CEO group: Area has worker shortage

Leaders ponder ways to bolster employment pool

Taylor Made has signs posted along Route 30A and Harrison Street inviting people to apply for their many openings. (The Leader-Herald/Jason Subik)

During a Fulton County CEO Roundtable breakfast on Wednesday, local business leaders discussed what they’ve called a growing local problem: too many jobs and not enough people to fill them.

David Karpinski, president of Taylor Made Products, said his company has put signs all along the property of one of its buildings on Route 30A announcing the company is looking for workers. He said ever since local unemployment dipped below 5 percent, considered by some economists to be “full employment,” it has become increasingly difficult to fill jobs. He said Taylor Made, which has several local divisions, typically has periods of the year where it ramps up employment, and he said it’s getting harder to do that because of a labor shortage.

“We’re seeing it every day. Thankfully Taylor Made has been very progressive in our approach,” he said. “We have signs begging for employees.”

Karpinski said his company has increased its offerings to employees, including benefits, incentive plans, year-end bonuses based on the performance of the company, and it’s still difficult to recruit employees who will stay with the company. He said part of the problem is the local area has lost population.

Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger, a founding member of the CEO roundtable, said the local region needs to find a way to increase its population.

“How do we get more people from outside the area to live and work here in our area? Be they from outside of our area, maybe from outside of our country, maybe outside of the state,” Swanger said.

Tim Beckett, a senior vice president at Townsend Leather, said his company may soon be adding up to 50 employees and he knows it will be difficult to recruit them all locally. He said it can be hard to find people locally who have the right mindset to work in modern manufacturing, which often requires workers to continually learn new skills, whereas in past generations, manufacturing work was often simpler.

“There is definitely a labor shortage in our area, there’s no doubt about it,” Beckett said. “We’re advanced manufacturing. We’re looking for people who are computer savvy, who want to work hard and have fun and we need people who want to continually learn. We don’t want people who just want to do the same thing over and over again their whole lives. We need people to pick up their skills and grow as we grow as a company.”

Swanger said the CEO Roundtable will be forming a committee to explore ways to recruit people to come live in the area, and one avenue the committee will explore is contacting the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees in Utica to discuss how the city of Utica was able to bring thousands of Bosnian refugees into the city over the last several decades.

Karpinski said he believes looking for immigrants to come to the local region could be one important strategy for turning around the local area’s decline in population.

“I fully support that idea. We’ve had a declining population in this town and yet we still have a need as employers. So, if we have people who are willing to come here, work here, set up community, occupy housing, I absolutely support that,” Karpinski said.