April 1, 2012

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Manufacturing

Utah Business Staff

April 1, 2012

The clinic has also helped with recruitment. We have endless referrals and applications, so we don’t have a labor shortage.

DICKSON: We’ve had great success with our own health clinic. We’ve been doing it for six months. We’re self-insured now as well. We’re watching that very carefully; our costs are going down.

We recently finished a 100,000-square-foot building addition, and the clinic is housed there. We have two exam rooms and a dental office, and we’re just in the process of hiring a dentist and a hygienist. We have two RNs and a nutritionist, and we have a finance trainer and a massage therapist. This is why we had 5,000 applications last year. Last month we hired another 30 people. The other thing that’s helping recruitment and morale is we’re doing ESOP (Employee Share Ownership Plan). There’s only 11,000 companies in the country that are doing that. We’re basically selling the company to the employees, so that’s been a major thing.

If you had the chance to tell the legislature and the governor a few things that this state should improve in order to make us more competitive both nationally and internationally, what would be some of those things?
BRIGHTWELL: EDCUtah brings in consultants all the time that are doing site selection, and one of the things that comes out on a regular basis when we ask them, “What do you know about Utah,” typically it’s always, “Great labor force.”

But in a meeting we had last week, they said, “That competitive advantage is a uniqueness, but you’re going to want to make sure that you invest in that uniqueness,” because things are challenging with education. They understand what the statistics are relative to our investment in education. It’s being looked at nationally. How is Utah going to keep that competitive advantage? It has a lot to do with education and our investment in it.

BHASKAR: From a legislative perspective, I think we are doing very well on the economic front. All the legislators bear tremendous tension when we bring up an economic issue—what to do with the economy, growing the economy. And we have done extremely well the last 10, 15 years. The focus is on economic growth.

We can probably do better. We have had discussions with the leadership the last several years about eliminating some of the socially intrusive messaging bills that are controversial, i.e., killing feral cats. The messaging bills may get the attention of the local press, but it also damages the image of the state nationally when Jay Leno or somebody else is talking about that and making fun of it.

DESPAIN: We just finished our 50th year in business. We’ve always been a debt-free company: we’ve built as we could afford; we’ve expanded as the market drove us to that. But from a state perspective, we receive very little help. For example, we opened a new plant in Pocatello, Idaho, four years ago because of the labor market. We were competing for the same welders, the same machinists. We decided to go north 132 miles to see if we could break out of that, and we did.

The legislature does a tremendous job. I think the economic development office is all over it. But the focus tends to be on bringing people to the state, and those of us that have been here for 50 years with the $25 million-plus payroll need a little help on occasion as we chase jobs.

For example, we’re working at Rio Tinto on its new moly plant. We’ve done all the pipe racks. We’re working with Big-D at the moly plant, finding those skilled folks. That’s a concern of ours: millwrights, the guys that can pull up in a truck and go make that happen, versus working in a controlled environment like our factory. Labor is a challenge for us.

We machine parts that are the size of this table, so to have the college or university set up a training cell for that is incomprehensible—to set up a vertical boring mill that will travel 12 feet by 66 feet and then send us that skilled employee. There’s a lot of risk when you get a part this size and you’re making a final cut on it. So finding those people that have the technical know-how to do it is really a challenge.

How are we tackling that training issue so we can build the workforce that manufacturers need?
BOUWHUIS: We’ve been working with Orbit Sprinklers, BD Medical, Merit Medical, to try and find a solution to mold makers. It’s taken about a year, but we’ve got all the players together, including GOED and the Department of Workforce Services, and we’re trying to design a multifaceted curriculum that will meet everyone’s need.

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