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A booming RV business in Oregon’s Lane County has thinned out the local work force, prompting manufacturers to broaden their recruiting efforts, according to a report in the Register-Guard.
The area around Eugene is fast becoming a hub for builders and suppliers with Lane County being home to Monaco Coach Corp., Country Coach Inc. and bus converter Marathon Coach Inc. Other manufacturers have also set up operations in the area to capitalize on the growing West Coast market.
As a result, Oregon builders have begun searching for workers outside the local employee pool.
Country Coach plans to double its Junction City plant with a 330,000-square foot addition, if it gets approvals from Junction City and Lane County officials. The 1,675-employee company has been short on workers for months now, and recently listed 50 openings.
The motorhome builder is conducting a national search for its professional openings, such as engineers and manufacturing managers, including using outside recruiters, said Dan Bedore, Country Coach’s human resources director.
But the vacancies aren’t limited to just the upper echelons. They’re “everywhere from our entry-level positions to our professionals,” Bedore added.
Country Coach isn’t the only local RV manufacturer struggling to find skilled workers.
“We experience much the same problems,” said Michael Warner, human resources director at Marathon Coach in Coburg. “It’s hardest to find qualified electrical workers, people with mechanical backgrounds, and cabinetmakers.”
Monaco Coach, also in Coburg, occasionally has trouble finding workers with the right skills but has managed to hire and keep the workers it needs, said spokesman Craig Wanichek.
In part, the local RV industry is a victim of its own success. Lane County manufacturers employed about 4,500 workers last December, up 27% from December 2003, according to data from the state Employment Department.
“When an industry is growing very rapidly, a skills gap tends to develop and they use up the available people who are willing and able to do that type of work,” said Brian Rooney, an Employment Department labor economist, noting the industry was making efforts to attract younger workers into the RV ranks.
The situation mirrors an ongoing condition in Indiana’s Elkhart County, which periodically deals with a shortage of skilled workers due to the saturation of RV-related businesses.