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Tue, Dec. 10

Grantham: Community needs to adjust for changing workplace

PRESCOTT - For decades - even centuries - companies and employers have followed a basic model of providing a centralized workplace for their employees.

From the early days of technology when long rows of telephone operators answered calls, to the "cube farms" of recent decades, the tenet was the same: the job tied employers to a worksite base.

However, according to local author and workplace expert Charles Grantham, the days of large company headquarters where employees gather in cubicles and offices to do their work are fast becoming obsolete.

"Corporate headquarters housing hundreds and thousands (of workers) are disappearing as fast as folks can unload the real estate," Grantham said this week.

And he maintained that companies, and indeed communities, must adjust to the changing trends or face extinction.

"Things are changing very rapidly," Grantham said of the pattern that he said has developed over the past 200 to 250 years. "If you don't follow that, you disappear."

Grantham's advice came during the latest presentation in a series of "Looking Forward" speakers that are part of the Prescott 2050 Visioning planning effort.

The fifth in a series that has provided information about sustainable energy, transportation, and population trends, Grantham's talk was an effort by the 2050 group to "put ideas out there that would stretch your mind," Mayor Jack Wilson told the 40 or so people who turned out at Prescott City Hall Monday night.

Wilson, who spearheaded the 2050 planning effort earlier this year, added, "Nothing in Looking Forward is gospel," but rather a forum for exchanging ideas.

Grantham, who also heads up the mayor's economic development committee, maintained that Prescott is poised to take advantage of the changing work environment.

"I think we've got a lot of the key ingredients," Grantham said.

For instance, he said, the location of work appears to be shifting from cities to smaller communities.

In addition, he said, the home is playing a larger role in today's work. About 30 percent of work still takes place in a corporate setting, Grantham said, while 35 percent of work happens at home, with another 35 percent taking place some-where in-between.

"Free agency is the one that is beginning to take hold," Grantham said.

In that atmosphere, he said, communities with positive images (or brands) and good quality of life will have an advantage in attracting people who can work anywhere.

Grantham also stressed the importance of having a viable airport. Even though he predicted business travel would decrease in coming years, Grantham said the air link is crucial to keeping Prescott on the work map.

Other important factors include education, telecommunication, and affordable housing, Grantham said, adding, "I feel pretty comfortable that we are working on all of those things."

Even so, Grantham said the community still needs progress in a number of areas, such as developing a more prominent brand and coming up with a strategic plan.

"I see some of those things coming out of the 2050 plan," he added.

The Prescott 2050 Visioning planning effort kicked off in February, with the goal of having a final plan to Wilson in December.

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