March of 2020 and the COVID-19 crisis hit the job market in Clarke County like a hammer. Many local businesses, who depend on the area’s deep workforce pool, were forced to reduce staff or shut down completely. This took the pre-COVID unemployment rate that had been hovering between 3-4% locally to a staggering 10.8% by the end of April. In the recent jobs report, the unemployment rate for Clarke County came in better than pre-COVID status at 2.5%. With that, local businesses are racing to bring staff back, and the demand for quality employees is at an all-time high.
“Much of the unemployment reported through the spring and summer was due to mandatory closures,” said Bill Trickey, Executive Director of the Clarke County Development Corporation (CCDC). “Now, businesses are getting creative to build deeper workforce pools to offset any future issues.”
While mandated, state-wide reductions in staff and the closure of many service jobs forced businesses to lay off or let go of employees altogether, local manufacturing demand was impacted at a lower scale. This was due to the essential nature of the manufacturing industry and specifically the manufacturers in Clarke County.
Classified as “essential suppliers,” many local manufacturers saw the decline in unemployment numbers as a sign to turn up the heat on hiring incentives. This strategy would bolster the local workforce pool and mitigate lapses in production should COVID cases continue to rise.
“We need production people as much as ever,” said Susan Miller, Human Resources Recruiter at the Altec body plant in Osceola. “Our trucks help keep the lights on across the nation.”
With an increase in demand due to a busier than normal hurricane season plus a derecho that tore through the Midwest, Altec vehicles are racing around the country supporting power companies and first responders.
“COVID or not, there isn’t a slow time for these industries,” said Miller. “And we need to be there to support them.”
Currently, Altec is looking to fill over a dozen spots on their production team. These production positions start at a competitive $17.25 per hour and come with a full benefits package including health, dental, vision, and life insurance as well as a 401K program after 30 days with the company. With a $2,000 retention bonus, payable after 12 months with Altec, they hope to increase their production capabilities to meet any potential demands in 2021.
Osceola Food, the area’s largest manufacturing employer, has seen the need for more staff at all levels of the company. Roberto Luna, Human Resources Manager, has been working at increasing the area’s Hormel Foods team throughout the pandemic. Through monthly job fairs as well as a litany of hiring and incentive packages, Luna is focusing on bringing 50-100 more staffers to the Osceola team in the next 30 to 60 days. Of those jobs available, five are management / Production Supervisor positions.
“We also have a number of other great positions open,” said Luna. “Starting at $17.50 per hour, with increase at 6 and 12 Months, these are very competitive positions.” New hires can also receive a $2,000 sign-on bonus plus they become part of the Hormel Foods family of companies. Hormel Foods is a Fortune 500 global branded food company with 20,000 team members around the world.”
Employment at Osceola Food also comes with a benefits package that has traditionally been a market leader. Recently, the Hormel Foods team opened up a new college scholarship program. More than supplemental college tuition, the Hormel Foods Inspired Pathways program gives 100% community college tuition coverage to children of its team members. The company believes that a college education can change lives and lift up communities. Team members simply need to be employed by December 31. More information can be found at www.hormelinspiredpathways.com
“We need to be the company that not only pays our team members for a job well done, but also helps their families succeed,” said Luna.
Miller Products Company, an Osceola-based manufacturer of precision CNC custom parts, stock pins and fasteners serves the agriculture manufacturing and construction industries. They saw a comparatively level year with slight influx of new business.
“We were at our maximum workforce for much of the year,” said Kerry Richardson, Marketing and Sales Manager at Miller. “While front office operations were altered to adhere to social distancing protocol, the machines on the floor kept churning.”
Miller also added to their operations in 2020 with increased CNC capacity in November and another CNC lathe scheduled to be installed by the end of the year.
Moving forward through an uncertain economic future, the Clarke County manufacturing industry continues to prove working in Clarke County has advantages not found elsewhere in the state. Competitive pay, job security, outstanding benefits, educational incentives and more all drive the success factors for the entire community.
For more information about the availability of jobs mentioned in this feature, please reach out to the Human Resources departments at each company: Altec Osceola Body Plant, HR Manager, Susan Miller, 641-223-8807, email: [email protected]; and Osceola Foods, HR Manager, Roberto Luna, 641-342-8003, email: [email protected]