“Develop This!” is a leading, national economic development podcast hosted by Jason Hutcheson and Dennis Fraise, who are both experts in economics and have their CEcD certifications. The podcast serves as a platform upon which any and every aspect of economic development can be discussed by the hosts, guests, and the community of developers across the U.S. Because of this, our very own Jason Long got to sit down with fellow Jason, Hutcheson, and discuss the labor market, and how Sensible Surveys aims to help stabilize it.
If you would like to listen to the podcast or read the transcript, both are included below.
In summary, however, host Jason Hutcheson leads off with a simple, to-the-point explanation of Efficient Market Theory, which states, basically, that the more information that is known about a particular good or service, the more stable or efficient its price or utilization will be. Hutcheson uses the price of gasoline as an example – it is a known entity: we know what it is, how its pricing works, where to get the best prices, etc. And, basically, gas is gas. Companies may advertise “special” blends, but at the end of the day, it’s gas. This is an “efficient” market.
Inefficient markets are things like the housing market. Between the various floorplans, locations, histories, and so on, no two houses are the same. As Hutcheson says, “you can’t just drive by and instantly know everything about [a] house”. Similarly, in the labor market, there is no foolproof way to know everything about the candidates for a given position, least of all what makes them ‘tick’. There is, of course, no super-solution for hiring to help managers get a better read on their potential employees, but there are ways to improve retention.
The labor market is a market like any other: if you want the best employees, you need to be willing to pay for them. When workers hear about a similar position that is providing better pay or benefits, many of them won’t hesitate to jump ship in order to improve their standing. This leaves the employer having to deal with the need to replace lost workers (risking wasting time and money training workers who won’t stay long or who won’t be a good fit) or forcing existing workers to pick up the slack (which increases the risk of those workers bailing, as well). Either way, the business incurs risk when good employees leave.
Competitive Wage & Benefits
The best course of action for a business is to invest in maintaining a competitive wage and benefits package. But what is competitive? It’s not great for the bottom line to overdo it, either. This is where Sensible Surveys can make a difference, as the Jasons discuss in the podcast, and as this blog will highlight in the coming weeks and months.
Hutcheson: Hello everyone and thank you for tuning into another episode. This is Jason. Before I introduce today’s guest, I want to talk to you a little bit about, well, kind of a dumbed-down version of Efficient Market Theory. So, let’s talk for just a second about what makes a market efficient and maybe what makes a market inefficient. So, let’s take, for example, gasoline. So, for all intents and purposes, despite what those marketing companies tell you, most gasoline on the market is pretty similar, right? You can drive down a highway and you’ll pass six, seven, eight gas stations. Most of them will tend to have the same prices, at least in my neck of the woods. That’s really because consumers have pretty good information on it, right?
You drive by, the price of it is 2.63 per gallon and the station next door to it is 2.75 per gallon. In your perception, they’re relatively similar product, you’re going to go to the one that’s cheaper probably because it appears as though it’s a commodity product, not many differences between the products. The sellers know what the price points are out there for their competition, and you as the consumer knows what the price points are. So, you’re probably going to go to the one that’s relatively similar but less expensive. That’s kind of an example of an efficient market. Lot of information out there, lot of choices out there. The consumer can make good decisions because they have a lot of information.
Another efficient market is — let’s take the stock market. Now there can be some debate on whether or not the stock market is efficient, but you’ve got stocks out there. There’s a lot of publicly available information on it, right? News releases are out there. People can’t put out secret information even via Twitter or anything like that. Elon Musk got in trouble for that, but you get a lot of information out there. A lot of buyers, lot of sellers, and so when the price of a stock is out there, a lot of people have a lot of information and so it’s pretty good. You don’t have huge variations of a stock selling at the exact same period of time because those parties kind of come together and negotiate that, but you can trust that to, let’s say, real estate, as an example.
Real estate is a little less efficient. Yeah, there are quite a few. Let’s take an example of if you’re home shopping. There are a lot of houses on the market, but you can’t just drive by and instantly know everything about that house. Even if you go on something like Zillow, which has attempted to improve the data out there on real estate, you still sometimes have to walk in the house because maybe there’s an odor that you don’t like. You can’t see that on an Internet report.
