Transportation woes hurting company's productivity: "They just can't get to work."

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MobilitySolutions_Monti Chris Walls-Enoch.PNG
Posted at 10:41 AM, Aug 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-02 11:10:54-04

In order for Chris Walls-Enoch to make it to his factory job in Bond Hill each day by 7 a.m., he either takes the bus, or an Uber or a Lyft. Either way, it's less than ideal. With ride share alternatives, the cost is more than he wants to pay.

"The pricing is outrageous because you don't know. It could be $9 one day, $10 the next," he said. Or, he could take the bus.

"There's only one bus that come that early," Walls-Enoch said. "Who knows? It might encounter something along the way and not get to you in time and that'll involve you getting here and being late."

It is a transportation dilemma many Tri-State workers face every day. According to some company executives, either public transportation doesn't adequately fit their needs. Or, workers may have cars, but they aren't in good shape.

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It's a concern the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber hears often. "They hire someone. They train them and ultimately they aren't able to get to work because their transportation is unreliable. That's a major problem for business' ability to grow," said Pete Metz, manager of transportation initiatives for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.

The chamber is working with local companies to help them come up with ways to help workers get to work. They will host a Mobility Solutions Summit on August 19-21, 2019.

"The goal is to help businesses and organizations across the region identify their biggest mobility problem," said Metz.

"When they have a breakdown, they can't come to work and we're having significant attendance issues," said Molly Fender, vice president of human resources at Monti Incorporated, a manufacturing company in Bond Hill.

She said they see significant turnover in the first six months of workers employment. She believes there is a link between transportation and attendance.

"These people are not bad people," she said. "It's just they can't get to work."

The end result is an impact on a company's productivity and growth potential.

"We have two shifts," said Fender. "One on first shift and one on third. We have a very difficult time finding people to staff our third shift."

Local companies were selected for the Mobility Solutions Summit by the chamber based on an application process. Transportation experts will work directly with the companies to come up with practices that could help workers with their commutes or other potential transportation hassles.

Even though Monti is on the Metro bus line, the bus doesn't work for all of their workers.

"We have people coming from way out east, Mt. Orab, Batavia, Amelia area and the bus doesn't go out there," she said. It impacts the company's ability to expand.

"We're able to make capital purchases. We're able to buy new machines. But, if we can't find the people to run them, then it's no good to us," said Fender.

While some managers earn high salaries, Fender said many of their workers earn less than $20 an hour. They may also come from a family with only one car, or a car that has a lot of mechanical problems. She said the company has actually loaned workers money, if necessary, for car repairs so that they can get to work.

"Maybe they take a $400 or $500 loan from the company, interest-free so that they can fix their vehicle, improve reliability and make it to work," she said.

Meanwhile, the lack of transportation options in the Tri-State can also be a deal breaker for some companies when it comes to hiring. Metz said some companies have lost potential candidates to other metropolitan areas.

"They are offering jobs to folks that choose to go somewhere else in a city partly because transportation is an issue," he said.

Fender is hopeful the summit will provide her with an option that not only helps her workers, but also gives the company a competitive edge.

"Maybe provide a benefit that's unique in the marketplace that we can offer our employees to help retain them," she said.

Despite his transportation woes, Walls-Enoch said his job at Monti is the best he's ever had. Solving his transportation problems will make it nearly perfect.

"A car pool. That might work," he said. "Just anything."