How to fill 700 potential new job openings in a rural county
The proposed 300,000-square-foot Walker River Meat Processing facility north of Yerington could staff as many as 700 employees when running at full capacity by 2015, says Chief Executive Officer Vincent Estell.
Although that’s welcome news to hard-hit Lyon County, which led the state in unemployment at 16.8 percent at last count, finding and training that many workers poses one of the most significant challenges for Walker River.
The plant will require about 150 workers once it becomes operational in the second or third quarter of 2013, Estell says. The first round of employees will be trained by meat processing industry experts, who in turn will train additional hires.
Many of the proposed workers will come from neighboring areas, such as Fallon, Silver Springs and Fernley. Rob Hooper, executive director of the Northern Nevada Development Authority, says the plant at Wabuska is centrally located to pull workers from all three communities.
“I think we will see some growth in families moving out to that area,” Hooper says. “The Mason Valley is a fantastic area to live in, and I think this will fill in some of the vacancies and bring some workers out there.”
Estell says Walker River Meat Processing plans to bus in workers much like many of northern Nevada’s gold mining companies in order to reduce congestion on roadways leading into the facility.
“I want to keep car traffic off the roads, and I want to make sure the workers can save as much money as they can” Estell says. “Plus, when they are in the bus, I’ll know whether I have got a full crew or not.”
Estell says Walker River Meat Processing will begin hiring about 120 days before the plant comes on line in mid-2013. New workers will be in training for first 60 days of employment.
Northern Nevada Development Authority also will help with funding for on-the-job training, Hooper says. Additionally, Estell has been communicating with the Lyon County School District to see what basic skill sets can be incorporated into job training.
Training in food safety standards is pretty straightforward, Estell says. The project also will have cameras throughout to ensure employees are adhering to food safety protocols.
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.