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Old 12-15-2017, 11:26 PM
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Default Newton employers struggle to fill open positions

With unemployment shrinking statewide, employers in Jasper County are having to work harder than ever to fill open positions. That was the message Thursday at a seminar organized by the Newton Development Corporation. Held at Newton’s DMACC campus, employers from across the county where invited to attend the event.

Only 3 percent of Iowa’s workforce remains unemployed, and in Jasper County, the number is even lower, at 2.5 percent. With local employers like TPI composites announcing the creation of an additional 350 new jobs, employers across the county are struggling to fill open positions. Frank Liebl, the executive director of the Newton Development Corporation, said the goal of Thursday’s event was to make sure employers know about the resources they can access to find candidates for open positions.

“There’s a lot of resources out there that employers might not realize,” Liebl said.

One of those programs is DART’s rideshare program, which helps employers like TPI fill open positions by helping arrange transportation to and from work for employees. The program, which encourages employees to carpool with one another, has made it easier for TPI to bring in employees from Des Moines and Marshalltown. Cleo Boyd, director of human resources for TPI, said more than 200 employees, roughly 20 percent of TPI’s workforce, uses the service.

“It’s a recruiting and attraction advantage,” Boyd said. “It really works well. DART has been great to work with, they’re very flexible and customer-focused.”

To make the program work, DART provides vans, covers the cost of gas, insurance and maintenance and recruits drivers to the program. Riders pay a fee to use the service, depending on where the ride originates from, but Nick Peterson, DART’s business development and rideshare coordinator, said the cost savings to employees are substantial.

“Someone with a commute of 80 miles round trip would spend $9,900.80 annually for an average sedan, according to AAA’s 2016 Your Driving Costs Report,” Peterson said in an email. “A RideShare vanpool commuter would spend only $1,104 to $1,752 annually for the same round trip.”

Not only does the program help employees get to work, but Boyd said it helps create a bond between employees who participate in the program. Lasting friendships have been developed on the rides into Newton Boyd said, and employee reaction has been extremely positive.

“It creates a stronger bond between our associates and us,” Boyd said.

Peterson said DART is hoping to expand the rideshare program and is looking to work with other employers in Jasper County. Peterson said it’s encouraging to see the effect the program has had on employees at TPI, and he’s continually looking to expand its reach.

“We would love to talk to other people in the county, we want to get people to work in Jasper County,” Peterson said.

For Liebl, the program is a good way for employees to start building connections in Newton. Liebl said he’s hopeful that increasing the number of single-family homes in the community will give commuters more options when it comes to relocating to the area. He said his organization is working closely with the Newton Housing Development Corporation to encourage the construction of new single-family homes in Newton.

“Employers typically like to have their people live closer, and we’ll get it done,” Liebl said.

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or ddolmage@newtondailynews.com




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