Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corporation's Newsletter

November 30, 2021

 

Manufacturing Month

Part III- Changes Since Covid-19

Written by Melissa Kulbitsky, Economic Development Specialist of the Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corporation

 

Today, as promised, our newsletter, the third and final part of this series, "Manufacturers Month October 2021", will be taking a look at the "Biggest Changes and Present Challenges" that Covid-19 continues to bring to our local industries.

 

Parts I and II

 

If you were able to read Parts I and II you are aware that the Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) has been participating with many other economic development corporations throughout the State since 1997 in a State-wide Calling Program. The current Program is called ENGAGE! The program is designed to encourage one-on-one visits with County businesses. These visits allow the staff a chance to lend a listening ear, share resources and gauge the needs of the business community.

 

These visits also lend an opportunity to see how companies were faring since the on-set of Covid-19 up until now. Four basic pieces of information were gathered. It was very interesting to hear the answers to these questions:

 

I) Number of Employees

II) Number of Open Positions

III) Supply Chain Issues

IV) Biggest Changes since Covid-19.

 

While these seem like very basic pieces of information, they frequently opened conversation that spoke to generalized concerns, specific issues, challenges, and opportunities that each Company was experiencing unique to them. It also gave us here at the LVEDC, Lebanon's leading Economic Development Corporation, additional insight into the common challenges that are being faced daily and knowledge of solutions being utilized.

 

Our intent in sharing this information is that it will become a catalyst for more regular open communication across the different sectors of industry, encouraging the sharing of daily challenges and solutions. This has already begun as we have received positive and encouraging remarks since the publication of Parts I and II. 

 

As you recall, Part I addressed the workforce shortage challenges and the fall-out that occurs when trying to run production lines or multiple shifts while only partially staffed. It addressed solutions employers have used, including building a welcoming and culturally appropriate environment, increases in starting wages/equalizing the wages within their facilities, upgrading benefits, bonuses, and increased recognition and valuation of their employees. Despite these industry wide changes, many employers are still having a tough time attracting and retaining staff. There are no easy answers or quick fixes as there are many reasons for this on-going trend.

 

Part II looked at how the supply chain disruptions were affecting our local companies and the creative solutions that some were implementing to combat the disruptions.  

Part III. BIGGEST CHANGES AND PRESENT CHALLENGES

Shift in Perspective of Values

 

When the Covid-19 Pandemic lock-down disrupted our lives, economy, and every corner of the globe, the entire world went quiet. In that space of unprecedented silence, people everywhere took the time to re-evaluate their lives, relationships, time-commitments, dreams, jobs and careers. Many persons re-evaluated their previous choices and values to see if they still held relevance in a life that could at any time be cut short by Covid-19.

 

These soul-searching evaluations resulted in a major shift in perspective for millions. People began searching for a sense of meaning and value. They recognized their desire to be in more control of their time. Some people with no career path, future growth, or who felt undervalued, chose to switch careers or retire.

 

Still others decided to write "that book", pursue a passion project or start their own business. 2020 recorded the highest number of Entrepreneurs ever, "According to the Census Bureau, more than 4.4 million new businesses were created in the U.S. during 2020 — the highest total on record. For reference, that’s a 24.3% increase from 2019 and 51.0% higher than the 2010-19 average. Half a million new businesses were started in January 2021, alone. Data from our most recent B2B survey shares how and why new small business owners took the leap over this past year, and why many may reap the benefits." (1)

 

Some decided to tighten their belt and ride out Covid-19 due to fear of the virus. This mindset is revealed by the fact that savings reached an all-time high in the US during the worse of Covid-19. (2)

Fall-out from this nationwide evaluation has led to what many experts are calling the "Great Resignation" or "The Big Quit". This is the ongoing trend of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs, from spring 2021 to the present, primarily in the United States. (3)

In addition, hearing about the uptick in Covid-19 deaths daily made many single parents and care-takers of persons with compromised immunity systems wonder and worry about who would take care of their children or loved ones if they would contract Covid-19 at work and pass away from it. To protect their children or their loved ones, many of these single parents and caretakers have yet to return to the workforce. Statistics show that women and persons of color have been impacted the most. Now, those that would like to go back to work are facing the lack of adequate childcare. This, is not only a local concern, but a nationwide challenge. Although fear is not often spoken about, it is a very real driver influencing the culture of the workplace.

