Minnesota Public Radio/Peter Cox
This Tuesday, May 14, 2019 photo, shows the 1-million-square-foot expansion at Digi-Key in Thief River Falls, Minn. The company is planning to hire 1,000 more workers in the city over the next 10 years.
Minnesota Public Radio/Peter Cox

This Tuesday, May 14, 2019 photo, shows the 1-million-square-foot expansion at Digi-Key in Thief River Falls, Minn. The company is planning to hire 1,000 more workers in the city over the next 10 years.

<
1
2
>

THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. (AP) — Rural communities in Minnesota are scrambling to recruit and retain workers as baby boomers reach retirement age.

Digi-Key, an electronic component distributor in Thief River Falls, is among the companies testing out innovative strategies to attract workers at all stages of their lives, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

Digi-Key plans to add 1,000 new jobs over the next 10 years. The expansion plans come during a decade when Pennington County’s over-65 population is estimated to rise from about 18% to 27%.

Nearly 32% of Digi-Key’s workers are age 50 or older, positioning many to hit retirement age in the next 10 years.

“The battle for workers, so to speak, is pretty tight,” said Shane Zutz, Digi-Key’s vice president of human resources. “And so I think with companies that are forward-thinking and want to be transformational are really looking at how do they differentiate themselves and how do they create environments that people want to be a part of.”

Digi-Key pitches higher starting salaries than most businesses in the region, as well as health insurance at a low price. But the distributor also offers flexible schedules, training, an onsite medical office and buses from Crookston and Grand Forks, North Dakota.

“As people move on in their career, they want that flexibility,” Zutz said. “Whether they have kids going to college that they want to visit more, they want to travel more, they have grandkids that they want to help, or they have an ailing parent that they need to take care of, so we have to continue to find ways to provide flexibility.”

Karen Konickson, a talent acquisition official, said Digi-Key has also been hiring many workers who want to start second careers later in life.