Anthony International reaching out to local pastors for help finding job applicants
The people who do the hiring at Anthony International in Madison stick out like sore thumbs.
“Send us some good people,” Janice Reilly, human resources director, told a group of visitors Friday afternoon as they left the plant. She might as well of punctuated her request with groaning “puh-leeze.” With a local unemployment rate of 10.4 percent (more than 50 out of 100 qualified Morgan County residents are out of work), the manufacturing company on Sovis Road is desperately seeking job applicants.
The California-based maker of products for grocery and deli refrigerator and freezer cases is shifting much of its production, warehousing and distribution to Madison so it can better serve its main customers in the South as well as improve its own economic efficiencies.
The local industry is poised to grow in the next year, and possibly into this decade, as it sees its businesses expanding right underneath its nose. Yet, despite all of the economic promise it’s willing to share, the high number of residents in Morgan County who have filed unemployment claims since the recession hit in 2008 and the city’s willingness to help the manufacturer mitigate the cost of expansion, Anthony International is having difficulty finding the right workers for all of its manufacturing segments.
In an effort to understand the company’s human resource needs, Madison City Councilman Michael Naples and Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce acting president Bob Hughes arranged a tour Friday of the plant with four members of the county’s Black ministerium: pastors Aaron Carter of Bethlehem Baptist, Hoke Smith of Calvary Baptist, Alfonzo Peters of Springfield Baptist and Charles Johnson of Flat Rock Baptist.
Both Naples, Hughes and Anthony International lead executives hope the pastors can take the company’s message to the pulpit Sunday morning. Carter said many members of his congregation and in the surrounding community do not read the newspaper want ads nor do they regularly surf the Internet in search of jobs. How is important information communicated? “By word of mouth and in church,” he said.
Naples, of District 5, said he arranged the tour because he believes the African-American community has qualified job candidates but they do not know about the number of employment opportunities growing in their own backyard.
Traditionally, ministers in African-American churches preach more than the Gospel, said Johnson. “We minister to the whole self – the physical, spiritual, mental and financial.”
“It’s like four pieces of a pie,” explained Smith. “Jesus asked, ‘Do you want to be made whole?’ We lead people to completeness.”
It’s the whole people that Anthony International wants to hire to keep pace with the growing market demand for its products. The company operates two to three shifts in various segments. “In one plant we make commercial freezer doors for use in supermarkets, and in the other we make curved glass for deli cases. We are the only manufacturer in North America that can make the glass curve as much as it does,” said Reilly. “We need employees with basic manufacturing skills.”
Ray Nunn, general manager of the door plant, told the ministers that the operation outgrew its Sovis Road facility and has shifted production to the Wellington site. Other areas that are growing are warehousing and distribution, manufacturing the frames for the freezer doors and making specialty glass for doors on open-island cold cases, such as the ones that stretch along the meat aisle in Walmart. New government food-safety regulations require the cases have sliding tops to retain the cold.
The desired employee skill set at Anthony International includes being able to measure with English and metric rulers; being able to match up items; good eye-hand coordination; and the ability to stand on concrete for eight to 10 hours a day as well as lift up to 50 pounds on a regular basis.
Jeff Spotts, vice president of operations for the local operation, was even more specific. “We need people who have a good work ethic – show up on time, follow the rules and work hard.”
The hunt has been difficult, say plant supervisors.
Entry-level wage is about $8.50 an hour with the possibility of working up to $10.50 an hour, including annual raises and safety bonuses, partial health care coverage, a 4 percent matching 401(k) plan, paid holidays and on-the-job training.
The company uses a temporary hiring agency to initially screen and hire workers. Etcon of Madison sets up every Tuesday and Thursday at the Anthony International administration office on Sovis Road. Criminal background checks and drug screenings are required of candidates. The temporary employment period is about 90 days, said Spotts. “It works two ways. In that time, we can decide if the worker is right for the company and the worker can decide if he or she likes to work here.” After the paid probationary period, the temp worker is hired on a full-time basis, becoming an employee of the company and qualifying for benefits.
The local plant employs 126 full-time and 55 temporary workers. It expects to hire up to 50 new employees within the next several months. If qualified employees continue to make it there, the company will begin to seriously consider building an addition on the 16-acre campus.
Printed in the September 15, 2011 edition