Smeal Fire Apparatus announced today it has immediate plans to nearly double the workforce at its Neligh location.
President Mark Huber said Smeal is creating 25 new positions as it expands operations in Neligh and will begin hiring immediately.
“We’re here today to talk about how we’re going to advance Smeal, and to do that, we need people. We need 25 people specifically in our Neligh plant,” Huber said. “We’re here visiting with Northeast Community College, with the mayor and department of economic development trying to figure out how can we bring people in to an exciting opportunity that we have to grow.”
Neligh Economic Development Director Greg Ptacek called the job creation huge for not only the City of Neligh, but also for Antelope County and all of Northeast Nebraska.
“These are what in the industry we call primary jobs, where they’re not taking wealth from other people. They’re actually creating the wealth, so it’s huge,” Ptacek said. “It’s a huge benefit for everyone and something everyone in the community can get behind.”
Smeal builds fire truck apparatuses and is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary in Neligh. Huber said since 2013, Smeal’s sales have doubled. What’s holding Smeal back, he said, is its ability to produce as they outsell their capacity.
“We have the opportunity to create a whole lot of economic activity within the whole northeast section of Nebraska,” he said.
Because Smeal plans to hire immediately, Huber said the company has teamed up with Northeast Community College to assist in training new employees. He said, “We need anybody who has skill, aptitude and attitude who are ready to come and play, and we can train with the help of the college.”
Eric Johnson, vice president of Northeast Community College Center of Enterprise, said the college has a longstanding partnership with Smeal and will provide training for the new hires to enable them to immediately impact Smeal’s production.
“This is a way for Northeast to not only promote the education and training that we do, but also to step in and provide immediate assistance as it relates to short term training, which is the main focus areas we have here at the Smeal location,” Johnson said. “In the long-term process, we have programs and services at the college to graduate many of the high school students that would be coming in for a lot of our programming. Two of them would be the welding and electric mechanical side that Smeal is very interested in.”
Huber and Ptacek worked closely to research whether the Neligh area could support the creation of the new jobs.
“We have done a lot of research to stage ourselves for growth so when the time was right, we were at the table with actual conversations in how to make this possible,” Ptacek said. “Antelope County and the Neligh area really have the capacity to handle 25 new employees. This is going to be huge for Neligh.”
Working for Smeal in Neligh is much more than simply heavy welding, Huber said. It’s an opportunity to save lives.
“When our people come to work everyday, they have one mission. And that’s to build the apparatus that firefighters use to save lives,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of industries where you have a direct impact on people’s lives continuing and really protecting the rest of the community.”
Neligh Mayor Joe Hartz, who is retired firefighter, said he appreciates the expansion not only because its an economic boost to the community but also because it means an increase in safety for firefighters.
“On my side, the retired firefighter’s side, it’s tremendously important because that is the equipment you put your life on the line with. These folks are providing us with good equipment that we can put out a fire in the middle of a snowstorm as we had. The cold weather in that equipment, it functions and works,” Hartz said. “We get home at night because of the work they do on their equipment. Thanks for all they do for firemen and the cities that they protect.”
Jeff Scherer, Smeal chief financial officer and NECC board of governor, said this is an exciting opportunity for everyone involved as it helps to strengthen the cross-sector partnership between industry and education.
Scherer called Smeal an excellent company to work for and said employees are very excited about the trajectory of the company.
“We sold nearly twice as many trucks this past year as we did two years ago. Now our challenge is to get those trucks built and in order to get them built we need,” he said. “Just like the Marine Corps, we are looking for a few good men and a few good women, and I know we can find them here in Neligh, Nebraska, and the surrounding communities.”
Those interested in filling the newly created positions are encouraged to visit Smeal’s website at http://www.smeal.com/Employment.