Help wanted in Hawkins County: Must be willing to come to work every day on time

Jeff Bobo • Jul 30, 2018 at 4:30 PM

SURGOINSVILLE — There's no shortage of $15 per hour factory job openings in Hawkins County, especially at the Phipps Bend Industrial Park, but you've got to be willing to be on time every day and put in 40 hours a week.

Apparently several Phipps Bend plants are having trouble finding people to do that.

Meeting with Phipps Bend industries

On Wednesday, the Hawkins County Industrial Board hosted its biannual meeting with existing Phipps Bend industries at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology.

It's an opportunity for industry representatives to voice their concerns and talk about what the county and the IDB can do to help make their businesses run more smoothly.

In the past, they've brought forward issues such as lighting for Phipps Bend Road entering the park, which is now in the proposed 2018-19 county budget, as well as an emergency entrance, and/or exit from the park should Phipps Bend Road be closed or blocked, which was also addressed.

A job fair to be scheduled

IDB Chairman Larry Elkins reported to his board Thursday that one of the topics brought forth by existing industry Wednesday was their constant employee turnover.

To address the problem, Rebecca Baker, IDB coordinator, said she will work with TCAT to organize a job fair there, hopefully by the end of August, not only for Phipps Bend industries, but all Hawkins County employers.

For example, AGC Glass North America is expanding its glass plant in Church Hill, and the Barrette Outdoor Living plant in Bulls Gap has had help wanted signs at its plant entrance for years.

Elkins said he was approached by plant managers and human resource staff after Wednesday's meeting who said their constant turnover isn't about wages.

Finding employees willing to commit to their job

"It's a matter of commitment from some of these young people," Elkins said. "(Companies) are just having difficulty getting people to commit to work every day. I get so frustrated when I hear people talking about $10 and $11 per hour jobs because they're so few and far between any more."

Elkins added, "These are more like $15 per hour jobs, but they're having a difficult time even at $15 per hour getting people to come to work and be there every day and work a 40 hour week and be there on time. It's a new day."

Baker said the industries asked that the job fair be scheduled sooner rather than later. She had talked with industries about putting it together for this fall, and they said they need it now.

"Just about every plant up there is having this problem," Elkins noted. "Cooper Standard was adding almost 100 more jobs after their latest expansion. I don't know how many of those they filled. Ware Manufacturing is going through quite an expansion. Miyake is hiring, and RMC Advanced Technologies is just starting up out there. Another one is the Homeland Vinyl. Techni-Glass is another one. They just completed their expansion, they finished up their new building, and they're ready to hire people. They just can't get them to come in there."

Elkins added, "Jobs are out there and wages are having to go up, which is a good thing. But we had several human resources people there yesterday and two or three plant managers, and they're saying it isn't a matter of wages. They just can't get people to stick to it."

HolstonConnect coming to Phipps Bend

HolstonConnect also participated in Wednesday's existing industry meeting at Phipps Bend to let plant officials know that when the broadband expansion reaches Phipps Bend, their bandwidth capabilities will increase six-fold.

HolstonConnect is a subsidiary of Holston Electric Cooperative and is currently in the process of expanding cable TV and Internet service to all HEC customers in Hawkins and Hamblen counties.

AT&T provides broadband service to Phipps Bend, although Baker noted that the most anyone at Phipps Bend can get right now is 50 megabytes.

Holston Connects is expected to offer a minimum of 300 megabytes, Baker told the IDB Thursday.

"According to the representatives from Holston, they're going to improve that capability by leaps and bounds and at a better cost than AT&T is going to be offering it to them for," Elkins said. "I think this will really help with our recruiting efforts also because everything runs on computers now."


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