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At Hayes Manufacturing southeast of Traverse City, vice president Penny Challender watches nervously as customer orders pile up.

A year ago, the firm had 563 unfilled orders as of Aug. 8.

“Today,” Challender said in early August, “I have 976. We are late on some orders, orders we should not be late on.”

The problem: A shortage of skilled machinists to turn out the flywheel couplings, bearing supports and drive shafts the firm makes for industrial applications. It has sufficient demand to start a second shift ‒ if only it could find the workers.

Rural Michigan begs for workers. A few companies are getting creative.

With more than 100,000 unfilled jobs across Michigan, rural manufacturers often lose out in the scramble for skilled trade workers. Can added lures like company daycare, health clinics or cash bonuses turn the tide?


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