 

How is all this fear and fall-out affecting the mental health of the workforce?

Mental Health in the Workplace

An article written in the Harvard Business Review titled "It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work" by Kelly Greenwood and Julia Anas states regarding the high prevalence of mental health challenges in the workplace, "Mental health challenges are now the norm among employees across all organizational levels. Seventy-six percent of respondents reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year, up from 59% in 2019. While that’s not surprising due to the many macro stressors, it supports the notion that mental health challenges affect nearly all of us on a regular basis". (4)

 

Trust, Respect, Loyalty and Communication:

4 essential parts of any relationship

 

One Plant Manager that I spoke with shared some powerful insights into how the lack of open face to face communication negatively impacted the mental-health of their employees and ultimately the company.

 

They noted historically there had "always been a divide in communication between management and employees" and when Covid-19 restrictions were put into place, the tension in the facility quickly became palpable. They said that the lack of open communication and having no outlet for the employees to discuss and resolve concerns and issues, led to a raise in fear, resentment, anger, and animosity toward management. These employees, feeling unheard and cut off from management, turned to each other for support. One negative impact was that rumors started to abound within the facility.

 

It was only after open communication was re-established and a meeting was called to address the concerns and fears that the anger toward management abated and the rumors subsided. Although the environment within the facility is not quite where it was pre-covid-19, it is much better than it had been when the "open communication" component was eliminated for health and safety concerns.

 

This astute manager's insights are supported by Jennifer A. Williams, an Executive Coach and Relationship Strategist; (Jennifer specializes in leadership, team building, and emotional intelligence).

She noted:

 

"Some direct consequences of poor communication in the workplace for teams are:

  • Strained employee relationships

  • Ineffective project development and work habits

  • Poor employee morale

  • Lack of respect for each other or management

  • Gossip and backbiting

  • Wasted time and resources

 

As shared by SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, in “The Cost of Poor Communications,” a survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees. That number is per company!" (5)

 

A final insight from this local manager revealed the importance of open communication. When a disgruntled employee leaves, an employee that felt unheard and consequently under-valued, that employee takes their "negative experience" with them out into the community. That narrative can go anywhere. The company will often develop a reputation as an "unfriendly employer that does not treat it's employees well". In instances like these, the concern was raised about how these irrefutable perceptions impact the ability to fill open positions.

Another Plant manager spoke to this concern. He stated that his company has raised wages, added incentives, bonuses, educational classes, and helped with transportation issues for his employees. However, he felt that if the employees did not feel recognized and valued, that the higher wages would not keep them there long-term. He stated while all these upgrades played a part in being able to hire additional employees, building loyalty among them once they were part of the company was the bigger challenge. He noted that loyalty is a two-way street and building trust is a big part of the process. He stated it starts with open communication, and the willingness to hear an employee's concerns and challenges.

 

This dedicated plant manager started actively working to create that sort of supportive environment. First, he hired additional HR staff and worked closely with them, and second, immediately started investigating complaints/concerns with the intention to have them resolved with 48 hours. He realized through experience that silence often triggers fear and distrust so in the interim, all parties involved are kept up to date on the findings.

 

The experiences of this manager and the others that were interviewed, combined with the national trend of persons leaving their jobs voluntarily, has led me to believe that the shift in perspectives and values that took place during the enforced lock-down has fundamentally changed the way millions of people now look at life. These changes in perspective are still being defined meaning that many of these millions are still coming to terms with these changes and how these changes are going to affect their lives long-term.

Where does that leave the employer, that is doing everything they can to attract potential employees and retain the ones they already have?

 

Maybe the answer lies in understanding the magnitude of this shift in perspective and how multi-dimensional that it is. For one, there is definitely a power change between employers and employees. Employers historically held the power, often with the mentality of "My way or the highway". Many persons, when they were laid off due to being a non-essential worker, learned that they were capable of living on far less financially. They actively embraced a simpler more sustainable lifestyle. These persons when in a job that they may view as unfulfilling, no longer fear the "highway" but instead look to it as a path to build another way of living.

 

These factors, in addition to the ones discussed previously only cover the commonly acknowledged ones. The reality is that for everyone who is evaluating their life right now, there are a multitude of additional personal factors that will determine their final decision of whether they go back to work full-time, part-time, never or leave a present job.

 

Many of these factors are outside of an employer's control. It can seem like the only options employers have is to continue offering a supportive work environment that actively addresses these on-going concerns for present employees while waiting for the tight workforce market to loosen up.

Vaccine Mandate

 

Another concerning change has to do with the impending vaccine mandate that will affect companies having over one hundred employees. This mandate, if enforced will affect a staggering eighty-four million full and part-time employees nationwide.

 

Our interviews showed that regardless of whether the employer was in favor or not of the mandate, all of them had the same concerns, "How do they enforce the mandate? Where do they get the extra resources, money and staff to oversee what employees are vaccinated or have tested negative when they come to work? How do they do this, especially between shifts? How does the company absorb that additional expense and time when many are already working with less than an ideal number of staffing? What happens to their (perishable) products when they do not have enough employees to run lines or deliver their products in a timely manner because the employee has been sent home due to lack of vaccination?

 

In early November this mandate was temporarily paused by multiple federal appeals. (6) This pause was then supported when a three-member panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans cited "grave statutory and constitutional" concerns about the mandate. (7)

 

In preparation for the implementation of this mandate, one employer took an informal poll among his employees. His intention was to find out how many were vaccinated and how they felt about a mandatory vaccination enforcement.

 

He was dismayed to learn that 50% of his workforce stated they will walk off the job if a vaccination becomes mandatory. Being a food manufacturer, and having multiple contracts outside of the State, he was understandably concerned about not being able to meet his obligations. His frustration was heightened by knowing that if he did not enforce the mandate, and would allow employees to work unvaccinated, he could be fined $14,000+ per employee per incident.

 

The future impacts from this vaccination mandate have yet to be realized.

 

Conclusion

In summary, the past 18 months of Covid-19 has created incredible challenging times nationally across the U.S. and here locally in Lebanon County. Daily, obstacles arise stretching thin resources, time, management and employees who are already feeling the strain. Despite the challenges, many of these obstacles have been met successfully head-on through-out the pandemic.

 

I believe this is due to the collective experience, wisdom and dedicated hard work of our local industry leaders. Everyone spoken with was determined to continually and actively look for ways to keep their workers safe while at the same time meeting their business obligations. If history is any indicator of what the future holds, with all the positive changes being made going forward, many industries will bounce back stronger than they were pre-Covid-19. In large part due to the healthier dynamic of valuation, trust and loyalty being built with open communication, which has at times been missing in the viewpoint of many millions of potential employees.

 

(1) https://www.salesforce.com/blog/small-business-pandemic-entrepreneurs/

(2) https://www.statista.com/statistics/246268/personal-savings-rate-in-the-united-states-by-month

(3) https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2021/10/harvard-economist-sheds-light-on-great-resignation/

(4) https://hbr.org/2021/10/its-a-new-era-for-mental-health-at-work

(5) https://blog.heartmanity.com/consequences-of-a-lack-of-communication-in-the-workplace

(6) https://deadline.com/2021/11/federal-court-issues-stay-biden-vaccination-mandate-large-companies-1234869432/

(7) https://nypost.com/2021/11/12/court-affirms-pause-on-biden-vaccine-mandate-for-private-companies/

We would love to have additional input from companies and businesses we were not able to visit with. If your company would be interested in having one of us stop in or would like a copy of our previous newsletters, Part I and Part II, please contact mkulbitsky@lvedc.org.

 

Out of respect for your time, we will work hard to keep the meeting under an hour.

Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corporation's Newsletter

November 9, 2021

Manufacturing Month October 2021

Part II-Supply Change Issues

Written by Melissa Kulbitsky, Economic Development Specialist of the Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corporation

 

Many positive and encouraging remarks were contributed since part one of the Manufacturing Newsletter that focused on workforce was published. It was our intention to address the Supply Chain Issues and the Biggest Changes since Covid-19, in Part II, but have decided that both important issues deserve their own article due to the depth of information gathered during our Manufacturers visits. We will address the Biggest Changes Since Covid-19 in an upcoming article. Today’s newsletter will address the on-going supply chain disruptions and how they are affecting our local Manufacturing Companies.

II. Supply Chain Issues

Covid-19 has played havoc on a lot of areas of our life. Have you noticed that many store shelves seem to be emptier?  Everyday supplies; food, lumber and other products are increasingly harder to find. Buying limits have been imposed on everyday commonly needed products.  In September 2021, “Costco said it will “put some limitations” on items including toilet paper, cleaning products and its Kirkland-brand water, in anticipation of a continuous tight supply of inventory and a possible wave of panic-buying resembling what occurred last spring(1)

Empty Shelves have Become an all too Familiar Sight

A couple of years ago, few persons outside the industry had heard of the term "supply chain" but now it has become a common household term. So just exactly what is the Supply Chain?

 

A supply chain is often described as "a system of organizations, people, activities, information and resources involved in moving a good or service from the initial supplier to the final customer." It also includes coordination and collaboration with channel partners, including suppliers, intermediaries, third-party service providers and customers.

 

The pandemic has caused disruptions internationally, nationally, and locally. These disruptions affect every part of our economy and have been described as an "Impending Crisis". We will look at how these disruptions are affecting our local industry leaders and their businesses.

 

First I wanted to note that for years it was unheard of to have more than one cargo ship waiting to be unloaded at the United States Ports of Entry. It is now common for up to “160 cargo ships to be anchored offshore, some for weeks, as they wait.” (2) Docks are stacked with thousands of containers needing to be emptied, loaded, and prepared for shipping. Residential streets near the Ports are being blocked by truckers that are forced to disconnect their filled trailers and leave them behind, as they cannot get into the unloading stations. 

 

With the holidays rapidly approaching, the increase from on-line shopping, coupled with compressed timelines for shipping and delivery, the already stressed supply chain may very well become overburdened. There are projections that the supply chain may not stabilize until the end of 2022. It has even been forecast by some who work in this Industry that the supply chain is going to collapse shortly under the holiday crush. Entire Countries are bracing for possible food shortages in the very near future. (33.13.2)

 

So what does all of this have to do with Lebanon County Manufacturers and the local economy? Manufacturers unfortunately, are familiar with the supply chain disruptions because a significant portion of them have felt the impact. Many of the supply chain concerns expressed by our local industry leaders can be summarized in two areas; specific and generalized. 

 Specific Issues Expressed Affecting Certain Manufacturing Sectors

 

·        Food Companies that mix batches are unable to get exact ingredients on timely basis, causing spoilage and loss.

·        Food products unable to be shipped in time to meet the customer’s expectations.

·        Less availability or actual shortage of cooking oil, soybean, sugar, and wheat.

·        Industries that use oil by-products have been affected by natural disasters (floods in Texas and the Golf Coast).

·        Companies often must wait on packing supplies including wrapping, corrugated products, films, and plastics that come from overseas.

·        Specialized equipment needing to be replaced or upgraded once ordered having a projected delivery date of a year out or more. This is often due to the lack of skilled labor and shortage of supplies needed but compounded by supply chain deficits.

·        Food Companies who sell their products directly to grocery stores are getting push back when they raise their prices to recoup some of the loss incurred from the steep hikes in the raw materials. 

 

Generalized Issues Affecting all Manufacturing Sectors

 

·        Uncontrolled price hikes in raw materials, products, supplies, and packaging goods including aluminum and stainless steel. Supply costs for some raw materials have doubled in an 18-month period with monthly increases the expected norm. For example, Business Insider noted, “Aluminum, used in the cans for long shelf-life storage food has gone from *$1459.93 per ton in April of 2020 to $2934.39 in October 2021.” (4)

·        Increased freight costs, late and unreliable delivery dates of products.

·        Tighter markets; harder to source materials, supplies and products on time.

·        Shortage of truck drivers are affecting entire processes from inbound to outbound shipping.

Aluminum Tin Cans Production Line

Raw Materials

Solutions

 

So how are our local industries navigating these unchartered waters? 

 

One local company has strategized to grow and source their supplies within a two-hour radius of their plant. This plan has mitigated the negative impact disruptions that the supply chain has had on them in comparison to companies that rely more heavily on supplies sourced nationally and internationally.

 

Two companies interviewed were looking at the option of using rail delivery instead of solely relying on the trucking industry. This solution could be a viable one, but it comes with other concerns such as financial viability, logistics, and the type of products being shipped.

To combat the instability of the delivery process, some within the industry have considered increasing the size of their trucking fleets. This would allow them to reclaim a part of control over the timeframe of the receipt of supplies and delivery of the finished product to their customers instead of wholly relying on outside trucking companies.

 

This solution would create additional job opportunities within the community. But shortage of persons who have a Commercial Driver’s License is still an on-going concern for many of the employers. Many are currently struggling to fill driver positions and this would exacerbate the struggle to fill additional positions.

Several companies have compensated for supply shortages by buying in bulk and storing them. While this initiative-taking method takes care of some concerns, the added cost of storage if a warehouse is needed, impacts the bottom line. In addition, there is the financial risk incurred if supplies bought ahead are no longer needed due to termination of contracts or agreements.

 

One company is even looking at possible relocation out of the state to be closer to their source of raw materials. This could include consolidation of present facilities. But the CEO of this company stated before any of this is implemented, all other avenues will be investigated, including finding another use for the building within the business. This company employs a very specific segment of the population and is dedicated to keeping them in their jobs.

 

Some might think that an obvious way to off-set the increased costs is to pass them on to the consumer. Historically that has been the favored method used, but it comes with drawbacks. Companies struggle to balance their bottom line with the affordability of their products for the customer. It is often a very fine line between the two concerns.

Summary

  

Due to the immense complexity of the Domestic and International supply chain, these challenges can seem insurmountable from a local manufacturing industry's standpoint.  We are fortunate that the manufacturing industry creates a positive spin-off effect. Many of our local industries compliment and supply products to the manufacturing sector. This has helped to alleviate some of the negative impacts. 

 

Our discussions clearly showed that these disruptions impact companies differently and on distinct levels. Often the willingness to tweak already existing processes and procedures go a long way in dealing with these challenging times. Flexibility, combined with years of experience, expertise, and the willingness to keep moving forward, is allowing our local Business Leadership to continually meet these obstacles head-on. Despite the on-going issues, several companies interviewed have found enough workarounds that they are continually able to meet their customer’s needs. A few even stating that they considered 2021 a record year for business! 

 

(1) https://observer.com/2021/09/covic-panic-buying-driver-shortage-costco-purchase-limits/

(2)https://www.breitbart.com/economy/2021/11/05/backlog-report-nearly-160-ships-waiting-outside-la-ports-unload-goods/

(3)https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2021/10/15/grocery-shortage-toilet-paper-coffee-chicken-hard- find/8455259002

(3.1) https://www.investmentwatchblog.com/system-collapse-supply-chain-workers-warn-of-impending-breakdown-because-covid-shutdowns-have-drained-the-workforce-and-worsened-product-shortages/

(3.2) https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/29/business/supply-chain-workers/index.html

(4) https://ycharts.com/indicators/aluminum_price

We would love to have additional input from companies and businesses we were not able to visit with. If your company would be interested in having one of us stop in, please contact us at mkulbitsky@lvedc.org.

 

Out of respect for your time, We will work hard to keep the meeting under an hour.

Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corporation's Newsletter

November 1, 2021

Manufacturing Month October 2021, Part I

Written by Melissa Kulbitsky, Economic Development Specialist of the Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corporation

 

LVEDC Staff conducts Site Visits with some of Lebanon County's Biggest Industry Leaders

 

The Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) has been participating with many other economic development corporations throughout the State since 1997 in a State-wide Calling Program. The current Program is called ENGAGE! During COVID the team had to transition to virtual visits, but they are now enjoying “boots on the ground” one-on-one visits with County businesses. These visits allow the staff a chance to lend a listening ear, share resources and gauge the pulse/needs of the business community.

 

October was the perfect month to rebound and move to in person visits. October is known as “Manufacturing” month. It is a time to celebrate and honor those in the industry. During this month the LVEDC traditionally tries to meet with a host of manufacturers.  

 

Recently the LVEDC team, which included Susan Eberly, President, Melissa Kulbitsky, Economic Development Specialist and Tony Spangler, Business Specialist were able to visit with eighteen companies. 

 

We were pleased to announce that we came in #1 in South Central PA for visiting the most companies during Manufacturer Week!

 

 

Some local facts*:

 

-There are 191 established Manufacturing Companies in Lebanon County.

-These companies collectively employ 8,969.

-That equates to 18.6% of the workforce. (Statewide- 9.8%)

-The average salary in Manufacturing is $57,483. (Statewide-$66,967)

*www.workstats.dli.pa.gov/Lebanon County Profile/September 2021

 

These figures support Manufacturing as being a main sector of employment in the County. It is part of Lebanon Valley’s identity and its legacy. These companies help to stabilize our economy and build for our future. How?

 

One way is by paying millions in taxes which helps to maintain the infrastructure which greatly enhances the quality of life in the Lebanon Valley. These paid taxes help to alleviate some of the burden on the local homeowners.

 

In addition, the life sustaining salaries paid to the 9000 employees, allows them to buy homes, pay utility companies, purchase groceries and products. They also donate to their favorite charities or non-profits. These dollars continually roll through the community. That journey helps to keep the economy strong and healthy.

 

Historically, manufacturing jobs have not always been looked at favorably as a career choice. But after touring many of the facilities, noticing the cutting edge machinery and automation, and how clean and orderly the they are,



The companies visited produce a multitude of products. They manage processes ranging from cold storage/distribution, food production-bagels, food packaging, laser cut specialty parts, medical equipment for kidney dialysis, manufacturing of various types of plastic containers, customized rubber flooring, roofing materials, paint products and long term shelf life food packing.

 

The visits lent an opportunity to see how companies were faring since the on-set of Covid-19 up until now. Four basic pieces of information were gathered. It was very interesting to hear the answers to these questions:

 

I) Number of Employees

II) Number of Open Positions

III) Supply Chain Issues

IV) Biggest Changes since Covid-19.

 

While these seem like very basic pieces of information, they frequently opened conversation that spoke to generalized concerns, specific issues, challenges, and opportunities that each Company was experiencing unique to them. It also gave us here at the LVEDC, Lebanon's leading Economic Development Corporation, additional insight into the common challenges that are being faced daily. Knowledge of solutions being utilized; Some that are working and others that are not.

 

Our intent in sharing this information is that it will become a catalyst for more regular open communication across the different sectors of industry, encouraging the sharing of daily challenges and solutions. Ultimately enhancing and strengthening the comradery that exists within our local Businesses and Industries.

I and II.

Number of Employees and Open Positions

 

Within the 18 Companies and businesses that we met with, there are 1011 full-time employees (FTE's) documented. These same companies collectively have approximately 200 open positions. Some of these positions have been open for over a year, but that is not for the employer's lack of trying.

 

It is a common challenge among the businesses interviewed for them to pull in potential employees. A frustration frequently expressed was that they are not getting a response to their "Help Wanted" ads, despite advertising on multiple platforms, including social media, TV, Radio, Newspapers, The Merchandiser, CareerLink Job Fairs, and up to four different Temp Force Agencies.

 

Another concern expressed was the growing trend of candidates who don’t show up to scheduled interviews, don’t arrive on the first day of work and quit without giving notice.

 

This trend is known as “ghosting” in the workplace. Unfortunately, it has become an all too frequent and expected part of the entire process. It is also common for new employees to habitually come in late. Or work only two or three days a week despite a status as an FTE. Some may work just one pay period to earn enough to pay a specific bill and then leave with no explanation. Others stay until their earnings start to effect State benefits that they may be receiving.

 

Some of the companies we met often fill their open positions but have a high turn-over rate. One manager quoted a 30% monthly turn-over, another a 60% yearly turn-over.

 

Some of these challenges in hiring a properly skilled, motivated, and dedicated workforce are attributed to a variety of reasons:

 

  • lack of soft skills (ability to communication well in speech and writing, problem-solving, creativity, persuasion, getting along with others)

  • lack of motivation or drive

  • unreasonable job expectations

  • the childcare tax credits

  • the extra UC benefits

  • change in life goals and perspectives since the Covid-19 lockdown (the question is now, not "Where do I work? But "Why do I work?")

  • uptick in persons who retired early (so loss of those experienced skillsets) and

  • job hopping to another employer that offers a higher starting salary and/or bonuses.

