May Rountable with Congresswoman Hinson & Economic Alliance Members Provide Tangible Examples of Obstacles for Employment

Jun 30, 2021

To directly connect Economic Alliance members with legislative representatives, the Economic Alliance occasionally hosts small group discussions with elected officials. In May, we hosted a roundtable session with Congresswoman Ashley Hinson and seven mid-sized manufacturing member businesses had the opportunity to share their challenges about finding workforce with the Congresswoman and offer recommendations.

Many of the businesses lamented similar challenges we hear from many members, like finding qualified workers as the skilled labor force has diminished.

Rhonda Griffin, Director of Human Resources for Centro Incorporated, a plastics manufacturing company that supplies parts to Caterpillar and John Deere, said their company’s biggest challenge has been finding qualified workers while the extra pandemic unemployment benefits are being provided.

Congresswoman Hinson noted she has signed on to the Help Wanted Act to provide strict guidelines and incentives for coming back to work and will follow-up with these businesses to see the impact to workforce challenges once the enhanced pandemic unemployment benefits dropped off.

Heather Cody from ESP International, an employee-owned company that makes seal and rubber products service John Deere and other OEM businesses, wants to grow and is in growth mode but currently has 12 open positions in Cedar Rapids and is struggling to find applicants. Cody shared they would normally have at least 25 applicants for each position, but now only 3-5 applicants per position, for opportunities that pay well above a $15 minimum wage.

“If we can get people in the door, there is nowhere to go but up in our company,” said Heather Cody, Human Resources Manager for Engineered Seal Products.

Jodi Wacha from Frontier Co-Op, a spice manufacturing and essential oils company is also struggling with workforce and currently in extreme growth mode with 30 production positions open.

“We’re growing so much that we can’t keep the people we have and keep them happy without overwhelming them,” said Wacha. “We’re adding three lines in July, and I’m going to need 50 more people for it.”

Destiny Harris from General Mills shared her concern about current employee morale due to picking up extra work that need to be done because they don’t have enough workers.

“We’re trying to think outside the box and help with work and life balance, but we don’t have workers to take on the additional work.”

Congresswoman Hinson spoke about additional Visa reform she’d like to see for mid-skilled workers. The group also discussed turnover of women in the workforce due to child care issues and Iowa’s aging population, both of which are expected to cause workforce challenges for our business community and the state well into the future.

The Economic Alliance continues to advocate for solutions to these issues and bring workforce challenges to our policy makers to impact change for the future.

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