Marietta company looking to hire veterans

Photo by Michael Kelly Navy veteran and Hi-Vac electrician Kelvin Abbott talks to Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, as the congressman tours the facility on Industry Road in Marietta Tuesday morning. Johnson came by to recognize the company’s efforts in hiring veterans. On the right are Hi-Vac President Dan Coley and Human Resources Manager Darcy Grimes.

MARIETTA — Like many business enterprises in the Mid-Ohio Valley, Hi-Vac is hungry for workers. It places a premium on hiring veterans.

The company, which has a workforce of about 200 people with a wide range of skills, makes vacuum trucks generally used for sewer system maintenance and repairs. Its market is global, and it is growing, President Dan Coley said.

“Our business has grown substantially over the past couple of years,” he said. “We ship throughout North America, and every month we’re delivering products to Latin America, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, China.”

The primary brake on greater growth has been a challenging labor market. Part of the solution has been seeking out veterans to work at the plant.

“Our human resources manager, Darcy Grimes, has been very aggressive about reaching out to veterans groups,” he said. “Our need for qualified people continues to grow, and veterans have been a great resource for us. The skills from their service carry over to the same kind of skills we need at Hi-Vac, and if you’re disciplined enough to be successful in the military service, that works very, very well for us.”

Photo by Michael Kelly Production workers add equipment to a vacuum truck nearing completion for testing and delivery to a customer at the Hi-Vac plant in eastern Marietta. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, toured the factory Tuesday and gave its human resources manager, Darcy Grimes, a certificate of recognition from Congress for her work in hiring veterans for the company workforce.

Grimes, who has been with the company for about four years and whose family has extensive military service going back generations, said she met Jared Smith, a local veterans’ advocate, two years ago.

“He came out for a tour of the company and said he could refer veterans to me if he found anyone who looked like a good fit,” she said. “From that, we developed a relationship of him referring people to us.”

Grimes estimated that more than 30 percent of the people hired by Hi-Vac since then have been veterans, contacted through Smith and other sources.

The practice came to the attention of Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, who toured the plant Tuesday morning and congratulated the company on its support of former members of the military.

The Hi-Vac plant is a 110,000 square-foot building at the end of Industry Road off State Route 26 just east of Marietta. Out on the plant floor, workers moved purposefully around massive equipment for bending metal and welding tanks. Big trucks with long frame rails were being fitted with pumps, hoses, tanks and instruments.

Johnson and his aides listened as Coley explained the process, and the congressman talked to veterans who took a moment from work to tell their stories.

“One Marine told me he had been deployed nine times,” Johnson said later to Grimes. “Few individuals can imagine that kind of sacrifice, and you gave him a chance.”

The benefits work both ways, Coley said.

“The labor shortage has affected us and our customers,” he said. “We have yet to lose any business opportunities because of it, but it’s putting demands on our people. In 2019, we are going to need skilled people to hire.”

Given the opportunity, he said, the company could hire 40 people tomorrow.

Hi-Vac is part of the Alliance group of businesses owned by Marietta entrepreneur John Lehman. John Walsh, senior vice president of corporate development for Alliance, said the company offers room to move for its people.

“We can give you a very strategic career path, plenty of ramp,” he said. Alliance’s companies include Mole Master and Terrasonic. Walsh said between those two firms, he could hire 30 people if suitable applicants were available.

Robert Knotts, a 38-year-old Marietta native and Army veteran, said Tuesday he came out of military service after developing equipment maintenance skills for an infantry division. He went to work at Hi-Vac eight years ago and is now a production manager.

“I got out of active duty in 2010, relaxed for a while, did some odd jobs, then I put my resume online and got a call from Hi-Vac,” he said. “Being a veteran helped, but it’s not necessarily the skills. It’s more your demeanor, your commitment, your discipline.”

The company returns the commitment, he said.

“I couldn’t be happier. If you take care of them, they take care of you. We’ve seen dramatic growth, but even with that you’re still not just a number. I see Dan (Coley) out there on the floor every day, high-fiving people, talking to them.”