Hamilton County’s Workforce Recovery Task Force: Getting People Back to Work

May 2020

Last month, Hamilton County launched a Workforce Recovery Task Force supported by the Hamilton County Economic Development Corporation (HCEDC). The primary focus of the task force will be to create both short-term (three months) and long-term (six to nine month) plans for reducing unemployment. It will also work to identify industries and companies that have additional workforce needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The task force is comprised of the following business professionals: Bob DuBois, president and CEO of the Noblesville Chamber of Commerce; Jack Russell, interim president of OneZone Commerce; Nick Verhoff, president of the Westfield Chamber of Commerce; County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt; County Councilor Amy Massillamany; Dan Clark, president of Ivy Tech Noblesville; Carol Sergi, director of workforce strategy at HCEDC; Chuck Haberman, workforce consultant; Rob Kneberg, executive director of Hamilton County Workforce Innovation Network; Ed Miller, Work One; and Angela Acrey, VP of Human Resources at Helmer Scientific.

Collaborative Efforts From Throughout Hamilton County

Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt spoke with us about why he became involved with the task force and an overview of why it will help the county’s workforce navigate through an unprecedented period in our county’s history.

“I reached out to Thomas ‘Tom’ Miller with Thomas P. Miller and Associates,” Heirbrandt said. “Tom’s worked with several of the state’s governors on their workforce initiatives. I had lunch with him to discuss veterans and what we could do for them, what kind of programs we start from a workforce development standpoint. I work with council members, county commissioners, economic development people, mayors and so forth, and I wanted to work on a workforce development plan—specific to Hamilton County—and collaborate with all of our cities and get them engaged.”

Hamilton County’s Workforce
Mark Heirbrandt

Heirbrandt continued, “In late 2018, the Hamilton County commissioners spearheaded a study that identified deficiencies in the workforce development. The comprehensive study was performed by Thomas P. Miller and Associates, and we involved Carol Sergi, director of Workforce Strategy at HCEDC. And I have to tell you, it was so refreshing because every month our group would all meet over in Carol’s office in Carmel, sit around the table and share ideas about what we could do for workforce. To get that collaboration and have everybody show up every month for that meeting was just awesome.”

The future of the county’s workforce development was looking optimistic, and then, as Heirbrandt phrased it, “All of a sudden, COVID-19 hit us.”

“Carol and I started talking about what we could do to identify how COVID-19 has impacted the county’s workforce, creating a timeline for recovery, identifying the current needs of industries and companies,” Heirbrandt shared. “There are still so many unknowns, and we have to learn to adapt, to listen and to understand what is actually going on because different people have different needs and are experiencing different situations.”

The concept of the Workforce Recovery Task Force was conceived and was launched just weeks after the initial reports of positive COVID-19 cases were reported.

How to Drive the County’s Economy Through a Pandemic

OneZone Interim President Jack Russell added, “As [COVID-19] came about, one of the first things I did was call Bob DuBois, president and CEO of the Noblesville Chamber of Commerce, and we got Nick Verhoff, president of the Westfield Chamber of Commerce and Carol [Sergi] together. Our goal was not to send multiple emails and to work at a county and chamber level to get things done. So, we set up reoccurring meeting to get the chambers together with Carol—that was the first phase—and to ensure that the chambers were in constant contact and were partnering together.”

Hamilton County’s Workforce
Jack Russell

Russell shared that a workforce recovery website was launched and is a resource for Hamilton County businesses to post jobs. He also shared that the site is currently getting 6,000–7,000 views a week.

“We’ve been working in our own silos, and during this crisis, the silos have tipped over and now we’re all in the same pool together,” Russell said. “What’s powerful about this task force is that everybody is connected and working together because even though all of our passions lie in different areas, we know that Hamilton County as a whole has to succeed.”

Russell continued, “And beyond that, Hamilton County is an economic driver of so many things that are affected if our businesses and people are struggling. So, Carol got all of us on this task force together—in a virtual room—and she’s done a great job with this. We are have been identifying where the pain points are and in what industries. A lot of that is data driven. From this, the task force is designed to create opportunities both short and long term.”

Russell concluded, “The new normal is going to look different and our residents and businesses expect nothing but exceptional service at all levels. I believe that we have provided that in the past, but it’s going to be even stronger in the future because of these partnerships.”