the circulator celebrated its 100,000th rider.

Even through its successes, Davisson believes there’s more work to be done to improve the Obetz Jobs Initiative. A fourth prong of the program he’d like to expand is the community’s post-secondary options.

“There’s no college campus within our region,” he said. “We would love to change that, whether it be a branch or other types of trainings.”

Davisson wants to better collect, analyze and report back data related to the Obetz Jobs Initiative. He attributes a lack of good data on residents’ employment rates to the fact that the job-matching program isn’t “intrusive,” adding that there’s no formal follow up after a resident submits an application to an employer.

One reason for this is that neither InnoSource nor Obetz can see applicants’ progress once they’ve submitted an application because each position is hired directly through the company, not InnoSource or Obetz, Hyslop, the recruiting specialist, explained in an email.

Today, about four times more people work in Obetz than live there, with the number of residents hovering around 5,000 and those just employed at 20,000.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. And our measuring system has been a C+,” Davisson said. “We’re going to fix that.”

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