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Manufacturing Leaders explore ideas to solve Workforce Challenges at Talent Summit

Hendersonville, NC – In partnership with the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development (HCPED), Blue Ridge Community College hosted a Talent Summit yesterday addressing the unprecedented workforce shortages in Henderson County as well as the nation overall.

A variety of community leaders from the manufacturing industry in Henderson and Transylvania Counties attended the summit, with the same goal: retain and recruit talented employees to our community.

Crystal Morphis, the founder and CEO of Creative Economic Development Consulting, was the summit’s guest speaker, and presented data and statistics to better explain why we’re facing the shortages.

According to Morphis’ research, 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021, and 65% of employees now say they’re looking for a new job.

Morphis’ presentation outlined factors such as declining birth rate, drop in male labor force participation, and declining immigration numbers that are contributing to the employment issues felt by all industry sectors.

Following the presentation, participants were divided into groups to give an equal focus on a variety of topics including Former Offenders, College Friendly, Veterans, Diversity, Childcare, and Housing and Transportation. The groups then presented their top three ideas for improving issues in these areas.

Blue Ridge President Dr. Laura Leatherwood stated the College has a duty to seek out solutions for workforce issues.

“We do this by partnering closely with our local companies and walking alongside them,” Leatherwood said. “We’ve never been in this type of situation before, so it’s going to require us to come up with solutions we’ve never tried before, and this summit is our starting point.”

After some intense deliberation, the groups presented their ideas to Morphis, who documented them all, then gave participants a chance to vote on which ideas they felt would be the most helpful for local workforce needs.

Carsten Erkel with Elkamet, worked with the Former Offenders group and stated they noticed a lack of awareness within the community about what resources are available and who to contact.

Morphis believes one of the keys to addressing the workforce shortage is retention of current workers and focusing on talent development.

“Focusing on helping your employees grow really boosts talent attraction,” she added. “If we don’t have enough workers, then businesses can’t operate.”

Nathan Kennedy, HCPED Board Chair, observed that some of the most popular ideas revolved around businesses being college-friendly toward their employees, veteran support, and housing and transportation needs.

“I think these are needs in every community, but I think if we prioritize them and work together as a group to tackle these challenges, we’ll create solutions,” Kennedy said.

Blue Ridge plans to host more Talent Summit events in the future, with each one focusing on a different local industry.

For more information about HCPED and economic development in Henderson County, visit

To learn more about how Blue Ridge addresses local workforce needs, visit