Maybe there are things hidden between the walls or maybe there’s mold on the carpet or you really have to get inside the house. You can’t just drive by on a highway and look at six or seven houses and know specifically what you should pay for that. Then you have the problem of trying to do the comparison for, “Well, is this house worth 300,000 or is it worth 280 or is it worth 220 or is it worth 350? I don’t really know. I can try to do some comparisons. I can try to get an appraisal, but it takes a lot of work to get the data on that real estate. So, sometimes real estate is a less efficient market because the data is harder to find, it’s maybe not reliable and you’ve got to, first-hand, go look for that.
There aren’t necessarily as many buyers and sellers for a particular home at a given point in time as there might be for buyers of gasoline, or as there might be for buyers of various stocks and mutual funds out there. So, that presents some challenges in an inefficient market. There’s another inefficient market, and this is really the core of our conversation today, but it’s around labor and you think about that for a minute.
Yes, there are a number of jobs out there, right? There are thousands of various career opportunities out there, but I, as an individual, I can’t just get any job. I might not be qualified. I can’t just become a surgeon, right? There are certain qualifiers that I have to have before I can get that. As an employer, yes, you can get a name on a resume, but that doesn’t necessarily tell you what kind of a worker that person’s going to be. Even if they’ve got a detailed resume, even if they’ve passed assessments, you still may not know what makes that person tick. Will they show up on time? What would they be willing to come to your place of business for on a wage perspective?
So, there’s a lot of information out there that makes the labor market fairly inefficient. Then of course, it’s not necessarily easy to change jobs. It’s easier today than it used to be. But you know, would you switch jobs for 25 cents an hour more? Well maybe, maybe not. Would you do it for $20 an hour more? Well, maybe, maybe not. Right? So, it depends on the individual. Then the individual has to determine what is that supervisor going to be good that I’m going to work for, and how do you know that? That’s really hard to know from a job advertisement, right?
Or what’s the culture of that place of business and will I be a good fit for it? You really don’t know that until you do the interview, maybe do a tour of the operation. Even then, you may not know until you’ve been there 90 days or six months. So, that makes the labor market fairly inefficient. So, in a market where we have imperfect data and in a market that’s fairly inefficient, how can we extrapolate more data? How can we compile that data? How can we look at that to make better decisions from an employer end in terms of what kind of wage and benefits package should I offer? What kind of a culture change should we do here?
Then from the employee side, what can I learn more about that company? How can I ascertain whether or not it will be a good fit for me, both personally and professionally? So, here today, to answer all of these questions is my good friend, Jason Long. Jason, with that setup, welcome to the podcast.
Long: Thank you so much. I was getting excited just listening to you talk about labor markets.
Hutcheson: Yeah, so we have this cliff hanger, Jason, where you’re going to solve all of the world’s problems as it relates today. Jason, as you know, my colleagues in this economic development business all across the country are struggling with workforce, right? I’ve never been to a conference where someone says, “We have all of the workforce things, all of the labor issues in our market solved.” So, this is a huge issue across the country and we want to dig into your background a little bit. You’re doing some really cool things to help communities and to help employers get better data. But why don’t you kind of just give us a brief introduction of yourself, kind of what’s your background? What are some of the things your company’s working on?
Long: Oh, man. So we have a portfolio of technology businesses. Been doing this now for just about 20 years. I can’t believe it’s been that long. It’s kind of crazy. Over that time, we’ve launched a whole ton of different businesses in a, man, for all sorts of stuff. Everything from economic development to trade show management to development tools to — a bunch of different things. Let’s see, I got started right in college starting my first business there and actually got kicked out of the business school because my GPA dropped too low because I was running a business and I had to finish out in the Arts and Sciences School because of that.
Hutcheson: So, you’re the classic technology entrepreneur kind of guy, huh?
Long: I guess so, yeah. I guess so, that would be a good definition.
Hutcheson: So, I know you got this diversified portfolio of companies. Some serve the economic development business, but you’re not exclusive to the economic development industry either, right? You serve kind of a variety of different markets out there.
