Milan company calls for skilled workers as unemployment rate drops

MILAN, Illinois - As the U.S. posts its lowest unemployment rate in 49 years, at 3.7%, a local business puts out the call for more skilled workers in the Quad Cities.

Rickey Kuster, 37, is doing his part to keep the unemployment rate low.  The Taylor Ridge man started Monday, October 1, at Honsa Ergonomic Technologies.

"It seemed like the opportunity was too good to not examine," he said, on Friday, October 5.  "The more we talked, it seemed like it was too good not to take."

This family business makes custom air tools for global clients and local factories, but it's expanding at a time when it's tougher to find enough skilled workers.

"Everybody's searching for machinists everywhere," said owner Tom Honsa.  "They're hurting because they can't keep up with orders. Lead time is longer, and it will eventually break."

Ronnie Kraklio, 20, represents the future at Honsa.  Starting out of Moline High in 2016, he received on-the-job training to become Honsa's repair technician and shipping manager.

"A company like this, you have room to move up," he said.  "Better jobs, better opportunities to go different places, too."

While President Trump's "Made in the USA" push could help Honsa's numbers, lasting tariffs could counter the benefits.

Honsa had to raise its prices for the first time in six years.

"Aluminum has gone up," Honsa said.  "Steel has gone up. Really, essentially everything within our product has gone up."

At businesses like Honsa, which dates back to 1987,  there are job opportunities but skill shortages from applicants.

New hire Rickey Kuster thinks it will be challenging.

"You lose the focus here to the point where now you're strapped for people that can do a job like this," he concluded.

At Honsa, a call for skills to keep unemployment low.