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Archive for Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Plant could strangle job market

St. Joseph, Mo., may not have enough workers for hog company

August 29, 2000

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— Some people in St. Joseph worry there aren't enough workers to fill a plant if Seaboard Farms decides to build in northwest Missouri.

Seaboard Farms is considering the St. Joseph area for a 2,300-worker hog-slaughtering plant.

But many said the labor market is already tight.

"By and large, anybody who wants to work in St. Joseph is already working," said Dave Shinneman, owner of several McDonald's in St. Joseph.

Another factor is whether the company would hire local workers or those not living in the area.

Larry Mace, owner of The Staffing Center, a temporary employment agency, said the service industry is likely to feel the most strain.

"The positions which pay less than $7 per hour are going to be challenged to fill those positions and compete for those workers," he said. "Right now, they are the most challenged."

But others aren't so sure, pointing out the jobs and skills required for manufacturing and service are very different.

"Undoubtedly, we will have our share of losses. But I don't think it will be disproportionate in the service industry," Shinneman said.

Some people who oppose a Seaboard plant said wages would not be high enough. At a Seaboard plant in Guymon, Okla., workers typically make $8.75 an hour.

Some St. Joseph companies worry about keeping jobs filled if Seaboard builds in the area, said Lynn Parman, vice president of business development for the St. Joseph Area Chamber of Commerce.

Even if Seaboard locates in Elwood, Kan. another site under consideration, just across the Missouri River the plant could pull away local workers.

However, Richard Gronniger, human resources manager for Altec, said Seaboard's arrival probably wouldn't draw his full-time workers, as wages start at $10 an hour and the work is very different. But he acknowledged it could affect the business' ability to expand.

Some also wonder how much lower unemployment can go. For the past year, St. Joseph has enjoyed record low unemployment, between 2 percent and 3 percent. In theory, bringing in 2,300 workers would reduce unemployment another 1 percent.

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