Long: Yeah. So when we first got that business started in 2000 we built a digital agency, and the digital agency at the time was focused on marketing but over the years moved more and more and more into software as a service development. These days, most of our work is in software as a service development for mid-market companies. So, we’re building my business, JH Media Group, builds SaaS platforms for large international businesses.
Hutcheson: So, really, you know, you’ve got this wide variety and I think that’s helpful when you have a diversified look at the world, right? Because you’re not siloed into one particular business or industry. You’re really across a number of them. But really the thing that is helpful to our discussion today is something that you created called Sensible Surveys. I don’t want to go too far into that right now, but can you just give us kind of a teaser on what is Sensible Surveys and what’s the overall goal and vision for that component of your company?
Long: So, one of the biggest problems we’ve seen working with economic developers, which, by the way, we started, I forgot this in my previous part, we started that working with economic developers like 2003 maybe, something like that. It was a while ago. Something that we’ve seen over all of these years is this really running these wage and benefits surveys is a giant pain. It’s really, really difficult for people to efficiently run these surveys. They either have to hire a consultancy to do it or they have to hire somebody at their company, in their department do it. So, that’s what we aim to solve. We wanted to make it easy for economic developers to run wage and benefits surveys.
Hutcheson: So, let’s talk about some of this imperfect data that’s out there in the labor market. I know that you’re a student of economics out there, so you probably painfully listened through my butchering of Efficient Market Theory. But what is some of the data that’s out there that is available for employers and for consumers as it relates to maybe careers out there and then what’s missing?
Long: Okay. There’s a lot of stuff that is out there. I was actually on the phone with somebody from the Carl Vinson Institute on Economic Development yesterday, just to make sure that I knew what was and was not, the guts of what was and was not out there. But there’s a ton out there. It’s different across different states and you’ve got information like averages on regions, on different kinds of wages for for all different SOC codes.
So, you can look at an individual and what they’re doing and tell for the most part in a region how much money they’re making. However, we were specifically looking yesterday at southeastern Georgia and you can check on a forklift driver’s wages in Athens … Not Athens, in Savannah versus … In Savannah and in St Mary’s, which is a rural town in south Georgia. But you can’t tell the difference. You can’t take a look and say, “What’s a forklift driver’s wage in St Mary’s and what’s the forklift driver’s wage in Savannah?” At least not very easily.
But then on top of that, you also can’t get things, at least not to my knowledge, you can’t get things like how much of that pay was in bonuses or commissions. Is there a career track for that job in a particular region? What are the comparisons between days off and paid time off in different sub-regions. What are the comparisons on health benefits and you know, is there 25 cents an hour or $20 per hour difference in pay between two different factories? You can’t tell those things.
Hutcheson: You know, I’ve at least felt very fortunate to have done economic development in the state of Iowa because the state of Iowa is pretty proactive in gathering labor market information. They’ve got a whole labor market analytics team that is really dedicated just to the economic development industry. So, we collect a lot of good data and we’ll do the kind of the wage surveys and then sometimes we’ll do the benefit surveys.
However, it’s not always the best data and that’s not a knock on it. Sometimes they have to just go by what’s available out there. But you know, we might get a, let’s say, an example of a wage and information sheet for occupations, an occupational categories within advanced manufacturing as an example. We may have, let’s take a sheet metal worker as an example, and there could be a wage range on that person from $14.31 for a starting wage, to $34.98 cents to a high wage. Well, that is a really, really big variation in pay.
So, as a new employer coming to the area or even one looking to revamp their schedule, that almost isn’t helpful because that’s such a wide band. I mean you’re talking about a band of maybe 150% or so, and so that’s not necessarily helpful. Then you’re kind of generalizing across some industries. So, while it can be helpful, I don’t know how much I would encourage people to rely on that data. So, what are your thoughts behind kind of data accuracy and the ability by which we can make business decisions based upon that?
Long: So, it really, as you pointed out before, really is state by state. Different states have substantially more or less information as far as I’ve seen. And obviously the more information, the better. I’ve seen multiple times now where, you know, a new employer’s coming in to meet with an economic developer, and they’d pull out their giant book of all the wages that they should be paying and what they think they should have. Then the economic developer pulls out their book and they kind of sit down and compare, you know, “Okay, well, you know, the sheet metal worker, this is what we think we should be paying.” And the other side says, “Yeah, we’ve got the same number,” or, “No, we don’t have the same number.”
