U.S. Representative Stephen Womack (Ark.-3) visited Alternative Design in Siloam Springs on Wednesday.
Womack stopped as part of his small business tour of northwest Arkansas to get a first-hand look at operations, tour facilities and meet with company executives and employees, a statement said. press release from Womack’s office.
The Rogers Congressman met Grant Loyd, President and CEO of Alternative Design, along with five other members of the company’s management team, who discussed the issues facing the company today. ‘hui. Some of the issues Loyd talked about were the challenges of finding people who want to work and the possibility of a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour.
On a positive note, Loyd explained how strong alternative design is in China and Taiwan and how he has done work in Belgium and Japan. Alternative Design has also helped work on coronavirus vaccines by providing cages for animal studies, Loyd said.
“It’s pretty neat to be involved and to be able to know that some of our equipment is not just going here on the farms, but is being used during the pandemic, helping and assisting,” Loyd said.
Work has been a struggle for Alternative Design because many are just looking for work and not really interested in finding a job, Loyd said. Alternative Design currently has 65 employees, Loyd said.
Operations manager Elton Moore said people pay bonuses for people to show up on time to work a 40-hour work week. The company gave more time off as an incentive, Moore said.
“This is no longer the place where you pay a salary to have someone come to work,” Loyd said. “You have to pay bonuses and compete to get them to show up for work and it’s getting really tough in Northwest Arkansas.”
Wages and the possibility of a federal minimum wage are something of concern to Loyd and other members of the Alternative Design leadership team.
Moore said when Arkansas’ minimum wage was $ 7.75 an hour, Alternative Design would start their employees at $ 10 or $ 11 an hour, but that became more difficult to do, said Moore.
Womack, who listened to the concerns of Alternative Design management, began by addressing the minimum wage issue, saying he was not in favor of a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour.
“You can’t compare, and I can attest to that personally, you can’t compare the cost of living for example Washington DC to northwest Arkansas,” Womack said. “So that automatically makes minimum wage discussions irrelevant. “
As of 2021, the current federal minimum wage is $ 7.25 an hour and the Arkansas minimum wage is $ 11 an hour, according to the U.S. Department of Labor website, www.dol .gov.
Womack said the private sector is willing and able to deal with the competitive market forces that exist in a given region.
As to whether the current legislature will vote to pass a federal minimum wage of $ 15 an hour, Womack doesn’t think that will happen because Republicans won’t agree to it.
Womack said of the current political scenario that the Senate is 50/50 in terms of Democrats and Republicans and the House only has a majority vote of three or four Democrats.
Still, Womack wouldn’t oppose a higher minimum wage if it were reasonable.
“If somebody wanted to say, ‘Okay, make $ 10’… so what, big deal,” Womack said. “You don’t hire anyone for $ 10 an hour in Northwest Arkansas. You know you’re going to pay more than that.”
When people start pushing minimum wage above what is a reasonable entry-level wage for unskilled employment in Northwest Arkansas, different factors come into play, including the possibility for employers. to replace employees with machines, he said.
Womack also addressed extended unemployment benefits due to the coronavirus, saying it will make people more dependent on the government.
“I don’t think there should be a policy where you guarantee someone more than 100% of what they earn,” Womack said.
To keep the carrot on the stick, Womack believes unemployment compensation should not exceed 70 percent, so when people are unemployed it’s really temporary, he said.
The nation must overcome the coronavirus so that some normalcy can return to daily work, he said.
After the discussion with the management of Alternative Design, Womack visited the factory and spoke with different workers about their work and what they produced.
Womack and his staff also received tote bags with different products featuring the Alternative Design logo and Womack personally received a walnut wood snack bowl from Loyd.
Marc Hayot / Siloam Sunday U.S. Representative Stephen Womack (AR-3, left) and Alternative Design President / CEO Grant Loyd inspect some of the metal parts used to make products at Alternative Design on Wednesday. Womack, who has visited various small businesses in Northwest Arkansas, stopped by Alternative Design and spoke with Loyd and other members of the Alternative Design executive.
Marc Hayot / Siloam Sunday US Representative Stephen Womack (AR-3 left) poses with Alternative Design VP of Business Development Eddie Loyd. Loyd founded the company in 1987 and sold it to his son Grant in 2014. Womack visits small businesses in Northwest Arkansas and stopped by Alternative Design on Wednesday.
Marc Hayot / Siloam Sunday US Representative Stephen Womack (AR-3 second from left) poses with PR Manager Patti Eiland; President / CEO Grant Loyd; COO Elton Moore and QA Director Terry Martin Wednesday at the Alternative Design manufacturing facility. Womack visited Alternative Design while visiting small businesses in Northwest Arkansas and spoke with company executives about wages, labor shortages and manufacturing challenges .