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Heraldrepublican| Heraldrepublican

Heraldrepublican| Heraldrepublican

ANGOLA Miller Poultry fails to meet its standards for compliance with tax abatements in Steuben County.

However, certain numbers can be misleading.

Miller’s workforce is lower than its projections. However, payroll is rising. Nearly 1,000 people work at the Orland-area chicken processing facility.

Miller’s leadership delivered this message Tuesday to the Steuben County Council at a compliance hearing. The Steuben County Council found Miller in compliance with all abatements.

Miller’s full-time staff now includes approximately 470 people.

“So we’re trending here. It’s difficult to find employees. “I know we’re repeating the old story, but it’s been a challenge keeping people,” Karen Brenneman of Miller’s said. “So I think we are doing as best we possibly can.”

It was asked whether automation in the plant that processes 185,000 heads of chicken per day was helping to improve the employment situation.

“The automation helped but you also know that we’re making every effort to get people and you know Karen reports directly to Miller-hire employees,” Kevin Diehl, Miller operations manger. “With these temporary agencies those people, those numbers aren’t in that number she reports to you, but the headcount remains on the floor working, and you know, those tax bucks are being generated. So I believe we need to focus more on the payroll dollars to generate the payroll taxes, rather than the headcount from direct hires.

Diehl stated that Miller currently has 995 employees.

To encourage retention, the company offered a $2/hour, across-the-board pay hike to employees this fiscal year.

The average miller’s pay is $21.15 per hour, and that number is expected to rise to $24, Brenneman stated.

Brenneman stated, “So we believe we’re moving in the right direction.”

“And I hired an extremely strong HR team, three very new recruiters, as well as some leadership training. I believe we’re going gradually to turn this around.”

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Many council members praised Miller’s ability to keep going in such a difficult environment, which has included people working in cramped quarters during a pandemic or in full-employment situations that have made it difficult to find workers.

“Well, I’m amazed that you’re capable of retaining as many employees as you have for the time that we just had here in the past few years to be at 97 employees. Rick Shipe, president of County Council, said that it speaks volumes about you and your team, and your HR department and all.”

Brenneman stated that Miller employs approximately 330 people from Steuben County, while 67 are from LaGrange County.

The company is trying to find ways to help their employees find housing in the area. However, they also have to transport workers from Angola to Fort Wayne to the plant south of Orland off S.R. 327.

“Let me elaborate. We started transporting employees. It wasn’t something that we wanted to do, but we now have two full-time vans,” Diehl explained.

A third of the grains used in raising chickens at farms throughout the area come from local sources.

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