Kansas Business Review Abstracts

Vol. 21, No.3, Spring 1998

Assessing the Available Labor Pool: a Survey of the Northeast Kansas Labor Force

by Joseph A. Aistrup and Mark Bannister, Docking Institute of Public Affairs, Fort Hays State University.

The purpose of this study is to estimate the available labor pool for the six northeast Kansas counties of Atchison, Brown, Doniphan, Nemaha, Jackson, and Jefferson. This estimate is based on a new set of survey questions which build upon previous efforts to assess the labor force. These new survey questions concentrate on assessing the opportunities that would lead an individual to consider entering the labor force (if presently unemployed, a homemaker, or retired) or change his/her present job.

The first part of this analysis reports the basic findings from the survey. The second part applies this information to two specific scenarios: the availability of labor for a manufacturing employer and the availability of labor for a service sector employer.

Taken as a whole, the findings suggest that full employment does not necessarily translate into a shortage of available labor; however, the entry of a new employer in an area--spurring employment growth--rarely affects only those who are unemployed. Rather, employment growth in an area leads to employment shortages in that labor basin, especially for entry-level positions. In the sense that employment growth acts as a magnet, attracting people from outside the region, other regions lacking employment opportunities lose potential employees.

Even though the findings presented here are based on a survey of only six northeast Kansas counties, the application of this survey methodology can be used to assess the available labor pool in almost any region.

Kansas State Parks: a Marketing and Valuation Study

by Robert H. Glass, Charles E. Krider, and Kevin Nelson, Institute for Public Policy and Business Research, University of Kansas.

The purpose of this report is to answer one question: What do Kansans want to do with their state park system? Our research indicates the following answers:
CKansans overwhelmingly like the current state park system.

CKansans do not want massive changes in the state park system.

CIncreasing taxes or user fees for park improvements will face opposition.

CKansans do not know much about the state parks; however, they want to know more.
The Kansas state park system is predominantly used and paid for by Kansans. At least 80 percent of the visitors are Kansans, and more than 35 percent of the households visited a state park in 1996. In FY 1996 the State General Fund provided $3.2 million for the state park system, and user fees provided the remaining $2.4 million of the budget. At this price, Kansans think the park system is a bargain.

We recommend that the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks develop a long-term plan of what they want the park system to be like in a couple of decades. Although the word "vision" has been overused to the point of being meaningless or trite, in the case of state parks this is exactly what is needed. If the Department does have such a plan then it needs to tell Kansans what it is and begin building support for it. The state parks have an enormous reservoir of support among the people of Kansas and should use it. The inspiration, along with the details for a state park vision, needs to come from the Department working with interested constituents. We do have two suggestions: 1) advertise, and 2) differentiate the state parks in the minds of Kansans.

Managing Across the Language Barrier

by Carol C. Rose, Institute for Public Policy and Business Research, University of Kansas.

This research aims to explore how the use of foreign language in the workplace affected business organizations and to characterize the problems and successful strategies for managing language differences. The study was conducted among business firms in the Kansas City and Wichita areas. The research was conducted in three phases: (a) interviews with managers of Limited English Speaking employees (LES); (b) interviews with Hispanic workers who spoke limited English; and (c) a mail survey of area firms.

Overall, the three phases of the research converged towards the conclusion that multiple languages did not ultimately decrease the organizationís effectiveness. It is important to note, however, that satisfaction with present effectiveness did not rule out the possibility that opportunities may have been lost, or future changed hampered, by the language barrier. Most of the organizations in this study were under extreme pressure to produce large volumes of products or services with low-cost labor. Possible impacts of the LES workforce, such as decreased ability to implement team-based improvements, or the tendency for the workforce to be dominated by a single ethnic group, were of less concern than the need to fill the immediate labor shortage.

The ability of managers and supervisors to communicate well with LES workers appeared in this study to be the most important factor in creating a successful workplace. Contrary to what was anticipated, good communication did not appear to depend on the managersí ability to speak the foreign language or languages of the workers, or on their specific knowledge of other cultures, but rather on their ability to relate to LES employees in spite of language differences.

An Analysis of the 1996 Kansas State Fair

by Norman Clifford and Patricia Oslund, Institute for Public Policy and Business Research, University of Kansas.

In 1996 the Institute for Public Policy and Business Research, University of Kansas, was asked to conduct an extensive analysis of the Kansas State Fair activities, including the State Fair itself and various non-fair events held throughout the year. The purpose of the study was to identify the characteristics of the Fairís attendance base, to gauge visitorsí reactions to various Fair activities, to examine visitor and participant spending, to examine the employment and income generated by vendors at the Fair, and to create measures of the economic impact of the Fair on the community and state.

This article, taken from the full report, focuses on the marketing aspects of the Fair, including attendance, demographics, place of residence of event-goers, reasons for attending events, perceptions of the quality of the Fair and facilities, and also, from a later telephone survey, the reasons why people did not attend the Fair.

Staff from the Institute for Public Policy and Business Research and a survey research team interviewed people as they exited the Fair and administered a three-page survey that covered demographics, expenditures, and interest in various types of Fair events. The results of the survey showed that 1996 Fair-goers fairly represented the Kansas population as a whole, were almost evenly split between males and females, and that most of them were in the $30,000-$50,000 income category. Most of the Fair-goers were from Kansas, and almost half of them drove 25-60 miles to visit the Fair. Over half of them visited the Fair for a single day. Forty-six percent were attracted to the Fair by the livestock and agricultural exhibits, while almost as many people cited the commercial and fine arts/domestic arts as being very important. On average visitors reported spending close to $18.00 per person each day on concessions, rides, food, and other Fair attractions.

The telephone survey revealed that people living in the metropolitan counties of Northeast Kansas are less likely than other Kansans to know about the location, dates, and price of the Fair. In fact, 24 percent of these respondents said they did not know about the Fair at all. They are also less likely than other Kansans to have been exposed to media information about the Fair. This suggests that news information and advertising could broaden Fair attendance.

The Outlook for Kansas and the Nation: 1998 Update

by Norman Clifford, Institute for Public Policy and Business Research, University of Kansas.

The national economy in 1998 will ride the momentum generated in 1997 and the first quarter of 1998. Employment growth will decrease, although the unemployment rate should remain low. Nominal personal income growth will be in line with the last several years, but low inflation means that real personal income growth will actually increase. Consumer spending will be the bulwark of the U.S. economy in 1998.

The number of jobs in Kansas non-farm firms is expected to increase 2.8 percent in 1998; in addition, real personal income is expected to grow 3.4 percent. The unemployment rate will continue to decline slowly, averaging 3.6 percent.The state will see increases in jobs in the construction, durable goods manufacturing, nondurable goods manufacturing, transportation and utilities, the wholesale trade, and services sectors. The mining, finance, insurance, and real estate sectors, however, will show decreases in the number of jobs. Federal government jobs will remain about level, but state and local government jobs will increase.

Copyright@IPPBR Last Updated 10/21/98, All rights reserved.