A sign at the Mahle Behr plant in Dayton, facing Webster Street, invites job applicants to inquire within. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

Ohio factory owner: I need sober workers

An Ohio manufacturing executive is making headlines and getting attention with her lament that she can’t find clean and sober workers.

Regina Mitchell, co-owner of Warren Fabricating & Machining in Hubbard, Ohio, east of Youngstown, told the New York Times in a story last week that at least four out of 10 of her applicants test positive for drug use.

In response, she said she set up an apprentice program, enlarging her pool of hiring prospects by de-emphasizing candidates’ experience and current skills.

“It takes more time and money to train and evaluate someone, but I can have confidence the person is drug-free, comes to work on time and won’t call in sick,” the newspaper quoted Mitchell as saying.

“Imagine the money we could save or invest as a company if I were able to hire drug-free workers on the spot,” Mitchell also said. “But that’s just not the environment we are in.”

In the Dayton area, leaders of manufacturers have wrestled with many of the same problems.

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The Dayton Region Manufacturers Association (DRMA) is eyeing the launch of a $1 million fund-raising campaign to try to address the issue, hoping to spark greater cooperation between companies and educators.

West Central Ohio is home to about 2,500 manufacturers trying to fill some 3,400 new positions every year, Jon Foley, a trustee of the association — which has members in 14 counties — said in May.

From 2015 to 2025, the DRMA expects an average of 3,301 annual manufacturing job openings in its service area, Foley told this news outlet.

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Some local executives put that number higher. Steve Staub, co-owner of Harrison Twp.’s Staub Manufacturing Solutions, said area manufacturing openings are closer to 4,000.

The problem, unfortunately, isn’t new. The former manager of the Behr Thermal Products plant in Dayton told us in 2011 that he had openings for 55 people immediately.

“It’s the soft skills that are in shortage,” Eric Burkland, president of the Ohio Manufacturing Association, told us at the time. “It’s things like passing a drug test. It’s coming to work on time.”

The Behr plant off Webster Street still parks trailers with its “apply within” message in a parking lot immediately off northbound Interstate 75 for motorists to see.

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