Indiana jobs abound as ‘now hiring’ signs show Richmond businesses need employees


RICHMOND, Ind. — “Now hiring.”

That’s what the signs say. Drive through town, and there’s no way to miss them.

Small signs planted in the grass, colorful banners whipping in the wind, placards posted in windows, changeable letter signs beneath large company logos and digital boards rotating messages.

They’re everywhere, whether along Chester Boulevard and U.S. 40 or in industrial areas.

The signs advertise available jobs — full-time and part-time, daytime and nighttime — in a variety of industries such as food service, healthcare and manufacturing. There are restaurant jobs involving just about any food imaginable — burgers, chicken, tacos, pizza, spaghetti and more. There are healthcare jobs with chiropractors, urgent care, clinics and more. There are manufacturing jobs producing pet food, plastics, caskets and more.

Applications could be obtained by text, online or inside, and enticements 

Simply, workers are needed, a situation exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tough choices have been made the past two years by employers and employees, some of whom have left the workforce.

For subscribers: The workforce mystery: Everyone’s hiring, but no one’s looking for work? Or vice versa?

“We’re certainly seeing a large shift in the economy right now and the job market,” Richmond Mayor Dave Snow said. “Richmond is by no means unique in the effects of that shift. It is a nationwide trend right now that’s being felt from coast to coast.”

Local unemployement by the numbers 

According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, there were 798 Wayne County residents collecting unemployment benefits during February from a workforce of 29,238. That’s an unemployment rate of 2.7%, ranking 31st in the state and right at the state’s unemployment rate. In Richmond, there were 394 residents collecting benefits from a workforce of 14,213 for a 2.8% unemployment rate.

The February county and city numbers demonstrated a workforce increase, more employed residents and more residents collecting benefits from the previous month. January’s county unemployment rate was 2.5% and the city’s 2.6%.

For the city, the workforce declined 286 people but 57 more residents were employed than in February 2021. There were 343 fewer city residents — a 46.5% drop — collecting unemployment benefits than when the unemployment rate was 5.1% in February 2021.

Available jobs, however, don’t work for everyone wanting a job. Some don’t pay enough; others require specialized skills or training.

In that area, Richmond fares well. Ivy Tech Community College Richmond offers training for in-demand skills needed by local employers, plus the city features Indiana University East, Purdue Polytechnic Richmond and Earlham College, which provides tuition breaks for local students and accepts Ivy Tech credit transfers.

“I think our job market is in a state of flux at the moment; however, Richmond is fortunate, unlike a lot of other communities, to have a lot of training opportunities and educational opportunities for individuals to skill up into various other positions if that’s what they desire,” Snow said. “So as long as the desire is there from the citizens, then certainly the tools are in place to be accessed to allow that mobility into a new career or a new job field.”

Struggling to find and retain employees, an issue that predates the pandemic, is not isolated to any industry or pay scale or even just to the public sector. The city of Richmond and Wayne County government also have open positions. Despite that, some employers choose to expand their local facilities.

Just Monday night, Vandor Corporation received tax abatements for expansion. Vandor plans to invest $6.4 million in equipment that would create 28 new jobs with a minimum wage of $16 per hour, the equivalent of $33,280.

“We, as everybody does, have concerns about finding people,” said Mark Harrington, Vandor’s president.

Last year, Hill’s Pet Nutrition announced a $17 million local investment that would turn its Union Pike plant into a seven-day-a-week operation and add additional equipment. That investment, which also received a tax abatement, would result in 64 new jobs. Hill’s also announced its starting wage increased to $19.75 per hour, the equivalent of $41,080 per year.

“They’re making an investment in their future and our future, and they’re offering quality positions to this community so that as these individuals who are shifting in the workplace decide that they want to make a move, there are these quality landing places for them,” Snow said.

The Eastern Indiana Regional Planning recently conducted a public meeting to receive feedback as it develops a comprehensive economic development strategy for its six-county area. About 50 people inside Kuhlman Center identified strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities to the local economy.

More: Regional group receives input into strategic planning process

Local educational programs, including high school trades training and post-secondary training, were mentioned as a top area strength and as a top opportunity. Brain drain from young people leaving the area, lack of a qualified workforce and too few good-paying jobs with benefits were all cited as weaknesses and threats.

Snow, however, said there is an effective educational and training pipeline in the city, stretching from early childhood efforts through public schools to trades development and four-year degree programs.

“Those opportunities are here, but we are seeing a nationwide economic shift in the jobs people are pursuing, the jobs people are shifting into, the jobs people are shifting out of,” Snow said. “And this is all going to start to settle over the next year, and people are going to have to decide where they want to land in this new job market and the skills they are going to need to find their footing in the new job market. I am just very pleased that a lot of those skill opportunities and educational opportunities are available here now.”

City and county efforts, including the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County, now stress quality of place and the attraction of skilled employees in addition to just trying to draw employers to the area. The efforts vary from a wider variety of housing to amenities such as the Loop and the Whitewater River to the combined effort on a program that will incentivize remote workers to relocate to the county.

“As we move into our attraction pieces, which we’re investing even more in, having opportunities like this make a big difference in people looking for a place to call home,” Snow said, “and Richmond is an amazing place to call home.”

Read More: Indiana jobs abound as ‘now hiring’ signs show Richmond businesses need employees

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