FARR WEST, Utah (AP) — A local steel fabrication company is building a new shop in Idaho because it says it can't find enough qualified workers in Utah.
Petersen Inc. will build a new machine shop in Pocatello, Idaho, that eventually will employ about 250.
Petersen executives said the plant will be an extension of Petersen's local plants, which specialize in steel fabrication, precision machining and field services. Rob Despain, vice president of business development for Petersen, said the company has been unable to find enough skilled workers in the Ogden area to meet a growing demand for its products and services.
The company is keeping its headquarters and the majority of its work in the Ogden area, about 35 miles north of Salt Lake City, and will not be moving any local jobs to Pocatello, Despain said.
''We absolutely love Ogden and Farr West, but being so busy with so many opportunities for expansion, we're just not able to find enough welders and machinists locally to fit what we're doing,'' he said, ''so we decided to look 140 miles north.''
Local economic development officials have been trying to drum up more interest in skilled-labor careers, but their efforts have been slow in producing results.
Ron Kusina, president of the Weber Economic Development Corp., said the Ogden area has ''incredible'' training resources for such jobs through the Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College and a new lean manufacturing training center at Business Depot Ogden.
''We know we have exceptional resources here, but enrollment needs to be much higher than it has been in recent years,'' Kusina said.
He said Wedcorp is starting a marketing campaign to recruit more skilled labor to the Ogden area from out of state with the hope that future expansions by local companies will be able to stay local.
''I understand the shortages and how it's affecting them, but it's always difficult to see someone expand outside the area,'' Kusina said. ''We're doing what we can to minimize that.''
Petersen found a vacant 203,000-square-foot facility in a Pocatello business park that will house the expansion. About 225 applicants turned out for a job fair the company held in October in Pocatello, said Steve Petersen, the company's president and chief executive.
''The response was very positive,'' he said. ''People in Ogden are very good workers, and I think the people up there are very similar.'' Petersen currently has 420 employees in the Ogden area.