Street Talk: Make life more than a job

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Express Employment Professionals of Grand Rapids is on a mission to raise awareness throughout West Michigan about the many career opportunities currently available and the value of having a job. 

In April, Express launched the “More than a Job” campaign to highlight the importance of employment and the benefits employees gain beyond just receiving a paycheck.

Light industrial manufacturing is one industry that continues to thrive in West Michigan with a diverse range of markets, including office furniture, automotive, medical devices, food processing, aerospace, defense, foundries, plastics and more. The light industrial division of Express Employment Professionals of Grand Rapids is currently serving more companies than ever before, with 382 jobs available at 102 different companies.

A market snapshot report by EMSI, a labor market data company that partners with Express, shows that manufacturing is the largest employment industry in the Grand Rapids-Kentwood MSA and is ranked well above the national average.

However, while demand for light industrial employees continues to increase in the region, the labor shortage continues to make it increasingly difficult for employers to attract talent. In West Michigan, the labor force participation rate has dropped more than 3% since 2019, resulting in nearly 30,000 individuals who are no longer working or looking for work.

Express Employment Professionals International CEO Bill Stoller said there’s a lot to be said for the value of hard work.

“There’s no denying that making enough to pay the bills is usually the primary motivation for seeking work,” he said. “But securing that aspect can also positively impact your mental health. A job can elevate your self-esteem and challenge the mind, which studies have shown helps to prevent early aging.”

Wendy DeVries, who leads Express Grand Rapids’ light industrial division, said people are looking for a job where they can learn and have a plan for advancement.

“They are looking for a company that wants to invest in them,” she said. “They want to know the plan and what it takes to reach those levels. They also need companies to be flexible to what they have going on in life outside of work.”

Some of the most in-demand light industrial jobs available at Express Employment Professionals of Grand Rapids include machine operator, warehouse worker, mechanical assembler, production worker and forklift driver.

Positions range in pay from $14 to $18 per hour and more, with companies hiring on all shifts and schedules.

Express Pros said it is excited and grateful to work with many companies that are committed to the growth and development of their employees, including client Kenona Industries.

“Kenona Industries has a unique and inviting culture and enjoys investing in its employees for future growth and opportunities,” said Karna Bronner, Kenona’s human resources manager.

More information about the “More than a Job” campaign is at expresspros.com/grandrapidsmi/more-than-a-job.aspx.

Cutting edge

FlannelJax’s wants to make every throw, thump, cut and chop at its axe-throwing ranges sustainable.

The axe-throwing and lumberjack games chain recently launched its FlannelJax’s Gives Back initiative. The ongoing program promises funds to plant one tree for every axe-throwing group that visits through its new partnership with One Tree Planted.

“We believe it’s important to think about the effect our business has on the environment and we want to ensure we are doing what we can to offset our impact and preserve our planet for future generations,” said Stephen Schober, president and CEO of FlannelJax’s. “One Tree Planted’s efforts to aid the reforestation of communities in the U.S. and around the globe is inspiring, and we’re happy to help support them through this new partnership.”

One Tree Planted is a nonprofit organization with a mission to create a healthier climate, protect biodiversity and help reforestation efforts all by planting trees.

It takes one dollar to plant one tree through the organization’s four-phase process, which includes site preparation, nurturing the saplings, transporting the trees by hand and maintaining and monitoring the trees.

“It’s important to consider the use of resources in any business, and have a way to give back to nature,” said Diana Chaplin, canopy director at One Tree Planted. “The trees we’ll plant as part of this initiative will help restore forests in the U.S. and make a lasting positive impact for biodiversity.”

The company’s goal is to support the planting of trees to across the U.S. to benefit the environment well beyond its use of tree wood.

Meat masters

A Grand Rapids couple is among the first three members of the inaugural Preserve the Pit Fellowship initiated by Kingsford Charcoal. Cory and Tarra Davis, owners of Daddy Pete’s BBQ since 2012, will receive a grant along with immersive training and one-on-one mentorship with industry leaders throughout 2021 to turn their business aspirations into a reality.

Kingsford launched Preserve the Pit in January and received nearly 1,000 applications during the application period. Kingsford and a network of barbecue mentors and industry leaders selected the 2021 class of fellows based on a variety of factors including their connection to barbecue, contributions to the legacy of the Black barbecue community and commitments to fueling its future.

“We are blown away by the interest in Preserve the Pit and the passion that was conveyed by applicants for strengthening the Black barbecue community,” said Shaunte Mears-Watkins, vice president of strategy and marketing for Kingsford. “The selected fellows are motivated to begin their experience as a Preserve the Pit fellow, and we’re happy to be able to support them throughout their journey.”

Kingsford said the Davises have a passion for barbecue that they share with their friends, family and community. Through the fellowship, the local couple said their goal is to build a stronger foundation for their business operations to ensure their restaurant continues to successfully operate beyond their generation.

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