I think a lot of times it’s, “No, we don’t have the same number. Okay, why don’t we have that same number? What’s going on? What is the difference? Where’s the variation?” Then figuring out all of that information, that can be … If you’re depending on data from the government, which may or may not be once a year, maybe less often than once a year, it can be really difficult. It can make those negotiations really, really frustrating.
You know, you could have really great employers wanting to come into an area and if they can’t find the data they’re looking for, you know, they’re gonna be pushing away from there. So, I think that it’s, you know, having that information is absolutely critical. Having a system to get you that hyper-local information is also really, really critical.
Hutcheson: Well, that is a good point, right? Because at the end of the day, many of the folks that make decisions when it comes to location, they’re looking for risk reduction, right? Of course, it might work in your community. It might work in the community over here, but what’s the reduction of our risk? How certain are we that we’re going to be able to pull from the labor pool and that we’re going to be able to do so within budget? I mean, if we’re off on our proposed labor budget by 50% someone’s going to get canned over that. I mean, someone’s going to get in really hot water about that.
I’m curious, Jason, from your perspective of how much do benefits play into this conversation? Because I think when people Google “What’s the average salary for X, Y, Z job?” When they’re looking at switching careers or maybe going to work for a particular company, what they can best find is maybe what that salary range is. But are consumers being, are they discerning when it comes to the benefits as well or does that come later in on the process or are companies paying enough attention to the benefits? I’m curious on your take from the benefit piece.
Long: Yeah. Absolutely, 100%. In fact, I was talking to some economic developers in Georgia recently and they said they were like one location had a couple more days of paid time off than another one and all of a sudden everybody was leaving and they couldn’t figure out why. They had no idea what was going on. I’m sure you see this with HR managers all over the place. They have so many roles to manage, so many variables to manage and you know, they’re looking for this stuff, they know what’s going on within their businesses and the first thing they do a lot of times is get on the phone and start calling their peers in the region and saying, “Hey, look, did you all make any changes? What’s going on? Oh, you’re offering and another day off, okay.”
Well, you know, the guys on the factory floor, they know, oh, you know, they’re talking to their buddies and they’re like, “Oh, I’m getting more time off if I go work over here?” You know, in some businesses, definitely, absolutely not all businesses, but in some businesses people jump ship 10 cents an hour or one more day off, which I think is also … That lends a lot of insight into the business as well with people willing to do that but that’s a whole other conversation. But yeah, it’s a huge thing. It’s so hard for HR managers to keep up with this stuff. It’s much more difficult for economic developers to keep up with this stuff, and it’s absolutely a huge critical piece of the entire puzzle.
Hutcheson: You know, I think you hit on that in terms of changing cultural norms that time off is becoming more and more valuable. In fact, you know, I think in general folks are willing to accept less money in exchange for more time off. At least that’s what I’m hearing out there in the field. Even that is difficult to compare because you’ve got some companies that utilize vacation time and then personal time and then sick time and then others that bundle that into PTO. So, that is, that is a lot to discern from.
Is there a way to get better data on what the market’s doing out there? Then the follow up to that is, how willing are companies to share this information? Do they view their own benefits plans as proprietary information that they don’t want to tell the competition? Or are they willing to share in the pursuit of better and more efficient data out there? I mean this is really complex and I’m getting some anxiety just thinking about this, Jason.
Long: So, I would actually say not only are businesses willing to give that data in order to get the broader range of data from all of their local regional peers, but they will pay to give that data. There are a number of different economic development departments I’ve talked to where they charge 500, $1,000 to their local businesses just to take the survey — just to take it — just so that they can get that data back.
Hutcheson: They will pay to take the survey.
