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Mitchell CEO Backs Off Obama Sour Grapes, Needs Gov’t Help to Hire

Last updated on 2015.05.05

Following the reëlection of President Barack Hussein Obama, various captains of industry vented their grief by asserting that they would not be able to do as much business as they would have if that man of their own stripe, Mitt Romney, had won 334,000 more votes. For instance, Bruce Yakley, CEO of Trail King in Mitchell sour-grapesily moaned that he would have hired 150 more people if Romney had won.

More than two years later, Yakley finally throws out his sour grapes and admits that he's hiring every good worker he can find. The problem is that that darned Obama economy is expanding faster than he can recruit:

Trail King President Bruce Yakley has seen his company consistently struggle to fill skilled positions, such as welders, needed to keep up with demand for its products. Yakley, who started at Trail King in March 2011, said he knew within two months that workforce was going to be an issue.

"The experience has been frustrating, to say the least," Yakley said in an interview this week with The Daily Republic.

The trailer manufacturer, with locations in Mitchell and West Fargo, N.D., cut nearly two-thirds of its workforce during the recession. When the company looked to expand in a burgeoning economy in 2012, the workers weren't available.

"We lost a lot of business because we couldn't ramp up fast enough," Yakley said.

The company's Mitchell plant currently employs approximately 550 people, up at least 30 employees from last year, according to Yakley.

Trail King is still looking to expand, but to meet its goals the company will have to hire as many as 200 skilled laborers in the next five years, Yakley said.

"We are definitely still in need of workers" [Chris Mueller, "Help Wanted in Mitchell," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.02.21].

The relative dearth of young workers compared to baby-boomer retirements and the challenge of convincing people to move to Mitchell are putting Trail King in a hiring bind, not the victory of President Obama. Contrary to the theme of Romney's Republican-capitalist campaign, Yakley continues to call for more government help for his fortunes:

A long-term solution to the state's workforce shortage won't come from just one source -- it will require cooperation from local communities and state government, Yakley said.

"We need to work as a region on this problem," he said [Mueller, 2014.02.21].

Yes, Yakley and the rest of us all hate government until we want something from it.

By the way, Obamanomics have unemployment declining, the stock market surging, growth projections rising, and things look a lot better for Yakley and friends now than they did at the end of the Bush Administration:

Obama Economy 2014

Pesky facts, indeed.


  1. barry freed 2014.02.24

    What is Trail King's total pay package including Pension, Vacation, Medical, Overtime, and Pay Scale for Sundays and Holidays?
    For a Union Welder in Fargo, the total package is probably $40 per hour. All he has to do is match that number, less Dues, treat people like human beings, and he will have his choice of job candidates.
    MIG welding, the standard method in factories such as his, is wonderfully easy. It is so simple, one can learn in a few hours how to successfully do it. No previous skills or lengthy training needed.
    His problems suggest a substandard work environment and a "you'll take what I offer and like it" attitude. Sounds like a Union Organizer should be hanging out in the parking lot of Trail King telling the welders how they can live like men and women, providing for their families as they would like. An honest day's pay for a honest day's work.

  2. Rorschach 2014.02.24

    Well isn't that just precious! Trail King is the beneficiary of at least $500,000 of the cost of Governor Daugaard's hairbrained scheme to hire Manpower, Inc. to recruit out-of-state workers. I suspect the whole hairbrained scheme was cooked up on Trail King's behalf in the first place. What a waste of taxpayer money! This company ought to invest in training welders at SD's technical schools and then pay them enough to stick around. It's the low-wage corporate welfare culture that's harming their recruitment and retention of good workers. Maybe they ought to consider paying workers like they were in California, yet still enjoying the lower cost of doing business that they enjoy in SD. The big banks are thriving in SD because they follow this philosophy. But for those businesses in which greed gets the better of top management and employees become expenses rather than investments the whole company suffers.

  3. Nick Nemec 2014.02.24

    Thanks Barry. I've been saying for years the complaints of business owners that they can't find workers are nothing more than crocodile tears. If you can't find employees at the wage you are offering then maybe you aren't offering enough. It's called the capitalism and the free market system. Workers will invest their capital, their labor, where they get the highest return on investment. Pretty simple stuff to understand, especially for a so called capitalist.

  4. Lynn G. 2014.02.24

    I'm a little baffled about this too. Mitchell is a regional city that attracts employees and residents from smaller rural towns besides those that like the area and size of town for what it offers. Mitchell Tech is an incredible tech school and is growing and doing very well yet Trail King can't recruit or keep employees? My first thought is that Trail King is not being competitive in their compensation packages and/or work environment.

    Isn't Trail King one of the companies that the Governor's office contracted with Manpower to recruit employees to South Dakota to fill positions?

    I'll try to find out more about this since I was in Mitchell recently and was curious after I heard about a young welder recruited to work at Trail King from down south like Alabama or so with a nice bonus package and left after two weeks. It sounded like a number of parties really made an effort to help this new employee get settled but it just didn't work out. I don't know if it is common or an isolated incident but I'll do some checking. The bonus was impressive but I don't know what is competitive for that trade.

