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Newton County earns Certified Work Ready Community status

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Governor also presents local manufacturer La-Z-Boy with a Flag of Freedom award in recognition of its efforts to hire Missouri veterans Neosho, MO — Gov. Jay Nixon today joined local business, education and community leaders at the Hale McGinty Business Development Center to congratulate Newton County for being designated as a Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC). Newton County’s successful efforts to strengthen its workforce training program and certify its workers will help attract and support growing companies by connecting them with a pipeline of talent.

“Bridging the gap between the skills businesses need and the talents of the local workforce is critical to strengthening our economy, and I congratulate Newton County for successfully connecting educators and employers to achieve this goal,” Gov. Nixon said. “I am glad to see the Certified Workforce Ready initiative making its way throughout Missouri, and I appreciate local employers like La-Z-Boy for stepping up and investing in this community.”

While visiting Newton County, the Governor also cut the ribbon on the new La-Z-Boy Opportunity Center, a new state-of-the-art workforce training facility that will provide services to those entering the workforce for the first time, as well as current and transitioning workers.

The new 800-square-foot space was completed earlier this month and made possible through a $55,000 grant from the La-Z-Boy Foundation. The new Opportunity Center will also serve as the location for area workers to access necessary tests to earn their National Career Readiness Certificates, credentials that are part of the CWRC initiative and validate an individual’s workforce skills and knowledge to prospective businesses. In addition, the center will provide space for Neosho Area Business and Industrial Foundation, Inc. (NABIFI) to assist startups and entrepreneurs with business plan development and financial resources.

In 2012, Missouri was selected as one of the first four states to participate in the Certified Work Ready Communities initiative by American College Testing (ACT). The initiative aligns workforce training programs with the economic development needs of communities; matches appropriate applicants to jobs based on skill level; and strengthens businesses by strengthening the workforce. Jasper County, Missouri was named the first Certified Work Ready Community in the nation, and Missouri has 62 counties that are actively participating in the Certified Work Ready Community initiative and 17 counties that are fully certified

“Newton County is proud to join our fellow Joplin Regional Partner, Jasper County, in achieving Certified Workforce Ready Community status,” said Michael Franks, CEO of the NABIFI. “Newton County’s high school and community college students can now add the important National Career Readiness Certificate to their educational credentials. Our local businesses will improve their hiring processes with a deeper understanding of the skill sets of our excellent local workforce. This achievement is the direct result of the outstanding cooperation of the Newton County business community, Crowder College, Neosho R-5 Schools and Seneca R-7 Schools. The NCRC program will benefit Newton County’s entire business community, as well as providing us with a vital business attraction tool by documenting the quality of our workforce.”

La-Z-Boy Midwest, located in Neosho, is a branch of La-Z-Boy Incorporated and is one of the company’s five manufacturing facilities in the country. Employing 750 people in the area, La-Z-Boy Midwest has manufactured more than 15 million recliners, sofas, and pieces of furniture since opening its doors in Neosho in 1970. The new Opportunity Center and the CWRC complement the company’s mission to maintain its position as one of the divisional leaders in safety and quality.

“Like so many businesses, we are successful only if we have a consistent fit of people with the right tools in the right places,” said Bill Snow, Vice President of La-Z-Boy Midwest. “This program and room will serve the people in our community by giving them those tools to be successful. In partnership with our strong community leadership, La-Z-Boy shares the same vision of attracting strong talent to the county we serve in.”

“Another enhancement to the strength in our already excellent workforce is the Show-Me Heroes program,” Snow said. “As mentioned before, I can’t stress enough having the right people; and our veterans that work for us, and have worked for us, fit that model. We have enjoyed having many veterans work with us for 30 to 40 years, a major reason our team has been as successful as we have since 1970. Our veterans bring a desire to be a team player with energy and passion, innovative and drive change – a large part of the values we live by at La-Z-Boy. ”

By participating in ACT’s Certified Work Ready Communities initiative, Newton County is:

Helping workers understand what skills are required by employers, and how to prepare themselves for success;
Helping businesses effectively communicate their workforce needs to area education and workforce training programs;
Providing educators with the tools needed to close the skills gap by establishing career pathways for students with stackable industry-recognized credentials; and
Equipping economic development organizations with an on-demand reporting tool to promote the quality of their workforce.

La-Z-Boy Midwest also actively participates in Show-Me Heroes, a program that connects businesses with military men and women when they return home from service. Since the Governor launched Show-Me-Heroes in 2010, 4,441 employers have hired 7,671 veterans. According to the Missouri Veterans Commission, Missouri is home to more than 494,000 veterans.

During his visit to the La-Z-Boy Opportunity Center today, Gov. Nixon presented Snow with the Flag of Freedom, recognizing the company’s hiring of veterans. The Flag of Freedom Award consists of a plaque featuring an American flag patch from the combat uniform of a member of the Missouri National Guard worn while that Citizen-Soldier or Airman was deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Since taking the pledge in 2013, the company has hired 20 veterans for open positions.

[Office of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon]