Reprinted from The Columbus Telegram – Date: August 13, 2020

Behlen hires to help through tough times

Behlen Mfg. Co. is working to ease the COVID-19 employment drought in Columbus.

A Behlen Mfg. worker hooks a sheet of steel to a hoist before moving it to a plasma cutter. The plasma cutter is programmed to make precision cuts in the metal. The company is hoping its new effort will help people stay employed during the COVID-19 pandemic

The company, which is headquartered at 4025 E. 23rd St. in town, is hiring people in temporary positions to meet demand and help local residents and businesses stay afloat during the pandemic. The goal, Behlen Country President Jen Miller said, is not to hire other’s employees away from them. Specifically, the initiative is designed to help employers who want to retain their employees but can’t yet bring them back full-time.

“Really we’re looking at any company within Columbus, and even the surrounding areas, that have employees that they potentially cannot keep busy because of the negative impact of COVID – they don’t have enough work to keep them busy 40 hours a week,” Miller said.

Behlen Country produces farm and ranch equipment in Columbus and is Behlen Mfg. Co.’s largest division.

Right now, Miller said, Behlen Country has approximately 65 open positions at its Columbus plant. The positions are short-term but should allow participating businesses to keep employees on the payroll while also enabling those people to support themselves.

“We’ve already partnered with ADM. They had some employees that were on furlough and so we’ve given them the option to earn more than they’re getting on furlough by working with us, and then they can still maintain full-time status at ADM,” Miller said.

ADM – or Archer Daniels Midland – is a food processing company with a corn processing plant in Columbus.

According to an August 6th press release, Behlen Country is interested in filling positions in loading, staging, machine operating and welding. The company is willing to teach interested individuals the skills necessary to fill the needed positions.

Behlen Country is in a unique position, Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce President Jeanne Schieffer said, because it has seen an uptick in production during COVID-19.

“Sales for some stores are 30-percent higher than last year,” the August 6th release stated.

While many smaller stores shut down because of COVID-19, farm and ranch stores stayed open. New customers have been introduced to farm and ranch stores as a result, the release said.

“If I typically bought milk from a grocery store and that grocery store happened to change its hours, it made me look at where else I could get milk. And I go to Menards or Tractor Supply and I go, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize they have milk – and, by the way, look at those really cool cowboy boots. I didn’t know that they carried apparel here,’” Schieffer said.

Many other businesses in the area are looking for similarly creative solutions to the difficult problems posed by COVID-19, Schieffer said.

“I would say our businesses are doing the very best to rebound and take advantage of the opportunity to try new things, introduce new products, catch up on backlog and look at their markets,” she said. “We’re using this time to figure out how we can do work differently.

Molly Hunter is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at molly.hunter@lee.net.

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