 

This last observed trend has helped to fuel a local, as well as National, wage war.

 

Every employer, or manager interviewed stated that their company has been raising the starting wages (SW's) of new employees (and regular employees) since 2020. Their payrolls have jumped 20-22% in a 12-month span. Some companies have done this several times. Others have bit the bullet and raised their SW's high enough that they were able to fill their open positions almost immediately. SW's quoted ranged from $13 up to $24. It goes without saying, the lower the SW, the harder it is for that company to find adequate workforce labor.

 

In addition to the starting wage increases, some employers are also building in a progressive pay scale for a new hire.

 

As an example: One Company recently filled an open HR position with a long-term employee who was employed on the manufacturing line. This employee had no previous HR experience, but had a good working knowledge of the dynamics of the company in relation to the workers. They were brought in at $17 an hour and within 8 weeks of training, the wage will be raised to $22.

 

Other companies are offering internal bonuses to employees who refer a potential employee, that is later hired and stays. The bonuses are usually dispersed at different times frames within that new hire's employment; 90 days, 6 months, 9 months, and a year. Bonuses ranging from a few hundred and upwards of several thousand are a common incentive used when advertising for the new employees.

 

Several employers are forced to close production lines or run shifts only partially staffed when their employees do not show up. This causes additional stress for the employees that do come to work. It often means that the steadfast employees must work mandatory overtime. These employees become resentful, suffer burn-out and leave.

 

To motivate FTE's that consistently miss work, twenty-five percent of the companies interviewed are now offering Weekly and Quarterly Attendance Bonuses. The weekly bonuses range from $100-150. These bonuses can equate to an additional $2.00 an hour.

 

One example of the Quarterly bonus being offered by a food packing distribution plant is $1250 even having a "3-day skip" built into. This means that the employee could miss one day a month each quarter and still qualify for the bonus.

 

The Owner offering that quarterly bonus said that very few of his workers qualified for this bonus this quarter and as a result, he was considering upping it to $2500.

 

Additional perks offered by many of these companies in addition to higher SW's, and bonuses, are good to great medical insurance packages (employer picking up total deductible costs, low to no out-of-pocket costs), 401K +3/4/5% employer contributions, free financial and smoking cessation classes, free bus passes for those that need transportation. At times, Employers even chartering a bus or a van to pick up workers who do not drive and live too far to walk to work.

 

It is a noted trend, that many single persons, are not as interested in all the benefits as the married employees are. The long-term employees who perform better and stay longer with a company are often married and need the benefits such as medical insurance for their families. The single people are more willing to job hop for a higher starting salary.

 

It was evident after these meetings, that many of the industry leaders are determined and dedicated to work with their employees to get through all the challenges that Covid-19 has presented.

 

One in particular summed it up by saying, "People want clarity....And there is no clarity. That makes people fearful". He makes it a point to tell his employees, that while he doesn't have all the answers, he is there with them, and they all will get through it together, step by step. That resiliency and dedication is to be admired!

 

Next week, we will continue the conversation by sharing thoughts on the following points:

 

III. Supply Chain

IV. Biggest changes since Covid-19.

 

VisionCorps Dennis Steiner, CEO

We would love to have additional input from companies and businesses we were not able to visit with. If your company would be interested in having one of us stop in, please contact us at mkulbitsky@lvedc.org.

 

Out of respect for your time, We will work hard to keep the meeting under an hour.

"House of Hair" Ribbon Cutting
April 2021

LVEDC held a Ribbon Cutting for the House of Hair Salon located at 513 E. Main St., Annville.  The weather was beautiful but chilly so the ceremony was held inside.  There was a nice turn out of elected officials, community leaders, family members and friends to help welcome Heather, her staff and the House of Hair Salon to the Annville Business Community.

Susan Eberly, President of the LVEDC opened the ceremony by sharing the LVEDC's varied role in the Community in supporting economic growth; the importance of small business and how LVEDC helps to celebrate them as they become part of the Community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heather Herman, owner of the House of Hair Salon, shared her journey to becoming a salon owner; her training, obstacles, and the support of the family and friends.  Heather introduced her staff and was pleased that due to support by the community she had tremendous growth and was able to recently hire five employees.