Long: They’ll pay to take the survey and not only will they pay to take just a little survey, they’re paying to take a survey that is hundreds and hundreds of questions long. That is in-depth and complicated and the way that some of these consultancies are doing things and so many of these other groups are doing things. It’s also frustrating to take these tests sometimes or take these surveys sometimes. So, they’ll spend days and days entering the data and pay to do it. So yeah, I mean obviously not every business is going to jump right on with that, but the bigger businesses with lots of employees, they are absolutely highly incentivized to do that.
Hutcheson: You know, if you stepped back from this and look at it in the context, I don’t think employers out there, they’re not trying to one up each other necessarily in terms of, “All right, I’m always going to offer one more day of PTO than everyone else,” or, “I’m always going to be 7% higher than the average median salary for these occupations.” But I think in general it’s more about looking at the total package that’s out there and at the end of the day, comparing what is the package that we offer employees from culture, from advancement opportunity, from wages, from benefits, and how do we compare with others out there because they can’t change those things on a dime all the time.
But they do need to have some context for, okay, over the next five years in order for us to remain competitive, what are some of those things that we need to put on the to-do list or on our priority list over time? So, it is a little more holistic and we don’t want to dumb this down to the point where if you simply just change your wage by X, Y, Z, you’ll be fine, because that’s not how it works. But it is about looking at the whole package. I think you’re right, the data that is put out by the Department of Labor, it doesn’t capture that full picture. It covers almost just enough to be dangerous with, right?
Long: Yep. Yeah. I mean the Department of Labor stuff, they have great stuff. Those guys do a really, really good job but they’re collecting huge amounts of data from tons and tons and tons of businesses all over the U.S. It’s a massive job. It’s really kind of unbelievable how much work they actually do and how much great data they do get. But since it’s such a massive job, it’s really, really hard to get really specific local data and deliver it in a way that, you know, specifically economic developers and those businesses and employers need it coming in on the local level.
Hutcheson: Well, so let’s talk about that: what is the role or what could be the role of the local economic development profession? Because I can tell you in the trenches every single day, you know, an economic developer almost doesn’t want to answer the phone, open their email or leave their office because someone’s going to beat them over the head about workforce. I mean, it’s a daily struggle in our communities. What can be the role of the local economic developer in helping to collect, analyze, distribute, disseminate relevant data that that can actually make a difference to employers?
Long: So, at the moment, it’s really different across the U.S. I’m not in every single state and so I can’t tell you specifics of every different place. But I know that in some places they have those dedicated people at their departments that all they do full-time is wage and benefits. That’s their entire full-time job. The metropolitan areas, many of the Metropolitan areas I’ve talked to they have those people or those, in some cases, those teams of people that are just doing that one piece.
In the more rural areas, man, some of them struggle with it. They struggle with it so hard because they take a look and they go, “Well, you know, we don’t have a budget for a high dollar consultancy to come and do this. We’ve got some local people that can do it and some of them, some of the local guys who are really, really good and some of them are not as good.” But there’s no easy way to do it, which was why we wanted to do this. This is exactly the problem that we were trying to solve is making this easy.
Hutcheson: Yes, so let’s talk about this a little bit, kind of going back to what we opened with was Sensible Surveys. Just remind us, what is Sensible Surveys? What are you trying to accomplish with this and how can it be applied at the local level?
Long: So, it is, once again, the problem was making the wage and benefits surveys easy. The problem is, is that you send these huge surveys out to people and in some cases if you haven’t done it before, you don’t necessarily know exactly what everybody’s going to think about your questions or if they’re going to understand exactly how they need to be put together. You know, getting people to fill them out is a problem because you have to call them back up, remind them, you know, remind them again, remind them again, remind them again.
Hutcheson: Been there, man. Absolutely, I totally get it. Yep.
Long: Yep. Then you have to tally all the data and you have to run the analysis on everything, and that’s really time-consuming. Even if you got everything perfectly put into a spreadsheet and it’s all right there, you’re still going to have all sorts of questions, all sorts of problems. It takes a reasonable amount of time to do that. Then somebody has to go in and, most of the time, in the U.S. what we’ve seen is that they put them into big, giant, 500-page books with all the data compiled there.
Then, oh, you also have things like “Safe Harbor.” You have to make sure that you can’t infer, easily infer what business put what data in. So, some people know about that and some, I found that some economic development departments don’t know about that, but you have to incorporate things like that.
