Saturday, September 1st, 2012
By Christine Henderson
Area businesses quietly adding jobs
  Jobs are on the upswing as Labor Day nears, but construction and other business developments remain on hold.
"Lots of companies are under the radar, quietly adding jobs," said Jared Ebbing, Mercer County community and economic development director.
Mercer County has added 600 jobs in the last year and a half, he said. Gains have been five at one firm, 10 at another and so on.
Companies are adding jobs, not floor space due to an uncertain future, Ebbing said. They are awaiting the November general election.
An increase in requests for temporary laborers began in May, said Rhonda Bergman, operations manager for Westaff in St. Marys, a job placement service.
Though hiring, Bergman thinks many business operators are postponing other decisions until learning the impact on business after the election, the new health care law and other major issues.
Crown Equipment Corp., with plants in Celina and New Bremen, has been hiring the last 18 to 24 months, said Randy Niekamp, vice president of human resources. Recently there has been "a little drop off in order level," he said, but the lift truck maker still has back orders and continues to hire. Niekamp said company officials are unsure of the future and are awaiting the November election.
"A backlog of orders indicates we will be relatively stable," he said. "Whether we will be growing, it is hard to say."
Coldwater Machine Co. has increased its labor force by 10 this year and is targeted to add 35 more people as part of a future expansion project, president Jerome Meyer said. The company designs and builds machinery, specializing in metal cutting, tooling application, machinery concepts and automated equipment.
A building addition will be constructed sometime in the next 12 months, but the size has not been determined, Meyer said. The economy, government policy and global influences all will have an impact on plans.
One trend Coldwater Machine is experiencing is the "re-shoring" of business - American companies returning operations from overseas.
Big corporations are bringing back capital spending to the U.S., Meyer said. His company sees the rebound first in its niche market because it builds the machines and tools that corporations use to manufacture products here. New products are in the fields of energy, aviation, appliances and automotive, he said.
"Re-shoring is for real," said Douglas Barhorst, owner of Air Handling Equipment Inc. of Sidney.
Industries are frustrated with the weather calamities in Asia, bootlegging of patented items in China, rising Chinese wages and increasing transportation/warehousing costs, Barhorst said.
Chinese wages have increased an average of 15 to 20 percent annually with some manufacturers seeing 40 to 100 percent payroll hikes in one year, according to an article in the "Maintenance Technology" trade publication. China is facing a skilled labor shortage, some labor unrest and people willing to switch jobs for better benefits.
Also reducing the economic viability of Chinese production is large-scale counterfeiting and trademark infringement. Liability then becomes an issue for American manufacturers importing the products.
On the flip side, the American workers' productivity is nearly four times that of the Chinese laborer. Americans are still the most productive in the world, according to the publication.
Boston Consulting Group forecasts that 2 to 3 million jobs, about a third in manufacturing, will be needed in the U.S. by 2015.
The Grand Lake area is not only benefiting from re-shoring but from its economic base of good workers and strong management.
"The companies are well run and weathered the 2008-2009 financial crisis better than some competitors. They now have growth with less competition," Ebbing said.
Southwest Auglaize County "will continue to be successful. There is no reason to suspect a change," Angela Hamberg, New Bremen economic development director and member of the West Central Ohio Workforce Development Initiative, said. "A skilled workforce is the answer to new possibilities."
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