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Employers: Skilled labor in short supply

Becky Bosshart

Area manufacturers have a chief complaint: their future growth is limited by the quality of employees.

This is the criticism that several longtime industry leaders reported in an 18-month study on the condition of businesses in Carson City and Lyon, Douglas and Storey counties.

The study included Todd Carl, president and general manager of Bay Swiss Manufacturing, a family-owned company based in Dayton for 15 years. The precision-component manufacturer has seen a 13 percent business growth in 2005, compared to 2004. He’d like to see that continue.

“When it comes to future growth, what’s limiting us is the quality of employees or the employee base we have to draw from,” he said. “We have more opportunity for growth than we have the people.”

Carl said an increase in educational programs related to manufacturing would help train local workers. If this happens, the economy will continue to flourish.

The study found that most businesses in the four counties are satisfied with their location and prospects for expansion.

More than 20 volunteers of the Northern Nevada Development Authority interviewed 41 businesses from a variety of sectors. The study results will be used by the organization and community economic-development agencies to improve support for businesses in the four-county region.

Four key findings from the study:

— Businesses are growing and generally positive about the county in which they are located.

— A large majority of companies introduced new products in the past five years and plan on introducing additional new products in the next two years.

— Most companies see total sales increasing and market share increasing.

— Most companies plan to expand in the next three years and see no barriers at their current location.

Larie Trippet, development authority business development manager, said the study is the first step in an ongoing commitment to monitoring, reporting, and responding to the needs of Northern Nevada’s growing business community. Trippet was the project manager for the Northern Nevada Development Authority study.

Sonoma Scientific, which designs and manufactures microwave components for the telecommunications industry, relocated to Minden three years ago from Santa Rosa.

Company President Norm Hartz said it was a good move for several reasons.

“The business climate is better,” he said. “Workers’ compensation rates have gotten completely out of control there.”

For every $100 the company paid an employee in California, $9 went for insurance premiums to the workers’ compensation insurance company. In Nevada, it’s $1.50 per every $100.

Hartz said one thing could eat up this cost savings: high wages caused by a shallow labor pool.

“It’s hard to find qualified personnel,” Hartz said. ” We’ve had to raise base pay about 30 percent since we got here in order to keep people.”

Three years ago, he hired entry level staff at $7; now that’s up to $8.50.

He also worries about affordable housing for his production workers. If a worker can’t afford to live here, they’ll just move on.

The complete business issues study is available on the development authority Web site at http://www.nnda.org/overview.asp.


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