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Can CNY Staff Micron?

Local employers already have a hard time finding employees — how will Micron find 9,000 workers locally?

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Micron Technology, Inc.’s plans to invest $100 billion over the next 20 years and bring 9,000 jobs to Central New York (plus 40,000 community jobs) as it makes the largest investment in US history in general for its memory and storage technology production facility in Clay. With local employers already struggling to fill openings, how will employers find workers?

Randy Wolken, president and CEO of MACNY, calls the shift “a game changer.”

“We need more of just about everything,” Wolken said. “We are going to need construction. We primarily deal with non-construction, but we need electrical technicians, quality control, CNC machinists, maintenance mechanics, welders and tool makers. They’re all in high demand now and the number is growing. Literally to fulfill our need, thousands will move here to seek these opportunities. We don’t have enough individuals to fill these needs.”

His organization is working with high schools and current employers to fill the need facing the manufacturing industry.

Staffing agencies and recruiters are also part of the solution. In addition to filling the openings directly caused by Micron, more jobs will come to the area as more businesses begin and expand to meet the need for people filling Micron’s openings.

“Micron will be changing the landscape of our image and who we are as a destination and as a region,” said Stephanie Vavonese, owner of SMV Recruiting, LLC in Syracuse. “I think it will be a snowball effect. It will become the next up-and-coming, cool place to be. It’s going to put us on the map. That alone is a great added value of Micron coming.”

She foresees increases in new residential housing, entertainment, dining and other sectors of the economy as Micron recruits from outside the region and state. With great growth and opportunities comes challenges. One of those is the ability of smaller companies to attract workers. Vavonese has already begun talking with some of these small companies that have already been struggling to meet increased expectation for wages.

“When you bring a company like Micron who can afford to pay very competitive wages it to attract talent, you have to think about where that talent will come from,” Vavonese said. “You have to think it will be poached. Wages will have to continue rising to be competitive. There will be growing pains.”

As these companies lose employees, the wages they will need to pay to attract new workers may come as a shock. Vavonese said that many of them have not had to hire someone in 20 years. She views Micron’s presence as a force that will make employers raise wages — if they can.

She hopes that Micron will attract new graduates from local schools who will decide to stay in the area instead of joining the longstanding exodus from CNY to states with lower taxes and better opportunities.

“It’s a growing city, not a dying city,” Vavonese said. “How we see Syracuse today will be very different from how we see it in 10 years. It will be more vibrant, more restaurants, more things to do. We will be on the map.”

She can picture Syracuse on par with Boston, New York City and Denver as a consideration for more companies, especially considering Syracuse’s waterways, recreational opportunities, affordable property and good schools, all which can readily attract workers to fill roles.

Susan Crossett, CEO of CPS Recruitment in Liverpool, views Micron’s coming to CNY as an opportunity to “attract people to this region who otherwise might not consider this a great place to live and work.”

As for the ability for other employers to find workers, she views Micron’s presence as “healthy competition” and that Micron will likely draw workers from outlying communities as well.

“The timeline will allow us to train and get high schoolers interested in these positions,” Crossett added. “When a project like this is announced, the talent interested in this type of work will naturally migrate here.”

With schools already working on interesting students in STEM, she foresees a good deal of homegrown talent filling Micron’s positions — perhaps students that might otherwise move away from the area to find work.

“This is the largest investment in the US of any company at any time,” she said. “They picked us. I think that says such wonderful things about our community about all that we have to offer in this region. They’re very interested in making sure everyone has an opportunity to work at Micron. I believe it will lift us all up.”