Deputy District Director, Tom Gerhard from Congressman Dan Meuser's Office gave his congratulations and thanked Heather for taking this remarkable step of ownership and staff growth.

Anthony Perrotto, Annville Township Commissioner and Jennifer Kuzo, President of Visit Lebanon Valley also welcomed Heather to the local business community and shared remarks about the importance of supporting small businesses and some experiences they have had in their roles as Community Leaders.

"The Factory", "LE CupCakes" and "Fat Puppy Coffee Roasters" Ribbon Cutting
February 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, February 5th, 2021, the LVEDC was delighted to host a ribbon cutting to welcome 'THE FACTORY". "LE'S CUPCAKES", and "FAT PUPPY COFFEE ROASTERS" to our local Business Community.

 

The weather was beautiful, so the ceremony was held outside. We had a great turn out of our local dignitaries, elected officials, community leaders, family members and friends in support of these new businesses.

 

Susan Eberly, President of the LVEDC presented Ashly Landis, owner of THE FACTORY with a Spirit Award for her vision, hard work, and love of community.

 

Lydia Eberly, owner of LE's Cupcakes, was also recognized for her new business and presented with numerous certificates of appreciation from our elected officials and community leaders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Due to working conflicts, Sean Firestine, owner of FAT PUPPY COFFEE ROASTERS, was unable to attend. However, many of those who were able to attend, commented about how unique and eye catching in appearance his coffee shop set-up is, lots of coffee equipment, mugs, bags of coffee beans and t-shirts.

 

Also, LE's Cupcakes was an instant hit, as many attendees lined up to purchase cupcakes to eat and buy to take home.

 

A few short years ago the LVEDC helped to secure SBF funding for a portion of the purchase cost of the facility that THE FACTORY is housed in. And now, we are delighted that we were able to host a ribbon cutting for these new businesses in THE FACTORY and help introduce and welcome them to the Community.

 

BEST OF LUCK TO ASHLY, LYDIA AND SEAN!!

Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corp was honored at the 2016 Manufacturers Associations' Gala as Partner of the Year. 

Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corp was honored at the 2016 Manufacturers Associations' Gala as Partner of the Year. 

 

Founded in 1906, the Manufacturers' Association, a growing regional trade association serving manufacturing, production and logistics in Pennsylvania and Maryland, recently honored the recipients of its 2016 Manufacturing Awards at their Annual Event at the Pullo Center in York.   The occasion provided an opportunity for the Association to publicly honor and recognize those member companies and partners making a difference in the regional economy, the lives of their employees and the local manufacturing sector.

 

The Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corporation was recognized as the Manufacturers’ Association’s Partner of the Year. Susan Eberly, President and CEO accepted the award. The LVEDC works with area businesses and the community to strengthen existing businesses and create an environment in which new companies can flourish.

 

The LVEDC is an advocate of manufacturing and has been working hard to create relationships throughout the County and the region to promote the industry. 

 

The LVEDC established a calling program, with the goal being to visit manufacturers to listen to their successes and challenges.  They met with over 60 businesses in the county and as a direct result created a county Workforce Alliance to build stronger connections so that businesses, educators and service providers can dialogue and find solutions for workforce issues in the County. 

 

After listening to the local manufacturers the LVEDC developed a manufacturing Consortia; so far this consortia has brought together the county schools, training organizations and manufacturers to develop curriculum and training to support the demands of manufacturers.

 

The Manufacturers’ Association serves on the LVEDC Workforce Alliance committee and has brought many creative ideas and initiatives to the table.  The public schools in Lebanon County have been educated on the iExplore Career website developed by the Manufacturers’ Association, in efforts to promote manufacturing careers to high school students.     

 

The partnerships help to jump start the ‘Careers in Two Years Program’ which highlights lucrative careers that can be achieved within two years or less - of college or technical training in the County. 

 

The individual manufacturing and partnership awards for the evening were personally presented by Karl Rove, noted political strategist and best-selling author, who served as the Association’s keynote speaker for the 2016 gathering.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Susan Eberly, president of Lebanon County Economic Development Corporation accepts the Partner of the Year Award from Karl Rove, speaker for the Association’s 110th Annual Event April 20. Also shown (from left) are John Lebo, outgoing Association board president; Tom Palisin, executive director; and Tom Baughman, incoming Association board president.