Just about everywhere you look, you'll see companies growing in Holdrege. In many cases, people are driving from miles around for the job opportunities. Allmand Plant Manager Jim Kaplinski says it's something he sees at his business. "When I started about two-and-a-half years ago, we had 67 hourly employees, and now we are up over 220," Kaplinski said.
Allmand started 80 years ago as a home-grown company. In the beginning, the business made welders. Now, workers produce light towers, industrial heaters, compressors and generators. "In 2014, the Allmands sold the business to Briggs and Stratton, who has owned it ever since," Kaplinski said.
Allmand is just one example of a successful manufacturing business in town, and there are many other examples just like it. "We've got BD Medical which produces insulin syringes," Phelps County Development Corporation Executive Director Ron Tillery said. "We have Hawkins Manufacturing that produces farm implements, and a range of other supporting products. We've got businesses like Glion Scooter, a mobility device manufacturer, that is an international company with roots here. We've become more of a manufacturing hub as well as an agricultural center," Tillery said. Allmand is continuing to grow, too, and so is BD Medical. "They are adding two new product lines this year," Tillery said. "That's about a $40 Million investment, so they are going to be adding 35 people. The hospital is expanding. We have a need for employees across the spectrum."
For Holdrege, the challenge is finding enough workers for the jobs. Many people are driving from Kearney and beyond to take advantage of the job opportunities in town.
"Every community has commuters in and out, but we actually have a net number of people commuting into these well-paying jobs," Tillery said. "There is as many as 650 net that are coming in. We see this as an opportunity to convert those commuters into full-time residents."
Experts say they key to getting people to put down roots, is to offer the amenities they want, including restaurants and retail options. "We want to make sure we have a full range of amenities and incentives that appeal to people and encourage them to want to live here," Tillery said.
One of the reason for the continued growth in the manufacturing industry may be the employees that can be found in the Holdrege area. Operators of companies like Allmand say the work ethic of the people in Our Town Holdrege makes a big difference. "The success of this company is based off of the people and the team that we have here," Kaplinski said. The success allows companies like Allmand to give back. "We have given financial awards to the high school for the robotics club, for the welding department, and also the CAD stations at the school as well," Kaplinski said.
The challenge ahead for big employers in Holdrege will be how to make sure there's enough workers to go around. But most people agree that being a manufacturing hub, and having a growing number of appealing and skilled jobs in town is a good problem to have.