  5. Jenny 2014.02.24

    What is the starting wage for Trail King? Let me guess - 12/hr? And do they have annual pay increases?

  6. Lynn G. 2014.02.24

    There are a couple things that bother me about all of this. Why is the state government subsidizing these companies when they sell us as a low wage state, no corporate income taxes, and other things but when it comes down to the law of supply and demand in hiring and retaining employees they are not competitive in compensating these employees yet turn around and slam big government that they expect help from? Maximize profits at taxpayer expense?

    Just two months ago I was in a regional SD city and a civic leader was boasting the low unemployment rate and I almost countered with saying that's great about the low unemployment but what kind of wages or income are these jobs paying. So many of these people are the working poor. What quality jobs are there? Quality jobs are the goal.

    Our workforce has so much to offer but it's sad to see repeated time and time again these manufacturing plants and industries that come to South Dakota as a last stop before moving operations to Asia or Mexico despite the high productivity, low error rate, work ethic, quality and other things we offer as a competitive advantage. Other states face the same challenges and saw employees in North Carolina the hardest state hit by NAFTA where they worked their tails off at manufacturing plants to keep it from moving out of the US. Sometimes the effort paid off and other times it didn't make a difference.

    I know it's a challenge for those in economic development. We end up with these empty or under utilized buildings the local community economic development corporations built.

  7. Nick Nemec 2014.02.24

    Dave, thanks for posting the REDI Fund annual report. Like much of the stuff that comes out of Pierre it's a load of crap. I scrolled down to Davison County as per your instructions and the thing that leap out at me was the wildly inflated job numbers given. The job numbers are so out of line in relation to the loan amounts and total project amounts that all I can do is shake my head and wonder why no reporter has dun into this pack of lies.

    My curiosity was peaked so I scrolled on down to my home county, Hyde, to learn that a $100,000 loan to Highmore Cattle Auction on a $535,000 project was projected to produce 29 jobs. Interestingly the Highmore Cattle Auction went out of business years ago because of mismanagement. At its zenith I doubt more than 4 people worked there full time and maybe another 15-20 part time one day a week for 4-5 months a year. All the pens, loading chutes, and corrals have now been removed and the building is a fertilizer plant owned by agri-giant Wilber-Ellis. It will never again be a cattle market.

  8. Nick Nemec 2014.02.24

    reporter has looked into

    I should proofread before hitting post.

  9. Jenny 2014.02.24

    So who pocketed the loan money for the Highmore Auction barn?

  10. Nick Nemec 2014.02.24

    It could be any one of a series of owners, it changed hands several times, and I don't know if someone actually pocketed the money or if the loan was paid back.

    I do know there was no way that business ever employed 29 people, even in the wildest dreams of any of the owners. 29 jobs is a made up number probably pulled out of his ass by some government economic development hack trying to justify corporate welfare.

  11. owen reitzel 2014.02.24

    as a partial defense of Trail King (ya I hate doing it but to be fair) they work with Mitchell Technical Institute on the schools welding program. Trail King offers scholarships and then the student agrees yo work for Trail King for a certain period of time.
    But I had to laugh at Yackley as well because of what I heard at the Thune town hall meeting and what he says now.

  12. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.02.25

    SD has such a poor reputation in the country to begin with. Low rankings in everything, corrupt government, against everything, etc. That's a lot to overcome before even getting to the job itself.

    SD has been trying the same economic gambit since Dick Kneip was governor. That's about 40 years of "pro business" governing. By any research standards, that's plenty long enough to prove absolute and complete failure. Treating employees badly is not a viable economic growth plan.

  13. Tara Volesky 2014.02.25

    Owen, in your defense to Trail King, in which they work with Mitchell Tech, that's because Manpower was a complete fiasco. Pay them, and they will come. Someone needs to find out what happened with the Manpower money. That was an absolute scam. Another crony favor.

  14. Nick Nemec 2014.02.25

    Tara, you couldn't be more right. Pay them and they will come. Keep repeating that simple message. It's Econ 101, it's supply and demand, it might cost big business more than sucking the government teat for grant money but it's the best way to grow South Dakota's economy. It's not that hard.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.02.25

    John, is a labor participation rate a problem? For instance, if the ACA has freed people from jobs they don't like and given them the liberty to work fewer hours or stay home full-time with the kids, is that a plus?

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.02.25

    Charlie, please explain the specific harm that comes from selling more T-bills... or the mechanism by which increased marketable debt is preventing private-sector expansion in Mitchell.

  17. John Tsitrian 2014.02.25

    I wasn't aware that ACA had that effect, Cory. Btw, why are Dems so enamored of the stock market's rise when median incomes have been flat during the same period? Looks to me like the financial plutocrats are in fat city but the working stiffs are moving straight sideways. Isn't that the trend that Obama was seeking to reverse? I know it's glib to put all this on BHO, but giving him credit for financial indicators means we also have to hold him responsible for them.

  18. Jerry 2014.02.25

    Speaking of ratios, I am wondering about the reports from 2004 going forward that are being discussed. What I see is the utter failure of not increasing taxes to pay for two continuing wars and and an unfunded mandate of Medicare Part D and what that has done with the labor and financial market.

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