We talk a lot about local workforce development at Jesus Was Homeless – and with good reason! Because the path out of poverty starts with getting a good, full-time job.

While we know the toll poverty takes on the individual, have you ever stopped to consider the price it takes on the local Branson area economy?

First, businesses must bear the unbelievably high cost of workforce turnover. When employees come and go, the employer is forced to find replacements. It takes time to advertise for help wanted, interview prospective workers and then train them for their new job. That may not sound like much to you, but it’s costly to the employer. It takes a big bite out of the company’s bottom line and deprives it of money that could otherwise have gone towards employee benefits and improved salaries.

Then there are state and federal government entitlement programs. When too many people depend on them to supplement their income, be it through fraud, abuse or seasonal dependence, that places an additional tax burden on all of us. Every dollar that is sent in taxes to Washington or Jefferson City is a dollar that won’t be spent locally, and thus won’t help grow Branson’s economy.

We’re also handicapped by both low wages and seasonal wages. People who are stuck in a job that will never pay them more than $10 an hour will not go above and beyond the call of duty to help their company succeed, and thus, grow. That puts businesses in an economic rut from which there is no escape. When a business pays a minimum wage salary, or something very close to it, they can only expect minimal effort from their workers in exchange. That’s not good for anyone – the business, the worker, or the local economy.

The customer experience comes into play here as well. Experience has shown that visitors are willing to pay more for an upscale experience, be that in dining, accommodations, or attractions. However, a big part of satisfying those visitors comes from workers who deliver exceptional customer service. And as I just wrote – you don’t get exceptional service from a minimum wage employee who’s only interested in meeting minimal expectations. Remember the old saying, “You get what you pay for?” As soon as Branson area employers realize that they can increase their profits by paying higher wages and developing a more professional workforce, they will begin to see real results in their economic growth.

I could go on and on (for example, we haven’t even talked about the role employee benefits play in this discussion), but you get the idea.

At Jesus Was Homeless, we’re doing our part to make things better with our successful Jobs for Life program. It doesn’t just train people how to find a job, but also how to become a model employee and embark on a career. In short, we’re helping meet the need for quality workers that businesses tell us they want.