State House committee hears concerns about labor supply

Charles Oliver/Daily Citizen-News

From left, state Rep. Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock, and state Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, prepare for a public hearing of the House Study Committee on Innovative Ways to Maximize Global Talent at Dalton State College on Thursday. Cantrell is the committee chairman.

The Dalton metro area, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties, had a 3.4% unemployment rate in July, the latest month for which data are available.

And on Thursday, Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Rob Bradham told members of a state House of Representatives committee that floorcovering manufacturers are having an increasingly difficult time finding workers.

"Our industry has been doing gangbusters trying to keep up with the demand," he said. "The availability of labor is one of the limiting factors."

The House Study Committee on Innovative Ways to Maximize Global Talent held a public hearing at Dalton State College. The committee was created by the House earlier this year to look at ways to help Georgia's foreign-born residents make a greater contribution to its economy.

"The issue we are trying to address is workforce development," said committee Chairman Rep. Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock. "We are looking at any unnecessary regulations that are keeping people from getting into the workforce."

Bradham said he is glad the committee came to Dalton for one of its hearings.

"We are a manufacturing community," he said. "Our region is one of the largest regions in terms of manufacturing in the state. If you are focusing on labor and the future of the workforce, I'm glad that they wanted to hear our voices."

Bradham said immigration is important to Dalton and to the floorcovering industry.

"It's a key to solving our labor shortage," he said.

Bradham told committee members the supply chain is also a limiting factor for manufacturers. He said one manufacturer told him he has trouble getting raw materials, and when he can get raw materials he has trouble getting them shipped.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that virtually every industry is facing supply chain disruptions, a lingering effect of the global shutdown caused by COVID-19. Ports clogged up, and the global economy has come roaring back faster than logistics and transportation companies have been able to restart their operations.

State Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, is a member of the committee. Carpenter noted he has authored a bill that would give those covered by the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program who were raised in Georgia in-state tuition at state universities and colleges.

DACA provides some children who were brought to the United States illegally before the age of 16 temporary protection from deportation, as well as authorization to work in the United States and the ability to apply for a Social Security number.

Currently, DACA recipients raised in Georgia must pay the higher out-of-state tuition at state colleges.

"That would be huge for Dalton," Bradham said of Carpenter's bill. "I know a bunch of DACA recipients who would like to go to GNTC (Georgia Northwestern Technical College) or Dalton State College but can't because it's too expensive because they would have to pay out-of-state tuition. I applaud Kasey for doing it."

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