Business might not be booming everywhere around the country, but in Minot, N.D. it’s booming so big there aren’t enough people to fill the available jobs at home improvement retailer, Menards. In order to supply enough of a workforce to staff the store near North Dakota’s thriving oil patch, the company is hiring 50 people from its hometown of Eau Claire, Wis. and flying them in every week. Talk about a tough commute.
So why not just convince those people to move to the town North Dakota, where there’s a building boom after last year’s record floods, and more jobs than workers? Apparently because it’s just too cold,* cold enough that there are about 22,000 available jobs, reports the Associated Press.
“It’s going fast and furious here,” Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman said. “As it is, there is not a big enough labor force around here, and as it gets colder there is less of one.”
While flying workers in and back some 500 miles each way and housing them as well might sound like a temporary solution, Menard Inc. says it “is going to be a permanent solution for as far as we can see.”
The mayor hopes some of the airlifted Wisconsinites will decide to stay permanently and make a home in Minot, but Eau Claire residents seem to have another idea about the whole situation, commute and all.
“We would hope just the opposite,” Eau Claire’s economic development director. “We want them to bring that North Dakota money back to Eau Claire.”
Anyone who grew up or lives in the Upper Midwest likely has the jingle, “Save big money at Menaaaaards!” stuck in their heads right about… now. You’re welcome.
*Consumerist reader Matt wrote in with a local’s view of the Menards situation, specifically responding to the Minot mayor’s assertion that the cold can be blamed for the lack of workforce.
The problem is housing: there just isn’t any.
I have had several friends who have spent their whole lives in Minot and would like nothing more than to stay, but with oil development in the area, rents have skyrocketed, and there are literally zero rental properties available at any given time. These people are being priced out of town, and even where I live, in the capital city of Bismarck over 100 miles away, apartments are being snapped up by companies trying to house their employees. My apartment’s rent is increasing by 15% this year, and I’ve heard rumors of $300/mo rent increases. There is just nowhere else to live, and the landlords know it.
Sure, the cold weather contributes to the problem, but it’s because it’s too cold for a person to live in his/her car, as workers have done all summer. The recent devastating flood of the Souris (“Mouse”) River didn’t help any, of course, destroying homes just as demand for them skyrocketed. When Mayor Zimmerman puts the blame on wimpy out-of-state’ers who can’t stand the frigid temperatures, he’s only papering over his lousy record of handling the oil boom that has transformed our part of the state.
Thank you, Matt, for one of the most eloquent responses we’ve read here at Consumerist.
Menards to fly in workers to staff N.D. store [Associated Press]