Businesses face employee shortage

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 6/07/00.

Help Wanted: Energetic, self-motivated, individual with a positive attitude, experience preferred but not required, for growing business.

This advertisement could have been run by any number of Paynesville businesses as they try to recruit new workers.

Stearns Manufacturing opened their plant in Paynesville seven years ago. The employees at the Paynesville plant have been working overtime since October to meet their order quota, according to Steve Guzy, plant manager.

They have a maximum workers' capacity of 100 employees, but only have 65 presently. Stearns Manufacturing has four plants in Minnesota. Three of the four are experiencing a shortage of employees.

The jobs are there; however, many Paynesville area employers are struggling to fill available positions with qualified individuals.

Randy Pflipsen, manager at Master Mark said they run continuous want ads in order to have a constant supply of applications. With a high turnover, they need a ready supply of applicants on hand.

"We'd love to see a better caliber of people willing to work," Pflipsen said. "But they are hard to find." Master Mark has 55 employees working 12-hour shifts. They have four shifts. Due to need, Master Mark has expanded their work force to include retired people.

According to Pflipsen, Master Mark pulls in a lot of people from out of town because there are not enough workers available in the Paynesville area.

"With the economy at such a good level, I don't see the job market changing for a while," he added. "We need a higher unemployment rate."

Louis Industries presently has enough people to fill their roster, with 30 employees working two shifts. Louis Industries are planning to purchase additional equipment. With orders increasing, Cecil and Leo Louis are unsure how soon they will need to expand their staff.

"We have a hard time finding people who want to work," said Leo Louis, co-owner of Louis Industries. "We are willing to train people and we have the trainers."

Louis said they are looking for a career person. "We used to be able to get more people off the farm. Not anymore," he said. "Our labor costs are the same as our counterparts in the big cities. We just have fewer people to choose from in the job pool."

Seeking employees
In cooperation with the Paynesville Chamber of Commerce, area businesses have compiled information about local businesses. Ten local companies have submitted data for a booklet, Paynesville Area Job Opportunities. The data includes work hours, starting pay, job descriptions, name of contact person, along with their phone number and address.

Featured in the booklet are: Stearns Manufacturing, Subway, Paynesville Area Health Care System, Koronis Manor Nursing Home, Louis Industries, Good Samaritan Care Center, County Line Bar and Grill, Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds, Koronis Sports Apparel, and the Paynesville Office of the Melrose Credit Union.

Each company gives a brief history of their business, what jobs they have available, hours employees work (full and part time), wages, and benefits.

"The booklet is another effort to let people know we are here. There are many people in town who don't know what our local businesses do," Guzy said.

The chamber plans to distribute the booklets around Paynesville. Guzy said the plan is to have the books available for new and old residents to pick up and read while they are waiting at a bank, doctor's office, city hall, or real estate office. The book will be offered to chamber members, and to the local school counselors. They will also be available at the schools in Eden Valley, Atwater, Belgrade.

"We need to get the word out and encourage Paynesville employees to stay in the area instead of driving elsewhere to work," Guzy said.

Bev Mueller, former chamber president, said another project being considered is a video. The video would air on Channel 6 and show what jobs are available at each plant in Paynesville.

"If a person doesn't like their present job, maybe they are looking for a change. The video would give them an idea of what type of jobs are available in town," Mueller said. "Our goal is to keep people in the area or to help people moving into the area find a job."

About 15 years ago, the Economic Development Authority of Paynesville (EDAP) was started to bring businesses and jobs to town.

According to Pat Flanders, EDAP chairman, today they are making the transition from bringing businesses to town to filling the employment needs of existing businesses.

"EDAP has evolved into bringing quality jobs to Paynesville and supports expansion of existing businesses," Flanders said. "Economically, there is an employee shortage nationwide. It is a sign of the times." He added with low unemployment rates and low interest rates, not as many people are looking for work. EDAP is presently talking with employers to learn what they can do to bring in more workers.

Paynesville area employers are holding informal coffee meetings to share their problems and discuss possible solutions. The meetings are open to any business or manufacturer. Representatives of Koronis Parts, Stearns Manufacturing, Paynesville Area Health Care System, Good Samaritan Care Center, AMPI, Louis Industries, and Valley Industries have met informally.

Keeping employees
With the job market so tight, employers want to keep their present staff.

Some deciding factors in keeping employees are perks, wages, and working conditions.

At Stearns Manufacturing, employees can set their own hours and they can wear headphones and listen to their favorite music while they work.

Louis Industries has also given their employees more freedoms. They have the flexibility to attend a child's afternoon school programs or come in late if needed. "The old ways of doing things don't work anymore," Cecil Louis said.

Money still talks when retaining employees.

Pflipsen said they give raises to new employees after 20 days, 90 days, six months, and a year at Master Mark. Employees receive a raise once a year after that.

Leo Louis said they have raised the wages of all their employees and have instigated a 500-hour bonus plan to help attract new employees and retain their existing employees. They also have an incentive pay as well as quarterly bonuses.

Louis Industries moved into a new plant a year ago, technology upgrades allowed them to produce more with the same labor force. "The new plant is making jobs more productive and more efficient," Louis said.

Editor's Note: This is the first of a series of articles on the employment problem in Paynesville.

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