An auto parts manufacturer with a plant in Howell is growing and hiring more workers.
Thai Summit America Corporation is looking to hire at least 100 workers to fill new positions at its sheet metal stamping plant in Howell in the next year, and there are about 40 vacancies on top of that, company officials say.
But the company is finding it a challenge to fill open positions with workers from Livingston County. Livingston County last month had the lowest unemployment rate in the state in July at 3.1%.
“It’s very hard to convince people in Livingston and Howell to join us,” President Chumpol Rangson said. “We are working hard to recruit more people locally.”
A 35,000-square-feet expansion of the company’s Howell plant, which is slated to be complete by next spring, is creating new job openings at all levels, including entry-level positions, skilled trades and administration.
The company has a new operation in Wixom where they are hiring and is also expanding to Bardstown, Kentucky.
“We are looking for the new generation, the young people for us to grow them into the skills,” Rangson said. “So, we start to recruit from the high schools, from the colleges, and I think that’s the main target for us.”
There are currently about 800 employees at the Howell plant, which is up from about 250 employees in 2010, Rangson said.
The company manufactures aluminum parts for the Ford F-150. Other clients include Tesla, Chrysler, Volvo, Freightliner and General Motors.
While the company is looking to hire locally, the positions will need to be filled one way or another, Human Resources Manager Jennifer Giannone said.
“We’re looking to fill positions from the top to the bottom,” Giannone said. “It’s different skilled trades, production, tooling, maintenance, engineers, you name it.”
Entry-level jobs at the company start at about $14 an hour and workers in those positions can earn as much as $18.95 an hour.
Thai Summit America is also one of several manufacturers in the county using a program through Flint’s Mass Transportation Authority that buses in workers from Flint to jobs in the Howell and Brighton areas, she said.
Giannone said the county’s low unemployment rate is a big factor.
“We’ll keep recruiting,” Giannone said. “We’re using temp labor.”
She said the company offers competitive wages, regular raises and training opportunities.
“The market is tight for skilled trades across the board. They’ve left or they don’t have any experience,” she said. “We tend to push our kids to go to college, and it’s not necessarily a typical college path.”
Tool and Die Manager Alan Heinig said there is also an age gap when it comes to finding people with some experience.
“Back in 2008, when the market took a tumble and a lot of people moved out of state and it didn’t come back, everything stopped for that time. You didn’t have people training and growing,” Heinig said. “You have a lot of 50-something-year-olds and a lot of 20-something-year-olds, and in between that, there is a big gap. We’re looking for people with some experience. We can take a welder and teach them the rest of tool and die.”
Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Eberbach at 517-548-7148 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook @Jen.Eberbach and Twitter @JenEberbach.