Menard to Fly Workers in From Wisconsin to Staff North Dakota Store

Menard Flying Workers From Wisconsin to North Dakota StoreBy JAMES MacPHERSON

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Home improvement retailer Menard Inc. says it will hire workers from its home base in Wisconsin and fly them to North Dakota to staff a store in Minot, which is near the state's booming oil patch, a region has more jobs than takers.

The company said in a statement that it plans to hire 50 workers in Eau Claire, Wis., where it has its headquarters, and fly them weekly to Minot, which is also in the middle of an unprecedented building boom as it recovers from record flooding last year.

Menard, which has more than 200 stores in the Upper Midwest, said this would be the first time it has flown employees to work weeklong stints, housing them in hotels, but that it "is going to be a permanent solution for as far as we can see."

Minot is North Dakota's fourth-largest city and had been growing rapidly even before the flooding that swamped some 4,100 homes and displaced thousands of residents. Its population grew from 36,500 in 2000 to about 41,000 in 2010, U.S. Census data show. City officials say the present population is nearing 50,000.

That means there's strong demand for building materials. Minot store manager Phil Graef said business is the busiest in the five years he's headed the store, the only big-box building supply retailer in town.

"We were starting to stay even with the oil boom, and then the flood happened," Graef said. "Now, we're trying to get ahead of both of those."

Finding workers to keep up has been tough, he said.

"Everybody has a 'now-hiring' sign in their window," Graef said.

Businesses struggle to attract workers throughout North Dakota, which has some 22,000 more jobs than takers and the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, at 2.4 percent, Job Service North Dakota data show. The unemployment rate in Minot is 2.3 percent.

"It's going fast and furious here," Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman said. "As it is, there is not a big enough labor force around here, and as it gets colder there is less of one."

The unemployment rate in Eau Claire is 6.3 percent, lower than the national rate of 7.9 percent in October. Mike Schatz, the city's economic development director, said its economy is strong and that there are job opportunities in the town of about 65,000.

"It's not like people can't find work here -- there are plenty of expansions going on," Schatz said.

But Menard spokesman Jeff Abbott said there was good interest when the company held a job fair in Eau Claire earlier this month to hire workers for its Minot store. Menard intends to train the workers at Wisconsin stores and send them to Minot "as soon as possible," he said.

Menard has offered a starting wage of $13 an hour at the Minot store, well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which prevails in Wisconsin. It's also the minimum wage in North Dakota, but most jobs there pay more. A listing for a pizza delivery driver in Minot was advertised Thursday at $15 to $20 per hour, plus a $250 signing bonus.

Competition for the Menard jobs has been tough in Wisconsin.

Pam Weaver, of Eau Claire, said her husband, Gary, had his heart set on one of the positions with Menard in Minot but was told Thursday that he wouldn't be hired. No reason was given, she said.

"It's frustrating," Pam Weaver said. "He seemed disappointed."

Gary Weaver, who was laid off from his job as a telemarketer several weeks ago, was back at the unemployment office Thursday filling out job applications, said his wife, a 55-year-old claims auditor for a health insurance company.

"Who would have thought that we'd be in our 50s and struggling?" Pam Weaver said. "We're not the only ones. We've had three different friends who have lost businesses in town in the last five years."

Zimbelman, the Minot mayor, and Menards store manager Graef said they hope some Wisconsin workers eventually decide to make Minot their permanent home instead of commuting more than 500 miles by air to get there.

But Eau Claire's Schatz has another idea.

"We would hope just the opposite," Schatz said. "We want them to bring that North Dakota money back to Eau Claire."

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December 01 2012 at 2:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

ya right

December 01 2012 at 2:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I sincerely feel for workers in their fifties. They are really being held by the short hairs in this new world economy. Basically they are too old to hire and too young to retire. Younger ones may have time to recoup. Fifty somethings are really stuck. A thirteen dollar an hour job seems hardly worth being totally uprooted for. When you factor in the expense of additional housing if a spouse stays back at their job, it hardly seems worth it. People are camping out in Hoovervilles in these scenarios. I don't think any oil based economy should be supported. I think we need renewable sources, green sources of energy. That would be worth making a sacrifice for.

December 01 2012 at 1:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bcheerful3's comment

Instead of illustrating your consumption of oil by typing stupdity on an internet message board, why aren't you busy making those sacrifices for green energy that you claim would be worthwhile, but that you prove you aren't willing to make?

December 01 2012 at 1:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I live in Georgia and have been to Minot. In the middle of summer. I can tell you right now, I would not want to live there. And I am very skeptical about stores and companies who say they can't find employees. Just like the couple they were talking about where the husband couldn't get hired. If they have an unemployment rate above 0%, there are people who need jobs. What about those people? Just sounds fishy to me.

November 30 2012 at 11:31 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to pj512's comment

Everybody knows Menard's and other large corporations just love to throw away shareholders money on useless expenditures, right?

December 01 2012 at 9:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wouldn't want to live in Georgia with the heat & humidity, high crime and low performing schools. I'll take North Dakota over Georgia anytime.

December 02 2012 at 12:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

It's hard to tell a Slovakian in ND; that you didn't get your happy meal toy !!!

November 30 2012 at 10:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Wondering why Obama can't get the flooding fixed ?? He's been in Four plus ( 4+ ) years !!
It would create some jobs and prevent those billion dollar disaster governemnt payouts.

November 30 2012 at 9:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Who would want to live there? Lousy weather,dead town,sand savages.

November 30 2012 at 9:10 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

The hookers are racing to ND because of all the men! They get $200.00 per hour wooohoooo

November 30 2012 at 8:34 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to SPQR's comment

And you know this firsthand so are you a ho or a joe

December 01 2012 at 1:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Menards "offered a starting wage of $13 an hour, minimum wage in North Dakota". So another minimum wage job-just higher state minimum wage required. But THE real question is IF McDonalds, Burger king, Sears-inside sales, Pop's convenience store and all the other minimum wage payers can pay 13 $ an hour, 26,000 a year, why can't these same stores in other places pay the same. Two people working -, at min. wage, is $ 52,000 a year. They can afford health insurance -no large medicaid base. So explain why isn't minimum wage higher in other places.

November 30 2012 at 7:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to overexposed1's comment


Are you really that illiterate?

The article clearly states the $13/hour is, "well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which prevails in Wisconsin. It's also the minimum wage in North Dakota"

Or are you just too stupid to comprehend something so simple?

November 30 2012 at 8:50 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

They should try hiring some people in Detroit,Chicago etc etc etc.....There are thousands of welfare people that perhaps could be "induced" to work for a change

November 30 2012 at 7:28 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply