As Karol Von Eye informed Mitchell Technical Institute students of the opportunities AKG in Mitchell has to offer during a job fair this week, she hoped to attract some future employees.
Although she said it’s an exciting experience to recruit MTI graduates during the school’s campus-wide job fair, the AKG recruiter and human resource representative faces some challenges in the recruiting process that are out of her control: a lack of affordable housing.
“Having more houses that are affordable be available for future employees would definitely be a help for us,” Von Eye said Thursday. “We are still able to recruit great employees, but there aren’t many housing options in the city of Mitchell. And that can be a big deal for some employees who have families.”
The Mitchell Area Development Corporation is in the midst of addressing the city’s need for more affordable workforce housing options with its plan to bring as many as 93 homes and dwellings to the east side of Mitchell.
The initial plan had the home prices within the proposed Ridge View on Foster Street development estimated to cost around $250,000, which is a price tag that Von Eye feels isn’t necessarily affordable for a large portion of workers in Mitchell.
“If they are going to build houses, it would be nice if the homes would be at an average price that people can afford,” Von Eye said, noting $140,000 to $160,000 is a more ideal price range.
However, after project leaders have refined the development that’s intended to be located on 21.7 acres of land on the corner of Foster Street and East Eighth Avenue, the price ranges of the homes are expected to be below $220,000 and will not exceed $275,000. That’s according to Clinton Powell, CEO of Shelter Community Housing Corporation, a project leader of the development. While the cost of the homes will be set by the builders who are able to meet requirements that allow them to construct a home or several on the lots in the development, they can work with pre-identified home buyers to meet in a reasonable price range that fits the home buyers' income level.
“For this to be considered affordable housing, and thereby workforce housing, every home that sells in the development has to sell for less than $275,000. But to be clear, we don’t expect construction to truly happen at $275,000, except in very rare cases,” Powell said. “The vast majority of homes we see in the development being below that $220,000, which is totally dependent on the local builders and their proposals they submit to Shelter.”
Although Powell said a majority of the new homes are expected to be below $220,000, the various options of financing assistance that Shelter will be offering primarily for single adults and families who make 115% of the average median income level or below in the state of South Dakota -- which is at $53,705 for a one income family household, according to Powell’s figures -- are in place to help families afford getting into a home that can be adjusted to fit their household income. Powell noted there aren’t true income requirements for a home buyer to attain a home in the development.
Price range aside, Von Eye said there is a serious need for more housing options in the city of Mitchell. With over 300 employees who work at the manufacturing company, Von Eye said more housing would allow for AKG to continue growth.
Leaders of Hendrickson, which builds suspension systems and components for heavy duty trucks and trailers in Mitchell, said more affordable housing could eliminate some of the commute time that the employees drive to make it to work at the trailer and vehicle manufacturing company. Jane Larson, Hendrickson's human resource manager, is one of those staff members who commutes to Mitchell. Her commute to work in Mitchell is close to 50 miles and Larson said roughly 30% of Hendrickson’s employees commute to Mitchell with an average distance of around 25 miles.
“I think when you do get more housing in, it could help draw more people in to Mitchell,” said Larson, who had a booth set up at the MTI job fair. “There is a lot to offer here in Mitchell with it being a city right on Interstate 90, but if you don’t have enough housing, it will hurt the possibility to bring more people here."
David Mozingo, of Twin City Fan in Mitchell, said the addition of more workforce housing could help fill the job vacancies the custom fan manufacturing company is experiencing. According to Mozingo, Twin City Fan’s Mitchell facility could use close to 100 more qualified employees to the night shift production team. Mozingo recently moved to Mitchell seven months ago to join Twin City Fan.
“We could run a full-production night shift with that much more qualified people, because that’s how much work we have right now,” Mozingo said. “But we just don’t have enough people to fill those positions. And anything like more affordable housing would be a help to support that demand.
Mozingo noted the challenges of filling vacancies isn’t unique to Mitchell; it’s a national problem. By bringing more housing options, it could make the difference of a potential employee’s decision to relocate.
“If the affordable housing was there, it would make the decision to move to the area much easier," Mozingo said.