Medina County businesses struggle to find workers despite thousands of open positions

With more than a thousand open positions available, officials in Medina county have a unique problem on their hands as businesses are clamoring for new employees. From healthcare to manufacturing and everything in between, there are jobs available. Potential candidates, however, are scarce.

“We don’t have enough of them,” said Kathy Breitenbucher, an economic developer at the Medina County Economic Development Corporation. “Most of our companies don’t have a retention problem. That’s very exciting. Once [employees] get there, [they] really like it. But getting people there is the challenge.”

Getting people to fill these positions is priority one. The MCEDC held an employer resources expo onon Thursday which featured more than three dozen service providers that assisted businesses with solving their workforce woes. The economic development corporation has also been active in area schools by offering tours of area businesses to those about to enter the workforce.

“We talk to companies all the time and they say, ‘we just don’t understand that our kids are all being pushed into going to college,’" said Bethany Dentler, the executive director of MCEDC. “If they started work, four years later, they would have no debt and have a nice nest egg. They would be on their way to buying a house and a car. We’re seeing starting salaries higher than we’ve seen in recent years.”

With more than half of working Medina county residents traveling outside the county for work, the MCEDC has also been focused on touting the county’s growing businesses as a way to show residents they don’t necessarily have to travel far for work.

Take Sandridge Food Corp. for example. The food manufacturer and co-packer have continued to expand. In recent years, the company has added 300 employees to its payroll and it is looking to hire another 40 people immediately.

“Filling the positions has been tough. We’ve advertised in many many different online avenues,” said Jon Drenski, the human relations and business partner at Sandridge. “It’s been really tough to get a candidate in that’s looking to work and looking to work in the food manufacturing industry. It’s been one of the toughest things we’ve been fighting over the last year. When we’re dealing with our growth, how do we find the employees?”

Through its agreement with the United Commercial Food and Commercial Workers union, the company offers a premium-free health care plan and a fully-funded pension. Starting wages can eclipse $15 an hour, which doesn’t take into account the savings from the premium-free health care plan. The company places a great emphasis on promoting from within, which gives employees a chance to climb through the company.

While much of the state’s focus has remained on attracting new businesses and helping current businesses expand, Dentler and Breitenbucher said more could be done on the workforce development front.

“Ohio spends a lot of money on business attraction,” Dentler said. “The resource these companies are going to need in order to grow and decide to move to Ohio is because of the people.”

That’s what Medina county is focusing on.

“That’s a huge drum that we’ve been banging,” Breitenbucher said. “We would love to see the state put some emphasis into our region and into our state because this problem can’t be solved without more bodies.”

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