Northwoods employers look to fill workforce, line up to hire laid-off workers from Drs. Foster and SmithSubmitted: 01/11/2019
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

Northwoods employers look to fill workforce, line up to hire laid-off workers from Drs. Foster and Smith
RHINELANDER, LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Wednesday's announcement of mass layoffs at Drs. Foster and Smith (DFS) in Rhinelander triggered disappointment and frustration.

But it set other Northwoods companies into motion.

Businesses starved for workers see it as an opportunity see an opportunity to fill their open jobs while helping laid-off workers.

Curt Priefer first thought about the layoff news was its "devastating" effect for Rhinelander.

His second thought was about his own company.

"Looking to help those individuals relocate, possibly here at HyPro," Priefer said.

Priefer is the operations manager at HyPro, a Rhinelander manufacturer. The company wants to hire 15 to 20 new machine operators with no experience necessary.

Although the type of work is different from DFS, a pet supply distributor, the location isn't. HyPro is just a few hundred feet from DFS, which is owned by Petco.

"Not only are we neighbors to Petco, but we're looking to offer opportunities for those individuals to slide over into something new, stay in the community, and grow in the community," Priefer said. "HyPro's truly about a culture, family-orientated business, one that creates and inspires growth opportunities."

Other Northwoods employers hope to catch the attention of laid-off workers, too.

"I went to, 'How can I get ahold of all these great employees?'" said Juanita Huguley, the Director of Lending Operations at LDF Holdings in Lac du Flambeau. "Some of them have customer service skills or call center experience."

Huguley manages the lending services call center. More than 100 of the workers to be laid off from DFS work in its call center, and Huguley wants them.

"That kind of talent is rare in this area, and to get some of those people here would be amazing," Huguley said. "I can't wait to get ahold of them."

Huguley says her salary is competitive, benefits are good, and workplace is relaxed.

"I enjoy working here. The competitive wages, the flexible schedule, it's a very diverse working space. Very positive," said Laurie Wildcat, who has worked there nine months.

"You're coming to work today, but it's not really work. You're coming to a gathering of great minds," said Antoinette Beaudry, an operations supervisor.

The call center will join HyPro in the chase for DFS workers who won't have a job come March 10.

"I really want to let the team members of Petco know we're here, and we would love to hear from you," Priefer said.

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