So, this system, what it does is it just makes all that easy. It’s an automated system. You put in, you choose which survey you want to use, you can edit that survey. You pick the people that you want to send it out to. You press a button, it sends it out to everybody. It reminds them depending upon how far along they are in the survey or if they’ve accepted the invite, et cetera. It reminds them over and over and over again to keep on doing it. It reminds them of the close date and then it’s also really easy to use.
We put in place things like branching logic. That’s really simple. If you say yes to this or no to that, it gives you some more questions instead of what we see on those word docs that people send out where it says like if you said, you know, “If you answered yes to this or a number three to this thing, then skip the next three questions,” and blah blah, blah. Ours just does all that for you. Then at the end when the survey’s closed, it just automatically compiles everything for you. It puts everything in. It auto chooses graphs for you. It puts the data into a nice web-based dashboard where you can distribute that to all of your people, all the survey takers, or you can sell that to other groups that want to come in or you can use it for new employers coming into a region.
Hutcheson: The way that I kind of understand this, Jason, is an economic development group, if they decide they kind of want to go down this road and get better labor data for their market, they can get a license agreement or they can subscribe, or I’m not sure what the proper terminology is, but they sign an agreement with Sensible Surveys to conduct that and then they can even turn around and charge their local employers to participate in that.
Part of the methodology behind doing that is sometimes people place more value on something that they pay for. If it’s just another survey, you may not get the HR person to dedicate half a day to fill it out or whatever it takes. But if you get the top-level person there on board with filling this out and the company pays to participate in, well that kind of increases the threshold by which they’re going to take this thing seriously. In fact, it could get to the point where it not only pays for that licensing agreement but it could potentially turn into a revenue source for the economic development group. Do I understand that correctly?
Long: Absolutely, and there are multiple groups we’ve talked to where this kind of thing is actually a big revenue source for them. You know, the more the larger metropolitan areas or just outside of the metropolitan areas where they have a lot of industry, this can be a fair-sized chunk of revenue for them.
Hutcheson: So, it certainly can be a self-funded labor market information program, potentially even a revenue source kind of depending upon the broad buy-in of that. This is very fascinating, and Jason, you had the opportunity before the show to kind of walk me through the system and show me how it works. The technology’s pretty cool yet it’s also simplified in that it’s not overly complicated to use. So that’s what I like because you’re right, data analysis sometimes it can just, it can hurt the brain because I’ve got to figure out what’s the data I’m collecting, how do I interpret that? Then how do I design graphs and charts to tell the story either that I have a preconceived notion about or that I’m trying to objectively look at … I mean we have a lot of problems with interpreting data, don’t we?
Long: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. That’s a whole other podcast right there.
Hutcheson: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, one of the things that we wanted to announce because Develop This! is all about this crowdsourced, a peer-driven network where we share best practices and tools. We love this system on Sensible Surveys. We’re actually co-hosting a webinar, Jason, with you where people can kind of see the system, they can kind of test drive it, see exactly what that dashboard looks like, see how the technology works on that.
So, we’re going to be launching that webinar on July 18th, it’s going to be at 10:00 AM Central time on July 18th. We’re going to have a link to that so you can sign up and register for that in the show notes. As kind of a special offer just for Develop This! listeners, Jason is offering a promo code where if you sign up to utilize Sensible Surveys before July 26, you’re going to get a discount on that licensing agreement. Is that what we call it? A licensing agreement?
Long: That’s good enough. Yeah.
Hutcheson: So, that’s just exclusively forward Develop This! listeners. So, to find out more information about this, click on the link in the show notes, get registered for that webinar. What else can folks expect on that webinar, Jason?
Long: So, I’ll be answering all sorts of questions on, you know, how to use the system, but then also I would love to collect some more information on what other economic developers around the U.S. would love to see added to the system. Building software is my company’s background and so when there’s things that people say, “Hey, what about this?” We’re like, “Oh, I didn’t think about that.” You know, obviously we haven’t talked to such a broad audience as what you guys talk to. So, I would love to get more notes on it. We’ve talked to a lot of people at this point and it’s a really robust system. But man, the more information we can get, the better. The more we can build it, the better we can build it, the better.
