Workforce issues once again grace the cover of our magazine. This month, we explore the trucking industry and efforts firms are making to attract and retain the drivers they need to keep all of our goods moving and Bakken oil wells pumping.
The shortage of truckers is a nationwide issue and has been for several years, but our focus this month is on North Dakota, where the problem has dramatically escalated in recent years due largely to the high demand for drivers in the oil patch. It is estimated that 2,300 truck trips are required to get every well operational, and the high salaries paid to Bakken truck drivers have lured employees from other firms and made it difficult for lower-paying employers, particularly farmers, to find the drivers they need. Add to that historically low unemployment numbers and a high percentage of retiring drivers and it’s easy to see why trucking companies are having a hard time finding employees. Firms that are creative in their approach to recruitment and retention and willing to invest in training young employees are finding the most success in keeping their trucks on the road. To find out what strategies are being used, read “Bearing the Load.”
I’m avoiding looking outside at the fresh layer of snow coating the ground as I write this column, and choose instead to focus on the months ahead, which will hopefully include a sunshine-filled getaway to enjoy the beauty of our region in the summertime. Tourism continues to play a growing role in the region’s economies and is becoming more diverse all the time. Wineries are now becoming more common throughout the Dakotas and Minnesota and are popular attractions for wine enthusiasts, of course, but also for general tourism by way of gift shops and event spaces. The budding industry is owed largely to the development of cold-hardy grape varietals, which means regional wines don’t have to be rhubarb- or chokecherry-based anymore (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and an equally hardy group of wine and grape enthusiasts who are planting their roots in a uniquely northern Plains wine industry.
In “Regional Wine Industry Gets Legs,” contributing writer Rob Swenson takes a look at how far along the industry is in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota and speaks with several of the region’s trendsetters, including the so-called godfather of South Dakota’s wine industry and a Minnesota couple who just received a U.S. Small Business Administration award for their winery work. Swenson noted in his article that the success of wineries depends largely on local sales, so I plan to do my best to support this niche industry. I hope many of you find yourselves on a winery trail this summer as well. Cheers!