Launch 2035 Initiates 3-County Regional Workforce and Labor Market Assessment Study

Launch 2035 and city leaders from Madison, Limestone and Morgan counties blasted off their first major initiative – a collaborative assessment study of the area’s regional workforce and labor market.

The announcement comes less than 90 days after six mayors from across Madison, Limestone and Morgan counties, formally signed an historic three-county regional agreement of collaboration and cooperation to work together for the future good of the regional economy.

Bill Marks: “Launch 2035 has found opportunities whereby coming together, all of our communities throughout the region can work together in a way that has never been done before.” (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

From the high-tech boardroom round table at the Huntsville International Airport, Launch 2035 Chair retired Army Col. Bill Marks said Launch 2035 was formed in 2014 to encourage and facilitate a collective 20-year vision of Limestone, Madison, and Morgan counties that would ensure the North Alabama region continues to prosper.

“Launch 2035 has found opportunities whereby coming together, all of our communities throughout the region can work together in a way that has never been done before,” said Marks. “It is a signal to all our communities, our state, and future businesses that we are committed to ensuring our region functions at the highest levels of collaboration for years to come.”

Launch 2035 has three areas of focus: workforce, entrepreneurship, and land use planning.

“That’s where this privately funded assessment looks at our labor talent, presents leading practices in workforce development, and provides a deeper understanding of the opportunities we have in our workforce within our region,” Marks said. “It is a proactive effort to understand the current labor market and our ability to continue to grow for current and future employer needs in the region.”

Among the speakers at the announcement was Harry Schmidt, economic development consultant for the Tennessee Valley Authority Alabama Region.

“We are glad to be teaming up with regional partners, including local power companies and others, to continue to promote business success in the region,” Schmidt said. “We are pleased to support this workforce and labor study because one of TVA’s core principles is to work to improve the quality of life for people in the valley. One of the primary ways we do that is by job growth and identifying quality job opportunities for people.”

John Seymour, president and CEO of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, said changes in lifestyle means city leaders can no longer think just about their own communities but must start thinking about the whole region.

“Jobs in Madison County are different sometimes than the jobs in Limestone and Morgan County,” Seymour said. “We have to think about recruiting folks from across those lines to fill the positions that are available in our various communities. As a community and as a region, we have to think regional to be successful. I see this as an opportunity to look forward.”

“This study will help us grow our workforce in our communities and provide us with a great tool as we continue to work together as a region to bring more industry and business to the area,” said Jennifer Williamson, president of the Greater Limestone Chamber of Commerce. “It is also a great tool for us to use to support our existing businesses and industry.”

Other leaders at the announcement included Bethany Shockney, president of Limestone County Economic Development Association; Rick Tucker, executive director of the Huntsville Port Authority; and Lucia Cape, senior vice president of economic development at the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

Rick Tucker: “Seeing us working closer and closer together as a region has been inspiring.” (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

“Launch 2035 contracted with Deloitte to do this labor analysis,” said Cape. “This study is looking forward because through the use of confidential interviews with companies, and discussing real time activities with employers, we can gear our workforce development and activities to meet a needed we know is coming. We look forward to getting these results, and we will work with our partners to make sure we have a workforce of the future.”

Rick Tucker has been part of Launch 2035 from its inception.

“Seeing us working closer and closer together as a region has been inspiring,” he said. “It is just another step in the region’s working together in a collaborative way to address the opportunities and issues facing our region. That is what we do here at the Port of Huntsville – serve this region; and we are glad to be a participant in this study, trying to address this important topic of the labor force in our marketplace. We look forward to continuing this collaboration throughout the region.”

Wes Kelley, president and CEO of Huntsville Utilities, was unable to attend but is also a partner in the initiative. Penny Townson, vice president of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, stood in for President and CEO Jeremy Nails who could not attend.

Among Launch 2035’s other initiatives are the team’s continuing work on the Singing River Trail – 70 miles of Native American bike, hike, and walking trails that connects the region .

“The Singing River Trail is an example of the continued growth and economic development we see in our region,” Tucker said. “That’s what businesses and community leaders from across the region want to see – a long-term impact of our investments and hard work.”