Cleveland and Bradley County have announced slightly less than $2.6 billion in growth since February 2009, according to Lisa Pickel, director of Existing Industry Programs for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
In a recent report published by an economic development website, Cleveland ranked fourth among 398 metropolitan statistical areas in the nation for job creation over the past 12 years. The 2013 rankings published by NewGeography.com placed the Cleveland Metropolitan Statistical Area behind Midland, Texas; Odessa, Texas; and Columbus, Ind.
“In 2012, we were ranked 220th. This was based on employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from November 2001 through January 2013. Rankings were based on recent growth trends, mid-term growth, long-term growth and the region’s momentum,” she said. “And for those of you that aren’t aware, Cleveland/Bradley County is ranked eighth out of 95 counties for average annual manufacturing employment.”
Pickel said the companies represented at the luncheon employed 4,790 workers.
In addition, a report by Tennessee Advisory Council on Intergovernmental Relations titled “The Recession and Employment in the U.S. and Tennessee: A Long Road Back to Normal?” stated, “Relatively speaking, the Cleveland area’s recovery has been the strongest over the last year with job growth there of 5.6 percent compared with 1.4 percent statewide. The area lost around one hundred jobs in three sectors (the wholesale and retail trade sectors and the other services sector) but gained 2,300 overall, mostly in the professional and business services sector.”
The report was released by TACIR in May.
The Chamber and 100 industry leaders celebrated with the help of a return speaker who blended light-hearted humor with heavy lessons in leadership, Ronald Harris, director of Workforce Diversity for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. Harris spoke to local business leaders three years ago. Pickel said he was asked to return to the Museum Center at Five Points “by popular demand.”
Harris briefly spoke about “stuff” before opening the floor for questions.
He said one thing that changed since he last spoke is that he spends less time talking about diversity and more about cross-cultural communications and cultural competency, “because those are two vitally important subjects. Your company has no inherent right to exist. The company that you own, the company that you run exists only at the pleasure of the people you call customers and clients, because if they stop coming then you’re out of business.”
The average young person starting work was born in 1993. In the 21st century, leaders must have effective communication talents and “many of us don’t have those because we don’t know how to talk to people. I’m suggesting to you that you need to move from a comfort zone to a zone that’s a little bit uncomfortable so you can be successful.”
Soon there will be five generations in the workplace, Harris said. The oldest generation, born before 1945, talks face-to-face and follows the chain of command. Baby boomers are consensus builders. Texting is the way young people communicate — even in the same room.
Since cursive writing is not taught in school, texting is the writing style of young people.
“So when those young people who were born in 1993 come into your workforce, that’s frustrating to you because they want to text message you as their boss,” he said.
Harris pointed out that foreign cultures are more common in Tennessee now than three years ago, which requires knowing how to communicate.
“It’s important that we communicate effectively because between Chattanooga and Cleveland, there is a place called Volkswagen, and it has impacted both economies. We’ve got to understand the culture,” he said.
According to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, there are more than 3,000 foreign-owned companies in Tennessee. There were 1,500 foreign-owned companies three years ago.
“If you are going to remain in business and remain effective in business, this is what you’ve got to deal with,” he said. “You can no longer afford to be culturally illiterate.”
He said companies must be intentionally inclusive to be successful in the 21st century because the customer base is going to be cross-cultural. If an institution is exclusive, even unintentionally, it probably will not succeed.