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Large employers face tough recruiting

By Staff | Nov 1, 2013

With housing options limited and higher paying jobs an hour away in Minot, the larger employers in Rugby are struggling to fill jobs despite the state’s booming economy.

Heart of America Medical Center is in need of four certified nursing assistants, two nurses and several housekeepers. Shopko is looking to fill six part-time positions before the holiday rush and the store has needed help since March. Rugby Manufacturing, has five openings, three for welders. Envision Cooperative is looking for about three employees in Rugby and more in other C-Store locations.

Representatives from the companies agreed that housing is one the biggest obstacles, but optimism is present with construction on the Chalmers First Addition housing development underway.

“Housing is our biggest thing,” said Sara Radomski, director of human resources at Rugby Manufacturing. “We’ve tried to recruit management from out of state, but they’ve ended up in the hotel for a couple months.”

The struggles aren’t only tied to housing as each company identified different issues stalling the hiring process. For Heart of America Medical Center, filling entry-level positions is proving difficult because of local competition with the likes of Rugby Manufacturing, the Cobblestone Inn and Envision Cooperative.

“The labor market’s really tight for us right now and we’ve had to use contract labor, which it would not be our first choice,” HAMC CEO Jeff Lingerfelt said. “It’s more expensive and, typically, they’re not as invested in the organization, so that’s been our challenge.”

HAMC recently hired two nurses from the Philippines, who are on two-year assignments. The entry-level positions are also proving tough to fill because of competition in Minot. Lingerfelt recalled recently seeing a sign advertising a $1,000 signing bonus at a McDonald’s restaurant in the Magic City.

“We’ll offer that, but we’ve had people who’ve left us to go for $3 more an hour in Minot, which they’re willing to pay the gas difference to make that kind of money,” he said.

HAMC, which employs about 380 people (about 250 full-time) is hoping to attract more nurses and other employees when it opens a daycare center next year. Providing that service will be critical in attracting young people to replace an aging staff, Lingerfelt said.

Shopko can attract teenagers for entry-level positions, but store manager Darrell Courtney said they often get seniors in high school who move off to college soon after. The store offers higher wages depending on experience, but also has to compete with Minot employers.

“Overall, really it’s been a tough year being so close to the oil patch trying to find good, quality entry-level positions to fill,” said Courtney, a former president of the Rugby Chamber of Commerce.

Rugby Manufacturing employs about 90 people and isn’t feeling the strain as much as other companies because it receives help as part of Truck Bodies & Equipment International. The corporation is made up of five companies, including one in Mississippi, one in Alabama and two in Minnesota. Components for some of the manufactured goods in Rugby are made by the other companies.

Radomski said 2012 was a more difficult year, but the company reached out to area colleges and high schools. Turtle Mountain Community College has a welding program and Rugby Manufacturing has successfully recruited students there. With increased housing, Radomski believes Rugby offers a more attractive life than one in the oil fields.

“We get more people from there than going there,” she said. “People from here want to get back here and get sick of that lifestyle.”

Envision general manager Steve Dockter said he really tries to sell prospective full-time employees on comfortable small-town living and even hunting opportunities for those interested. Dockter lives near the Chalmers First Addition project and is hopeful it will help open existing rental properties for young employees fresh out of college. Envision employs 120 people, mostly in Rugby, but also in other area towns.

Shelley Block, the executive director the Chamber of Commerce, keeps a list of rentals and is optimistic that the city and Job Development Authority will continue working to increase housing.

“I know they’ve seriously looked into it,” Block said. “We need a place for people to live.

I think most people with families really want to move to Rugby for the small-town feel. We all look out for each other. It’s a great place to raise your kids.”

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