Wages, Job Growth Increases in Boone County

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BOONE COUNTY - Columbia was ranked eighth on a list titled "Ten Shining Examples of Economic Development That's Working in the South," released on the website of Southern Business and Development magazine.

This recognition was based on wage growth and job creation, the website said. According to Garner Economics, Columbia is one of only 11 markets in the South that have seen wage growth in each month of the last two years.

The average wage in Boone County in 2011 was $31,727. Now the average is $33,695.

Mike Brooks, President of Regional Economic Development (REDI) said, "I think part of that is the nature of the kinds of the jobs that are being created," he said. "The more jobs that you have that pay higher helps bring that average up."

12,604 new jobs have been created in Boone County since 2000. Many local workers drive as far as East St. Louis to work here.

"In the last 10 years, if you take out the impact of the recession, our job growth has been very positive, " said Brooks.

Brooks said if you want a clear vision of Columbia's growth, "look at the number of auto dealerships that are under construction," he said. "Look at the number of student rental apartments."

He said Veterans United is one of the leaders in job creation. The company said since it was founded in 2002, it has added more than 1,300 employees. Veterans United also opened 24 offices in 22 states.

Amanda Andrade is the Chief People Officer for Veterans United. "Since December of 2011, we have hired more than 640 people nationwide," she said.

Walking into Veterans United, you will find a Ms. Pac Man machine and an Avengers game machine. The walls are lined with optimistic slogans like, "enhance lives every day" and "delivery results with integrity." Andrade said Veterans United likes to run an efficient business in a different way. "We like to keep it fun," she said.

Veteran's United was recently named the number one job creator in Missouri and 29th in the nation.

The CEO and General Manager of Boone Electric Cooperative said one of the main reasons for Columbia having this recognition is because the workers have a strong work ethic. "Compared to many places in the U.S., our workers exceed many of the standards we've seen nationally, Todd Culley said.

Columbia has many specialized jobs, which will increase wage growth, Culley said.

Dave Griggs' small and growing business currently has 16 employees and he is looking to hire more. The owner of Flooring America in Columbia said wages will go up for his employees this year and that is primarily due to an increase in sales.

"My business has consistently grown with the exception of about four years of the recession," Griggs said. "Many, many flooring businesses have gone out of business."

Griggs is still five employees away from regaining the height of his business, reached in 2007. He said he has three positions that his business is looking to fill.

Another Columbia business that is bringing in many jobs is IBM. "They came to town with the promise of creating 600 jobs at an average salary of $50,000," Griggs said.

The job sectors that are seeing the most growth in Columbia are management companies and enterprises. In that industry, wages increased $10,254 since 2012. Government jobs' wages increased the most, at $17,515.