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Perham job shoppers have several ways to go as local economy is full steam ahead

Kenny's Candy, owned by KLN Family Brands, needs some seasonal help and expects to need extra shift workers through November. Despite the fact several Perham businesses are advertising for help, the job market in Perham does not appear to be strained. Brian Hansel/FOCUS1 / 2
Tuffy's Pet Foods is Perham's largest employer and offers employees a strong health care package. Brian Hansel/FOCUS2 / 2

If there anything wrong with the employment situation in Perham this summer it appears to be hiding pretty well.

Despite signs advertising for help at several Perham businesses, employers seem to be okay with the status quo.

Perham is one of the county's shining examples of progress, according to many. Despite its modest population of less than 4,000, it is a home to both industry and retail businesses that find themselves competing for space along the busy Burlington Northern-Santa Fe railway. Other businesses have piled up along the four lanes of Highway 10 on the south side of the city limits.

KLN, which owns Tuffy's Pet Foods and Kenny's Candy, is one of the largest employers in the northeastern Otter Tail County community with around 550 employees. Tuffy's is in the midst of a $35 million expansion which could bolster their already burgeoning workforce by 20 workers.

"We're sitting fairly well," said Human Resources Director Nancy Belka. "We have one of the best benefit packages around."

Belka said the two KLN businesses draw employees from a radius of 45 miles around Perham.

Belka said Kenny's is more of a seasonal business so KLN recently went through temp agencies when they wanted to bring 50 summer workers aboard. These workers will be very busy through November.

Tuffy's needed about five more employees in early June.

"The fluctuation we have at Kenny's is because of the time of the year and the busier season," Belka said. "At Tuffy's we have positions open up because we're growing."

Aaron Karvonen owns the Karvonen Group and his retail businesses are a mainstay of downtown Perham. Does Karvonen find it difficult in a smaller community to find the people he needs?

"I don't think it's that difficult," Karvonen said. "There are people who don't want to stand on a factory floor all day."

Karvonen said he is competitive with other Perham businesses in his wage and benefit package.

Karvonen is opening 125 Apparel in downtown Perham, a block south of his furniture store and he has been advertising for staff.

"Our mantra is to hire for attitude and train for skill," Karvonen said.

Mike Netland is the manager of Zorbaz Restaurant on Little Pine Lake. He has 40-50 employees and counts himself fortunate that he does not have to compete with Perham's other employers for his staff.

Zorbaz is open all year round but they must extend their labor force in the summer. The business attracts a younger crowd, a large proportion of their summer help are high schoolers, and the work they seek is not necessarily full-time.

"I think one of the major benefits we have is that people are looking for part-time work," Netland said. "A certain type of person targets us."

The pace of a Zorbaz in the summer months is also attractive.

"What we try to do is have a fun, positive and fast-paced work environment," Netland said.