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Whirlpool kicks off hiring blitz in Amana

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A hiring blitz is underway at Whirlpool's Middle Amana plant, with the company hoping to hire 500 employees over the coming month.

The goal is to launch a third shift on one of the plant's three major refrigerator assembly lines by September to meet growing demand for French door units, according to Amana HR Director Chris Rice. Once that shift is live, two out of the three major assembly lines at the plant will be running 24 hours a day.

The new shift will account for about 200-250 of the employees needed; the rest will help meet increased product demand on other product lines and help with seasonal work. If the company is successful, the Amana operations will grow to employ around 3,200 people.

Mr. Rice noted that the rapid ramp-up will be a challenge, considering the region's extremely low unemployment rate. The company is partnering with Kelly Services of Cedar Rapids to help it recruit full-time hires, and Mr. Rice expects his team to have to speak to "several thousand people" over the coming weeks to meet the hiring goal.

"I'm confident and scared at the same time, but we're seeing a lot of good traffic, with people coming in or calling, and the volume continues to increase," he added.

The hiring blitz comes as consumers continue to gravitate towards higher-priced, premium refrigerator models, regardless of brand. New tech advances such as Wi-Fi-connected refrigerators and "door-within-the-door" configurations are driving refrigerator sales, and requiring more employees to build them.

Whirlpool cited "very strong unit volume growth" in its second quarter earnings, released last week, and said that it expects full-year unit shipments in the U.S. to increase by 4-6 percent. Whirlpool's North America unit reported second-quarter sales of $3 billion, up from $2.8 billion in the same quarter last year.

Whirlpool's Amana plant manufactures all of the "bottom-mount" refrigerators sold by the corporation's five appliance brands, producing about 5,000 units a day.

This story originally appeared in the Corridor Business Journal.

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