Sharp Iron Group looks into city partnership to recruit welders outside of Wichita Falls

WICHITA FALLS - During Thursday's 4A sales tax board meeting, city officials discussed a few items that could help build the manufacturing base in Wichita Falls.

The Sharp Iron Group is looking to bring more skilled workers on board, hoping to recruit employees with a welding school out of Tulsa, Okla.

The subcontract manufacturer is wanting to do a partnership with the 4A board and the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce to hire 33 employees to their team. Sharp Iron Group president Michael Stanford says they recently reached more than 100 employees.

Now, the company says they are looking at prospective employees at the Tulsa Welding School to help fill up more positions. 

If the partnership is approved by the board, each employer could earn up to $55 thousand a year, plus $1,000 sign-on bonus and a demand premium. The 4A board would also add $1,000 bonus match, plus $2,000 dollars for relocation and the chamber would provide recruiting support and resources to each employer.

"If we can bring in skilled labor, maybe even the families that come with that skilled labor, now we're growing our labor base," Sharp Iron Group president Michael Stanford said. "And it enables companies to grow at a faster rate."

Stanford says the 3.5 percent unemployment rate has made it difficult to hire skilled workers just within Wichita Falls. He says hiring workers from outside of the city is a good economic incentive to continue building the population growth in Wichita Falls, as well as a chance to retain more people in the manufacturing industry.

He says the Wichita Falls ISD Career Education Center and Vernon College have been good resources to hire people but for now, it hasn't been a sufficient source.

"Unfortunately in our area, manufacturing has declined significantly in the last years. We just don't have as many," Mona Statser, executive director of Workforce Solutions of North Texas said. "So people who have those skills, they may not be that many opportunities."

Statser says the manufacturing shortage has been recognized here in Wichita Falls and across the nation. She says vocational programs through Vernon College and the CEC are just some of the options to reel in more people into the labor force. But companies many times look to recruit from larger cities to build their industrial base.

If the partnership is approved by the 4A board, prospective employers must come from outside the Wichita Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area and must establish residency within the MSA. The employers would also have to remain employed with the company for a particular span of time.

The Wichita Falls Economic Development Board discussed a few other items on Thursday's agenda. Board members looked at approving a second environmental study phase at the former ATCO building on Burkburnett Road. Clayton Homes, a trailer manufacturing company, is looking at eventually utilizing the building.

Board members also got an update on the former Stanley Tools Factory building on Production Boulevard and Xylo Bats held a presentation on future business incentives. 

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