LIMA — Rick Perdue paused for a second mid-sentence, looking for the right word to describe local unions’ workload without overselling it.
Perdue, the president of the Lima Building and Construction Trades Council, landed on “awesome.”
“I have to say it’s been a very … well, awesome year,” Perdue said before nearly 100 people ate at Friday’s annual holiday luncheon at the City Club in downtown Lima.
The organization represents more than 2,500 craftsmen — boilermakers, plumbers, pipefitters, HVAC technicians, painters and electricians — with a payroll of more than $125 million in annual wages for workers.
The year 2018 was a big one for tradesmen, as they continued their work at the Lima Husky Lima Refinery, where they recently received an award for 1,078,285 hours without an accident. Union contractors also stayed busy building the Pratt Paper mill in Wapakoneta, Coldwater hospital addition, Van Wert outpatient center and an addition at Pro-Tec Coating Co. in Leipsic.
“Economically, the Lima area is very diverse,” said Mike Knisley, Friday’s keynote speaker and a Lima resident who held Perdue’s position before accepted the job of secretary-treasurer of the Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council earlier this year.
There are more jobs on the horizon in 2019, including work at Nutrien, Ineos Husky, Pro-Tec and area hospitals. There are also regional opportunities with multiple projects at Honda’s Anna engine plant and its Russells Point facility.
The unions’ biggest problem might be that there just aren’t enough workers for all the jobs, Perdue said. That’s put more emphasis than ever before in recruiting young people for apprenticeships and other learning opportunities to get jobs.
“With the baby boomers retiring, we’re going to see in the next five years a lot of people leaving who will be very hard to replace,” Perdue said.
Knisley noted talking to seniors in high school wasn’t enough now, as they started working on people younger and younger. Smart organizations are reaching into the eighth grade to help people make decisions, including the one to work with both your hands and your brain in a trade, Kinsley said. The Lima organization invested $18 million in training and apprenticeships this year.
“After seeing what these jobs are really like, you realize some kids are a little sheltered,” Knisley said. “They’re envisioning something that isn’t there anymore. Their parents might not think they should be working in a place like that. We need to change that over time to the reality of what’s there. You can use your head and your hands. When they see what’s out there, it’s like you’re opening up a whole new world to them.”