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"It's a war for talent." Can a booming population over the border help WNY's workforce?

Posted at 8:27 PM, Jan 20, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The population of Southern Ontario is growing at double digit rates, and it's barreling towards the Buffalo-Niagara border.

Timing of this population boom could be advantageous for Erie and Niagara Counties, which are trying to strengthen their economies with stagnant populations.

"The bottom line is Buffalo and Western New York can be a direct beneficiary of the great growth that Southern Ontario is experiencing now and will continue to experience over the next decade," Higgins told 7 Eyewitness News.

According to data from the US Census Bureau, between 2010-2018, Erie County's population changed 0.1%. In that same time-frame, Niagara County's population declined 2.8%.

These numbers, in part, help explain why Scott Stenclik, CEO of Buffalo-based global staffing firm Aleron, says the demand for skilled workers is greater than the supply.

"It’s a war for talent out there and our responsibility is to help our customers to win that war," said Stenclik.

A common philosophy for employers looking to hire new talent is to seek out recent graduates of local schools.

Sometimes, employers are forced to look beyond the region. Aleron recruiters conduct searches for companies looking to fill skilled positions, they apply a 250 mile radius.

Conveniently, within that 250 mile radius is one of the fastest growing regions in North America.

Population projections from a recent report by the Province of Ontario are staggering: By 2031, there will be an estimated 7 million people in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (the regions from Toronto to the Buffalo-Niagara border). Ontario's Niagara Region (includes Fort Erie, Port Coleborne, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls) is projected to grow 21% to 543,000 people. Hamilton is expected to have 680,000 by 2031.

"I think that's a responsibility that we have to educate our clients on that part of the labor market that they have an opportunity to tap into," Stenclik said.

"We can see there are people right here in Buffalo and Western New York to fill in those opportunities for careers, but also people in Southern Ontario as well," Higgins said.

M&T Bank, which is currently trying to fill more than 1,000 high-tech workers for its new technology hub, does recruit people from the Greater Toronto Area, Mike Zabel, VP Public Relations said in October 2019. He added that the recruiting was mostly conducted through LinkedIn and referrals.

Stenclik says the TN visa, otherwise referred to as the NAFTA immigration visa, can make it reasonably possible for companies to hire Canadians who want to work in one of Western New York's fastest growing industries. According to the New York State Labor Department, technical and business services, health services, computer and electronic manufacturing, and advanced manufacturing are among the most in-demand industries for skilled workers in Western New York.