The Macon-Bibb County Workforce Investment Board Inc. is contemplating a major move, in keeping with its new name and new focus on specific job training.
The agencys office in Suite 400-B of Terminal Station at the foot of Cherry Street doesnt lend itself to the services Workforce wants to provide. So the agency is working on a comprehensive one-stop career center with partner agencies, Executive Director Kathy Thompson said. It will be next to the Bibb County Schools Welcome Center in the complex at 2011 Riverside Drive.
We are looking to partner with them as well as Central Georgia Technical College, Thompson said.
She and four other administrators, however, might stay in Terminal Station to leave more space for new partners and functions, she said.
The Macon Transit Authority manages Terminal Station, and Rick Jones, transit authority CEO, said Workforce is paying rent there month-to-month. He keeps hearing rumors that the agency is about to move out, but he doesnt expect that to occur until at least March or April, he said.
That matches fairly closely with Thompsons plans. She said Workforce hopes to move into its new headquarters in April or May.
Workforce -- which changed its full name last year from the Macon-Bibb County Office of Workforce Development -- will share the complex not only with the school system but with Job Corps, Mercer Universitys Educational Opportunity Center, the Family Counseling Center and Georgia Department of Labor, said communications manager Lisa Becker. The goal is to offer comprehensive services to get people ready for jobs and ready to work, she said. Workforce wants to serve workers and companies throughout Middle Georgia, not only in Bibb County, Becker said.
Plans for the new headquarters include offices, classrooms, work stations for job seekers, a business conference room and a teen career café.
While drawing students into the career café, Workforce hopes to also attract their unemployed or underemployed parents for more training or job interviews, she said.
For businesses, Workforce offers reimbursement for training employees on the job and help with retraining current employees, Becker said.
But now the agency wants to be much more, assessing its clients and screening them to match employers needs, so the company doing the hiring has a short list of well-qualified people instead of a mass of applicants.
We want to become, actually, a virtual HR for companies maybe that dont have an HR (department), Becker said.
For the past week, Workforce already has been filling that role for Tractor Supply Co., which is building a huge distribution center in I-75 Business Park, she said.
We had 167 people contact us wanting assessments for 20 jobs, Becker said.
Those interviews for distribution associates are under way, and Tractor Supply Co. officials will be given a list of about 40 qualified applicants, she said. Then Workforce will do the same for supervisory, clerical, maintenance and other positions in the coming weeks. Interested applicants can call Workforce at 751-7333 and could be assessed and interviewed in the same day, Becker said. Tractor Supply Co. plans to hire up to 315 people by September, Thompson said.
The agency has begun a career coach program for young people who arent going to college, seeking to get them instead into dual-credit programs that can grant certification in a specific industry, Thompson said.
Meanwhile, Workforces connection with city government persists despite more than a year of tension and efforts to distance itself from City Hall as much as possible.
The city serves as the fiscal agent for about $1.3 million in federal funding that Workforce gets each year. That means Macon is legally liable for repaying any Workforce money that might be misspent. Though that situation has never arisen, the possibility has been a frequent source of worry for City Council.
A proposed intergovernmental agreement would split liability 50-50 between the city and Bibb County, but Workforce would have to use all of its available funds for reimbursement before any city or county money is touched.
Workforce signed off on the intergovernmental agreement Aug. 6, 2012, but apart from buying liability insurance, it has been uninvolved since then, Thompson said.
City Public Affairs Director Chris Floore said the agreement came before the City Councils Community Resources & Development Committee several months ago, but the administration asked for the item to be tabled while Assistant City Attorney Stuart Morelli made sure it didnt conflict with recently altered state rules. Now that has been checked, and Bibb County didnt ask for any changes, so the liability agreement should be back before the committee Tuesday, Floore said.
In August 2011, the council passed an ordinance to charge Workforce 5 percent of its budget as a fee for city management of the agencys payroll and several other administrative functions. The council upped the fee to 10 percent, effective July 1, 2012. But Tricia Pridemore, executive director of the state Workforce Investment board, told city officials in September that legally the city could only bill Thompson for actual administrative costs, and had to justify all those charges to auditors and the state. Morelli said the citys demand for a flat 10 percent was pre-empted by federal law.
Mayor Robert Reicherts administration set actual costs at about $7,800 per month. Those are still being monitored, interim Chief Administrative Officer Dale Walker said.