After four years of political wrangling, foot-dragging, and frustration, Lucas County's version of a "one-stop shop" designed to unite employers with workers opened officially yesterday in downtown Toledo.
The Source, a 29,000-square-foot office building at 1301 Monroe St., houses job training and placement programs offered through government and the business community as part of the county's Workforce Investment plan.
"It's like parenthood," said Harry Barlos, president of the county commissioners. "This is such a significant issue. For Toledo and Lucas County, this is a tremendous step forward."
Mr. Barlos has been talking about setting up a facility like
The Source at least since visiting the Montgomery County version in Dayton in 1999.
He said a strong economy lulled some people into thinking a one-stop isn't needed, but that was when the project should have taken off in anticipation of a downturn.
Tom Herman, interim vice chairman of the Workforce Investment Board that will oversee the efforts at The Source, said the addition of Commissioners Tina Skeldon Wozniak and Maggie Thurber in 2003 helped provide the political will to move the issue forward. Ms. Wozniak and Ms. Thurber attended yesterday's grand-opening ceremony.
Mr. Herman said The Source will be an economic development tool for the community.
"Whether it's existing businesses or new businesses coming in, the second-most-asked question outside of the tax abatement is, 'How will we know we'll have a trained work force?'●If we bring someone through this facility and show them what we're doing, I believe that will sell itself."
The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 was designed to train workers to meet the labor needs of employers. It helps people who are out of work find new jobs and provides training for others who want to acquire new skills so they can change careers. The program also has a component to help teenagers train for employment.
Chardell Russell, 61, gives the program credit for helping her finish her degree after she lost her job in the clinical skills department of Medical College of Ohio in 2001. She said county work force investment workers helped guide her through the bureaucracy so she could get the tuition money to complete her studies in social work at the University of Toledo in May.
Now, they're helping her find a job, which she hopes will lead to a career working with veterans or the elderly.
"This was the difference between getting my degree and not getting my degree," Ms. Russell said.
A variety of government, labor, business, and educational organizations are involved with The Source.
Some of the participants include Lucas County, Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce, University of Toledo, Owens Community College, the Ohio and Lucas departments of job and family services, Toledo Public Schools, and Network - a Toledo worker assessment and placement firm.