Onin Goes Beyond Recruiting, Finds Homes for Peco Workers

by Graycen Colbert Bigger  on Friday, Sep. 8, 2017 9:37 am   2 min read

As Arkansas' unemployment rate falls, finding talent has become a challenge for companies throughout the state. For rural areas, staffing firms can be vital in the tedious process of recruiting, application review, interviewing and salary negotiation.  

One company in northeast Arkansas, Onin Staffing, is exceeding expectations by offering incentives that also address community development needs. 

According to the American Staffing Association, 14.5 million people were employed through staffing or "temp" agencies in 2016. Arkansas employed 108,600 temporary workers through a reported 250 staffing agency offices. Annual sales totaled $890.5 million in the state while the average earnings per job for a temporary worker was $25,600.   

The Onin Group, a 21-year-old private company headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, operates between 90 and 100 branches scattered between North Carolina and Arizona. Specializing in staffing automotive, food processing and third-party logistics positions, Onin has followed long-term clients like Peco Foods Inc. to Arkansas over the last few years and opened offices in Pocahontas, Batesville, Springdale and Rogers. 

"We have grown in a really organic fashion," Onin Group Managing Partner Hugh Thomas said. "Our footprint is based on growth of existing clients that have brought us with them as they expanded." 

According to Onin, its branches met with 500,000 applicants in 2016. The company placed around 55,000 people, resulting in about $300 million in annual sales. Onin Staffing, the group's industrial and light clerical staffing division, represents about 85 percent of overall business, though they also provide placement services for management, IT and engineering services.   

While the services might seem typical for a staffing company, the incentives they provide client companies and workers are not. 

The Onin Group's cornerstone philosophy is "teammates, not temps." The company aims to invest back in the growth of staff members and company partners, according to Blake Stevens, Onin's director of people and culture.

When it came time to staff more than 1,000 positions at Peco Foods, a poultry processing operation with three locations in northeast Arkansas, Onin faced two challenges: securing a workforce with the required skills and experience, and an area housing shortage.

Advertised incentives for Peco include benefit packages, transportation, mileage reimbursement and a referral bonus. On top of that, there's three months free housing for positions with hourly compensations ranging from $11.40 and $16.40 per hour.

"We knew we had to have skilled workers, but there were not enough folks in the town to handle the growth, so we recruited, but housing presented another issue," Thomas said. "It was the first time we built a [housing] complex as a staffing company. It's a really unusual, comprehensive program that we were willing to consider because of the partnership mentality that Peco brings to our relationship."  

Thomas said he wanted the group's housing initiative, a 48-unit complex called Ridgeland Homes in Pocahontas, to be a favorable experience for employees and an asset for the city. Onin Properties is now planning to expand to keep up with housing demand.

"When I see the school buses pulling up in the afternoon, and I see our teammates reinvesting in the community, I know we've done something here," Thomas said. "We're still in our early life cycle as a company, and we just want to keep growing for the people who work around us and with us."



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