WILLMAR – A tight job market in a small community about 100 miles north of Willmar has led to a creative solution for Brunswick Corporation, which manufactures Lund Boats.
New York Mills is a city of about 1,300 people, and Lund Boat’s manufacturing plant there employs 600 people, according to Brian Hines, vice president of operations for Lund Boats.
“So, as you can imagine, it’s very difficult to hire there, so we’ve been looking at ways to get away from our labor market a bit and get into a strong labor market, which is what is Willmar,” Hines explained. to the Willmar Town Planning Commission at its meeting on Wednesday. The commission heard the preliminary plan for the manufacturing facility which will be located in a leased building at 350 45th St. NW
Lund Boats plans to employ 30 to 35 local people in the manufacturing plant through a contract with AgJobs, according to Hines.
“Most of their staff are Spanish-speaking employees, so they will also provide us with (HR) support and supervisory support, as well as just the ability to bus people in,” Hines said.
While some employees will drive themselves and arrange their own carpooling, transportation in the form of a van or small bus will be coordinated between AgJobs and Lund Boats for those who require it. Workers can also use Central Community Transit, local public transportation.
The new employees are currently being trained at New York Mills, and Lund Boats plans to have them work at the Willmar plant in late June or early July.
All materials, such as wood, aluminum, carpet and vinyl, will be cut at New York Mills and then trucked to Willmar for bonding operations. These items will then be repackaged into boat kits and returned to New York Mills for assembly.
“Essentially, it saves us 30 more people who aren’t in our own backyard,” Hines said. “It’s far enough to be out of our job market, but close enough to be easy enough. I mean, if I have an emergency set of parts, I can throw it in a pickup truck and get it here in a couple of hours.
Many New York Mills-based employees have been working overtime since demand for boats increased, according to an announcement about the new facility made by Lenn Scholz, president of Lund Boats, during a meeting with New York members. Mills Civic and Commerce on March 29. This demand, along with other factors such as COVID-19, supply shortages, weather conditions and a shortage of hiring, has left the company with more than 40 vacancies.
“We have a great, highly skilled workforce at our current location in New York Mills, and we continue to grow there,” Hines said, noting how much Brunswick values and appreciates its current employees. “We’re just looking for ways to expand into a nearby location like Willmar to complement our growth in an area that has the resources to support it even faster.”
The Willmar building in which manufacturing will take place was annexed to the city in January 2021, and the city is working on a plan to expand city sewer and water through the annexation, according to the director of planning and development, Justice Walker.
While there are no changes to the exterior of the building, an investigation may be required, and it does not currently meet city zoning requirements for setbacks and parking spaces, Walker said. The city also requires buildings of this size to be equipped with a sprinkler system for fire suppression.
It’s unclear how long it will take for an investigation to be completed, and Hines noted that lack of parking shouldn’t be an issue. Many of the employees who will work at the facility will carpool or be transported by bus to the facility.
He also explained that the parking lot of the building currently has a large space for trucks to turn around, which will not be a problem for loading, unloading and transporting materials. Lund Boats plans to use soft-sided trailers so they can park the truck alongside the building and load materials from the side.
Hines said the company is doing renovations inside the facility to upgrade restrooms and break rooms. There will be very little water consumption in the facility, with the exception of toilets and sinks. Lund Boats plans to provide bottled water to employees.
The company plans to install a sprinkler system, Hines added. However, he would like to wait for city water and sewer to pass through the area before installing the sprinkler system. If this is not an option, a giant water tank should be installed with a jockey pump.
Walker noted that he and the city’s fire chief walked through the installation and that the fire chief was okay with the sprinkler system not being installed until the city water is on. was not available in the building in light of Lund Boats’ fire risk management plan.
The Planning Commission questioned whether the state fire marshal’s office would also agree with the company’s risk management plan and no sprinkler system in place immediately; this answer was not known to anyone present at the meeting.
Hines noted that there are Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements for the storage of flammable materials, and that adhesives used by the manufacturer will be stored in fire-rated cabinets. There will only be a day or two of material stored in the facility, he added.