Jennifer Zeller (GA, '16), manager of engineering, research and creative services in Georgia Power's Community & Economic Development department, has been selected as one of 14 individuals nationally to serve on a new federal advisory board. She is the only economic development professional on the council. The Workforce Information Advisory Council (WIAC) is mandated as part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014. The council's directive is to consult with and provide written recommendations to the U.S. secretary of Labor on ways to use and improve nationwide workforce and labor market information systems.

"The availability of skilled labor and professional talent continues to be one of the most critical factors in site location decisions worldwide. Our goal is to maximize the value of the information collected by the U.S. government to business and to the community at large," said Zeller. "We hope to assist government agencies in understanding how workforce information is used and why it is important. At the same time, we will make recommendations on which data surveys are critical and which are less important, giving input to the U.S. Department of Labor as they make tough decisions in the face of budget cuts."

For instance, a company looking to locate a new plant may need employees with certain skills or education. Economic development organizations such as ours at Georgia Power use the Census and workforce information surveys to demonstrate that a certain city or area has the workforce to meet those needs. International and domestic companies use this information, too, in deciding where they should locate a new office. Also, by defining the type of talent available in an area, economic development organizations, either at the state or local level, can focus on attracting specific industries.

The survey results also provide financial or occupational data to corporations at large. Georgia Power uses the survey information to ensure employees are fairly and equally compensated. By reviewing salary information for similar occupations, a prospective company can verify that its pay scales are comparable. "The workforce data we provide to prospective companies helps tell the story of why Georgia is a great place for business," said Anne Kaiser, vice president of Community and Economic Development. "And that story is not about the facts and figures; it's about the people in our communities and the value they bring to the workplace. Jennifer's participation on this board will make sure the data available in the United States continues to improve, giving us an even more compelling story to share."

Zeller will represent Georgia Power and the economic development industry on the WIAC. "We on the council have several goals. We will review available data and we will educate government agencies on its importance in growing communities and attracting and retaining business. "I am honored to participate on the Advisory Council," added Zeller. "This is a huge opportunity for us to influence and shape future understanding of and budgeting for vital workforce information and to educate government on the use for the private sector and economic development."