Time for a local jobs summit

Dear Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond:

You’ve been straightforward about how tough our labor market is for job seekers.

Michael Thurmond

Michael Thurmond

And you know the situation will stay depressed — or get even worse — as layoffs continue into next year. Already, more than six job seekers are competing for every open spot.

To replenish Georgia’s depleted unemployment insurance fund, you’re even planning to request a loan from the federal government, joining about half of the other states.

You’ve also been innovative with your Georgia Works program, which has helped thousands of workers, both white-collar and blue-collar, land jobs.

Copied by other states, it gives participating employers six weeks to train an unemployed worker, while the trainee collects unemployment insurance and a $50 weekly stipend. Many people have landed permanent jobs this way.

But, with all due respect, Commissioner, it’s time to step it up a notch.

To use your own words: “This is a crisis. … We need to take a timeout and do something.”

You’ve talked to me and some of my colleagues on more than one occasion about an idea that you’ve been kicking around quietly for several months now.

It’s a good idea and it’s time for you to pull the trigger.

Your idea is to invite some of the best local minds — from business, universities, technical colleges and government — to a summit meeting to see if a strategy can be developed to create more jobs here.

Your idea is for Democrats and Republicans to check their ideologies at the door and see if a job-creating framework can be established, despite the budget constraints that this recession is exacerbating. And you’re talking about a strategy that goes well beyond attracting corporate relocations, since about 500,000 people are jobless in the state.

“We need the best and the brightest to get in a room to talk about the economic future of Georgia,” you’ve said.

Well, call the meeting to order.

The states that make an investment in training and education now will have a “huge advantage” in a few years because “every downturn becomes an upturn,” you’ve said.

You’ve talked about the structural unemployment created by this recession and how tens of thousands of job seekers need to be retrained for the new economy that’s emerging.

You’ve even tagged what has been happening as a “he-cession.” That means a disproportionate number of men have been displaced because of the enormous contraction in the manufacturing and construction sectors.

You’re not arrogant enough to think you have all the answers. In fact, you may be more like some of the employers you’ve been struggling with lately.

“Many employers are afraid to hire now,” you said recently to several AJC reporters and editors. “They are just risk averse.”

Could you be falling into the same mindset?

I know you’re not the governor, but you’re not chopped liver, either. You’ve been elected three times to your statewide office. And your portfolio is employment and unemployment.

You told me recently: “I was born to be labor commissioner right now. You got to want the ball with three seconds left. I want the ball.”

You got it, man. What are you going to do with it?

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8 comments Add your comment


December 1st, 2009
7:51 am

Tax breaks to business is what is needed, not a feel good “job Summitt” where the talking heads do not have the power to put forth the ideas they come up.


December 1st, 2009
7:56 am

Great attempt to push our Labor Commissioner. Fear doesn’t have a way of making things happen in a move forward kind of way. Mr. Thurmond needs to make an attempt at a new jobs plan and do it soon. Such a bold move can only help him in his own future quest for a new elected office.


December 1st, 2009
8:05 am

This is a catch 22. Consumers aren’t spending, and businesses aren’t hiring. Without the demand for goods and services businesses don’t see the need to hire bodies to stand around. We all play a part in this. A confidence booster is what is needed. Don’t look at me. I don’t have all the answers. We all want the government to do something, but we recoil at the idea of more spending. Government revenue collection is way off at all levels of government. Cutting taxes sounds good, but governments barely have enough resources to provide essential services. Eat drink and be merry; for this too shall pass.


December 1st, 2009
8:49 am

I disagree. I love this column true. You let us have our say. The government is always encouraged to stay out of private business. Now everyone including the let private business be itself people. Wants to have the government find them a job. I don’t understand. How is the government responsible for you having a job?

The Hispanic culture or maybe even a day laborer would say its easy. No one finds a day laborer a job. No one is holding a jobs summit for him. Just go stand where they pick you up and pay you by the day. See, I’m not even the government. In my opinion. You need to think for yourself and make your own way. So here I politely say is my jobs summit. Go find work and make your own way. The businesses that surround you may have failed you. What you need to do now is think for yourself and not fail you. Hispanic people came hundreds of miles with nothing. Work for little and survive. I think the people of Georgia need to have the same mindset. Life is real. It’s not all one big happy day. It’s not the governments responsibility too keep you happy and let you borrow.

Atl Resident

December 1st, 2009
9:45 am

It takes unemployed individual to tell how it really is. The main problem isn’t Thurmond. Thurmond has done similar tasks like this before. Businesses just not willing to take the risk of job training which is making it tough on individuals. This is good idea to implement again, but according to recruiters and how businesses are hiring, it’s more about having years of experience even if you have some job training. That’s why I don’t understand why everyone keep saying more education or more job training. And that’s one of main reasons unemployment is probably going to drag on for a while.

Jim Conway

December 1st, 2009
12:53 pm

We have opened three retail stores in recent years. All three are thriving. Each employs about ten. We want to open more but haven’t found the right location/landlord. A forum like a jobs summit might help us open store(s) and put employees to work.


December 1st, 2009
1:01 pm

I was compelled to respond to the article you wrote in the AJC this morning regarding a local jobs summit and about Michael Thurmond, our Labor Commissioner here in Atlanta, GA. I commend Michael Thurmond for the job he is doing with DOL and his efforts to request federal funds to replenish GA’s unemployment insurance fund. But replenishing the unemployment insurance fund is only a temporary fix to a major problem; this is like putting a bandage on a gaping wound and expects the bleeding to stop. Major surgery and stitching need to be done to close the bleeding wound. The State of Georgia is bleeding jobs at rates we have never seen before in history, and to stop the bleeding, I don’t think a mere jobs summit with the “best and the brightest” is the answer. This is just a waste of time and efforts, as always. I am sick and tired of all the talking, meeting, and economic conferences just to talk about the problems; it’s time for the State of GA to make a concerted effort to reverse the trend and take action to stop job loss. The first action step the State needs to take is STOP spending our tax dollars with out of state companies. Billions of our tax dollars goes out of state every year to companies that don’t have a presence here in the state. Second, start focusing job creation effort s on the small businesses here in GA. Atlanta used to be the melting pot for small businesses, new startups and entrepreneurs. I am sure you are aware that most new jobs created will have to be created by small businesses and not large organizations. Large organizations are not creating jobs; they are eliminating jobs to make their balance sheets look good for investors. Third, ask your “best and the brightest” to partner with GBCC, ABL, and other small business organizations that is trying to make a difference in the communities; small businesses and members of these organizations are the real job creators here in the metro area. Without this joint effort to help stabilize the unemployment here in GA, we can expect to get prepared for the worse job economy we have ever seen.
Thanks for your attention.

[...] weeks ago, a Biz Beat column asked Thurmond to call such a [...]