The State of Oregon wanted to make LMI more accessible and relevant to local users by providing more opportunities to engage with local businesses. It was believed this would make regional economists more aware of the local dynamics behind the data and more knowledgeable about what information is most in demand by local decision makers.
To ensure this engagement happens, analysts employed directly by the state are required to spend 60 per cent of their time serving local employers and must meet with at least 75 of the top businesses in their region each year, assisting them with finding, using and interpreting LMI. The remaining time is devoted to workforce intermediaries and education and economic development stakeholders (more details in this report).
The state has found that this additional contact with regional stakeholders has improved understanding of what information is needed and valued locally, which in turn has led to the development of new tools to present information. For example the organisation’s web site was altered after feedback from business users that the information they wanted was difficult and so time consuming to find, as it was dispersed throughout the site. The website now contains a specific Business Information Centre, which lists in one place the data most often requested by businesses and has won more than a dozen national and state awards for its work on making quality data accessible locally. The high level of engagement with local organisations also means that analysts are increasingly aware of what is going on in the local economy, such as what firms are closing down or expanding, meaning that forecasts are more accurate.
Business also benefit directly from the new links analysts have developed. In order to assist one local development organisation gain detailed information on the state of regional manufacturing skills, state analysts helped the organisation design a regional manufacturing skills survey. This survey was then dispersed to relevant companies through the analysts network, revealing that a large number of manufactures where experiencing skills shortages. On the back of this meetings where held between the development organisation, the analysts and local colleges that resulted in the region’s community college creating a new training program and adapting another one to ensure students where equipped with the required skills.