Washington County's slow recovery making employers cautious
Winebrenner Transfer Inc. secretary Angel Zurvalec, right, chats Friday with company driver Jim Morris at the trucking company's Conococheague location. Zurvalec started with the firm last year as a temporary employee, but later was given full-time status. (By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer / September 15, 2012)
“I can’t thank Manpower enough. It’s opened up another option for me. Two years ago, when I was working at (the warehouse), I wouldn’t have predicted that today, I’d be (working in an) office.”
Bringing in temporary workers such as Dietz has proven wise in the uncertain economic times, said Kim Winebrenner, vice president of administration at Fil-Tec. In all, it has about 110 employees now, she said.
“I think we initially started bringing temps in for various reasons, but that (economic uncertainty) was one of the reasons. I use all resources available” in finding new employees, said Winebrenner, who isn’t related to Randy Winebrenner.
During the recession, “we did have to lay people off and it was the first time in our history that we have had to do that,” Kim Winebrenner said. “But we are growing and expanding, and we are coming out of the recession confidently.”
Fil-Tec makes many products, including high-temperature sewing threads, engineered yarns and fiberglass gasketing materials. Its products are used in such items as sofas, mattresses, comforters, shirts and hats, as well as helping to deliver electricity, Internet and telephone services worldwide, according to its website.
“We have growth with some of our existing business,” but the reason for optimism now is “more based on some new products that we’re developing,” Kim Winebrenner said. “We’re a diversified company, so we’re always expanding into other industries and developing new products.”
In the 25 years since she began working for Manpower, franchise co-owner Coblentz said she has experienced a couple of downturns in the nation’s economy.
Coming out of them, “generally, what we see is a very defined turn-around time that’s clearly marked,” Coblentz said.
“The difference I’ve seen in this one that’s been painful for everyone, is there’s no clear recovery. For our employers, our clients, it’s just felt like we’re bumping along — for a number of years. So, it’s not been: ‘The recession’s over. We’re moving forward.’”
So, many area employers “are still concerned and hesitant about bringing on staff. They’re thinking twice. If they get a new client or new orders, they’re hesitant to bring in new staff,” Coblentz said.
“Prior to the recession, the volume users of our services were companies that had peak seasons. So, if they were going to be really busy from May to September, they’d say, ‘Let’s bring in temp contract associates and then after season, we just let them go,’” she said.
“And now, what we’re seeing that’s different is, people are saying, ‘We’re starting to grow again, but we’re growing slowly. We could really use another person in the accounting department, but I’m not ready to commit.’”
So that’s why temp agencies have become really busy, said Amanda Heisey, an account manager at the Hagerstown office of Aerotek, an employment placement agency.
“When I started back in spring of 2008, honestly, we weren’t very busy,” Heisey said. “We didn’t have as many clients calling in. They (local companies) were just looking to maintain their current level of employees.”
But now, companies “have started to slowly come back, needing employees,” said Heisey, who recruits clients from among businesses throughout Washington County and in Cumberland, Md.
Officials at the companies she visits “are telling me they definitely have some upcoming projects in the works. They aren’t as busy as they would like to be right now,” but busier times are in sight, Heisey said.
“It hasn’t happened quite yet. I think the ones that are hiring, they have gotten the work a little bit sooner.”
Like jump-starting an engine