Cathryn Michie, CPA
Chief financial officer, Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board Inc., Harrisonburg
What local industry/sector do you think has potential for growth?
The advanced manufacturing sector, in terms of both employment and wages, as manufacturers continue to improve their efficiency through the use of automation. Growing up, I remember visiting my dad when he worked at a General Electric plant. The manufacturing plants today look nothing like that plant; they are significantly cleaner, sleek and highly automated.
What’s the biggest challenge to doing business in your area?
The mismatch of skills between the individuals looking for employment and the skills required for the job openings. To overcome this, our organization assists businesses with work-based learning, prescreening and recruitment, creation of apprenticeship programs, soft-skills training to address the lack of basic work skills and workforce upskilling.
What impact would a recession have on businesses in your area?
Some businesses would struggle with weak cash flows and declining profitability. Those that continue to invest while looking forward rather than focusing solely on cost cutting will be the most successful during times of economic downturns. All businesses should have a recession plan in place to focus on the future health of the organization.
What are the top two factors that have had the biggest impact on attracting business to your region?
The availability of a skilled workforce is the top factor; the region has embraced providing funding for training and skills development that aligns the needs of the businesses with the needs of individuals to ensure a pathway for career development. The second factor is the proximity to transportation, as the region is well connected to the U.S. and international markets.