Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, left, tours the Manitou Madison manufacturing plant on June 26, 2023, with plant manager Jeff Minnaert. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)
MADISON — A manufacturer conducting a $60 million expansion in South Dakota says it’s attacking a workforce shortage by raising pay and embracing diversity.
Manitou is a manufacturer of construction equipment based out of France. It is expanding its operations in Madison and Yankton and will add about 125 jobs between the two sites. Currently, 510 of the company’s 540 existing South Dakota positions are filled.
How is Manitou doing a $60 million expansion amid a workforce shortage? Story about what they say coming soon… pic.twitter.com/J7fnwtMrxd
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Plant manager Jeff Minnaert said the company is trying to distinguish itself by offering the highest wages and most comprehensive benefits packages in the area.
“Our goal is to be the employer of choice,” he said. “If the people here don’t enjoy working here, they’re not going to tell others to work here.”
The company has conducted three pay adjustments in recent years, with workers now ranging from $21 to $30 an hour, depending on experience.
With a historically low 1.9 percent unemployment rate in the state, attracting and retaining skilled workers has become difficult. Manitou’s methods for dealing with the problem include expanding its workforce to include more females and workers from other nationalities.
The company has grown its female employment at the South Dakota plants from 1 to 40 in the last 20 years. And Minnaert said about 25 of the 250 workers at the Madison plant are Hispanic U.S. citizens.
To foster that diversity, Manitou has bilingual employees to help non-English speakers and has converted instructions and signage to pictures rather than words.
Minnaert said the company still needs another 30 workers to keep the expansion plans moving along smoothly.
“We think we’ve got everything we need to bring them in. We just need to find them,” he said.
Another focus for the company has been partnering with the state’s educational institutions to recruit workers, such as engineers from South Dakota State University and welders from the state’s technical colleges.
U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, toured the Madison manufacturing plant Monday to learn about the expansion. He said Manitou has set a positive example for other businesses grappling with the workforce shortage.
“They clearly understand that if they want to keep growing, they need to offer great wages,” Johnson said. “And they clearly understand the value of embracing diversity.”
Manitou’s Yankton facility is adding 65,000 square feet, while the Madison facility is being expanded by 80,000 square feet. The estimated completion date for Madison is October 2023, and the spring of 2024 for Yankton.
Across the state, other efforts are underway to address the workforce shortage. Gov. Kristi Noem is spending $5 million of state money on ads starring herself to address what she describes as a 25,000-worker shortage in the state.
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