Column: The value of Delta Force

ESCANABA — Having a career in economic development means I often spend time considering the economic impact to our community caused by possible hypothetical scenarios. That leads me to give thought to questions like, “If a local manufacturer expanded their operations and added 40 new jobs, how many dollars would be injected into the local economy?”, or, “If 300 jobs were lost overnight, how would that affect the community?” The first session of the Delta Force program was held this last Thursday (Feb. 21). With perspective brought on by answers to the aforementioned questions, it didn’t take me long to appreciate the tremendous investment that employers make every year in the form of the Delta Force program.

This year’s class celebrates the largest size ever, boasting 34 students. Let’s consider the price paid just to get those students in a room together. To keep the math simple we’ll use the current Michigan minimum wage of $9.25/hour to represent the salaries of those individuals and the time they commit to the program. $9.25/hr x 34 students x 8 hours/day session x 9 day sessions = a $22,644 price tag. If you continue to factor time donated by program facilitators, food, transportation, lost productivity back at the office, etc… the total cost grows rapidly.

While it’s harder to quantify the return on that investment, after 15 years Delta County employers have resoundingly continued to offer their support by enrolling members of their team. That shows that over the years, they have seen firsthand the enormous value that comes from the Delta Force experience. In some cases, it comes in the form of the individual employee; Testimonials from past Delta Force graduates revealed that those students came away with more confidence in themselves and a deeper sense of belonging in their community. Some gains are seen back in the office on the team level; Part of the Delta Force curriculum focuses on personality traits and how understanding their own and their colleagues can help them perform as a better teammate and a stronger leader. Maybe most important is the value created by the program for the entire county; When reviewing the long list of Delta Force Alumni you’re likely to recognize many names of active folks in our community. Many of those individuals will tell you that participating in Delta Force played an important role in their development into a Delta County leader. An investment in Delta Force is a direct investment in the future of our community.

After appreciating what support for the Delta Force programs means, I am humbled to be able to spend a full day with this year’s class when I help facilitate ‘Economic Development Day’ in March. More though, I’m thankful for the marvelous returns on investment that come back to our businesses and our community and for that I am proud to play a small role in Delta Force.

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TJ Thomas is the executive director of the Delta County Economic Development Alliance