Hutcheson: Yeah, and that’s what I love. You show me some of the back end where you make this a dynamic survey, right? So, it can change the tool changes and even some of the information that you could collect changes. This is really designed for economic development groups to do kind of on an annual basis because that data, it changes. If you can refresh that and update that on an annual basis, then you can see the adjustments in the marketplace over time, which can be really helpful, right? I mean, if nothing else, it tells people it’s urgent, right? If you’re facing the workforce crisis, it is very urgent that you look at your overall package that you’re offering folks and you move quickly on that. Otherwise, you can be a couple of years behind the competition.
Long: Yeah. I mean not just the workforce as a whole, but something that we have a lot of people interested in doing now is sending out different kinds of surveys, different wage and benefit surveys to different industries in their region. So, you know, maybe they’re going to have one on restaurants, one for manufacturers, one for engineering firms. We’re talking to some groups in Alabama that have lots, you know, up in Huntsville that have lots of engineers, and they were and were saying, “Oh, we just need something just for these guys.”
It’s the kind of system that can be modified, or not “modified”, but can be set up to send out to all of these different groups and modify the questions for these different groups. So, it’s, yeah, so you can get hyper-local and you can get not just yearly, but, theoretically, you can run this multiple times per year.
Hutcheson: So, as kind of the last question for you, I guess, if I’m an economic developer perhaps in a smaller area and I’m thinking about this, I may only have let’s say 25 to 40 primary-sector companies in my geographic area that I serve. What kind of a participation rate or how many companies do I need to get to participate in this, where at the end of the day that data is useful and relevant? I mean, surely I don’t need hundreds of folks to participate, right?
Long: Yep. So that’s a great question. That’s a really, really great question. The first question was about participation. The thing that shocked me the most when we first started using the system to run these surveys was how many people actually filled it out. Because when we first started doing this, I knew a little bit about this. This was years ago. This is the third iteration, by the way, of the system. This is not our first Rodeo. But on our first iteration where I didn’t understand wages and benefits as much, I was shocked by how many people actually filled the thing out. It just blew my mind and I didn’t realize, I didn’t understand the incentive that these businesses had.
So, I would say they had, in some cases between, oh gosh, I think the first year we had something like 50% of people fill it out, which I don’t remember exactly how many. Then the next year was like 75%, and given the size of the survey and the fact that those first two iterations of software is not nearly as good as it is now, there were bugs, there were problems, there were all sorts of other things going on in there. But the first couple of years, it was really shocking how many people filled it out for me. Then to answer your second question, how many are necessary for safe harbor? We need five. I think that you should have a lot more than that, but I would say-
Hutcheson: Only five employers to make the survey worth doing.
Long: Yeah, according to, you know … I mean there are some variables in there. It depends on what kind of sector and you know, like if you’re just in one sector, yeah, I would say five would be reasonable. I would think it should be more, but you could make it work with that. But you know, most places are not going to be five. I would not think so. I don’t really know. Like I said, I’m not all across the country so I can’t tell you for sure.
Hutcheson: But the big idea here is you don’t have to be in a metro area with 2,000 employees to participate. We can drill this out and it can work. In fact, it may even be more valuable for some of those smaller, maybe tighter-knit communities that have never had good labor data in the past or had that distributed. So, Jason, really appreciate you being on the show today, kind of teeing up this topic. It is so relevant to the day-to-day practice of economic developers in the field. Certainly, folks can sign up for the webinar if they’re interested. There’s also the link to find out more with that promo code. But if folks want to connect with you, they can’t wait for the webinar, Jason. They want to connect with you today. How would you recommend folks learn more and connect with you?
Long: So, you can take a look at our website, sensiblesurveys.com, and then of course, on the email that’s going to go out after the show. You’ve got the link to the webinar. Then yeah, talk to me at the webinar. I look forward to talking to everybody. I’m excited to answer questions and see everyone, and show our system and collect information for everyone as well.
Hutcheson: Awesome, Jason. Well, thank you so much for being on the show today.
Long: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much. Thank you, Jason. I really appreciate it.