Walking through the Schult Homes manufacturing plant this past Thursday afternoon, a group of Minnesota legislators got a look at the other side of an industry that is having a significant impact on the overall economy.
Those legislators, primarily from the metro area, often see the end product of a company like Schult Homes, but they don’t know what getting that manufactured home from the beginning stages to its final destination actually entails.
According to Terry Weilage, Schult Homes of Redwood Falls sales manager, the company hosts events like this every few years to provide those legislators who are making decisions about the housing industry a chance to see not only the impact of decisions being made but the impact a company has on the economy.
Those legislators saw the building process from the ground up, as they were led through each step in the process, including the exact measures Schult Homes takes to not only ensure a quality product is heading out the door but that it has put safety first and is meeting, if not exceeding, state code requirements.
“The more we educate these legislators, the better informed they will be and the better that is for us,” said Weilage following the tour of the facility.
Mark Brunner, Minnesota Manufactured Housing Association president, was also on hand for the tour, and he offered legislators some perspective, adding that there are issues the industry is facing, such as a lack of workforce, as well as a shortage of childcare options in communities.
Weilage and Sue Steinke, Schult Homes general manager, reiterated those concerns. Steinke said the local facility has the potential to expand in the community, but it is not willing to move forward with that expansion until it knows it has the workforce available to fill the jobs that would be opening up in a larger plant.
“The childcare issue is hurting us,” said Steinke, adding that is especially true as it relates to finding infant care.
State regulations only allow childcare providers to have a certain number of infants on site based on the number of employees they have at the childcare site. “We know there are people who want to work for us, but they are not able because they can’t find childcare,” said Steinke.
Homeownership, said Brunner, is an indication of economic prosperity.
Weilage added the demand for manufactured housing is on the rise, adding the current operation has a waiting list of homes that it needs to build but the lack of a workforce is preventing them from moving ahead as quickly as the company would like.
Kevin Sinclair of Factory Home Center, which is a local distributor of Schult Homes, said the local company has a strong reputation in the industry, indicating he considers it “the best.”
Rep. Chris Swedzinski of Ghent, who serves the Redwood area, said it is great to be able to showcase local manufacturing sites like this one in rural Minnesota.
“What they are seeing today is how companies like this benefit the overall economy,” said Swedzinski. “Companies like Schult Homes are generating jobs in southwest Minnesota, and these are good jobs.”
Weilage said the biggest demand Schult Homes is seeing is in those people who are interested in downsizing from their larger home where they raised their families but who are not yet ready to move into an apartment.
It traditionally takes four days to build a Schult Homes house, said Weilage, adding that indicates the efficiencies, as well as the strong workforce in place at the local manufacturing plant.
“We have a good team here,” said Steinke, adding more than half of the plant’s employees have in excess of 10 years of experience.
The company also demonstrates commitment to the communities represented on the line, as many serve as members of fire departments or first responder units, and when a call goes out those employees are able to leave their jobs and respond.
Schult Homes houses built in Redwood Falls can be found across the United States, and it is committed to providing the best product it can for those who come looking for their next home.