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Our view: Need workers? Here's advice on how to do it

When Prairie Business — the Herald's business magazine — sought nominations for its annual "50 Best Places to Work" edition, more than 1,300 nominations poured in. Each year, that number grows, and each year, we are stunned by the response. But should we be?

Unemployment in North Dakota is at historically low levels. Last week, we noted in this space the state's unemployment rate is around 2 percent, which is prompting businesses to take heretofore unbelievable steps to find workers.

Prairie Business announced the "50 Best Places to Work 2018" in its recently released September edition, available at Among the Top 50 are five Grand Forks-based businesses: AE2S, Alerus, Construction Engineers, EAPC and JLG Architects.

Here are some examples of what's happening at these businesses, as told to us by employees themselves:

AE2S: "Health insurance that is completely paid by the employer. Initiatives to encourage well-rounded health with incentives to reach goals. ... To my knowledge, our benefits are second to none."

Alerus: "Alerus really invests time in providing tools to employees to develop within their chosen career. It doesn't matter at what level an employee is. If they have a desire to learn a specific talent, Alerus is there to help that employee achieve individual goals. Flexibility in the workplace is very important to me as a working mother. ... Alerus is spreading excitement within the ranks. As an employee I feel informed. I feel that my voice matters."

Construction Engineers: "The discretionary 401(k) match is second to none. Summer picnics, golfing events, fun holiday parties, and other group events bring employees closer together."

EAPC: "EAPC encourages and supports employees participating in charitable works. This is very important to me. ... (EAPC is) always open to being driven by the employees that work there. Benefits include flexibility for working hours, incredible sensitivity to home and family needs. ... Great management, pay and benefits."

JLG: "There are many cultural initiatives. However, these initiatives alone are not what sets JLG apart. It is that these large initiatives are only a small part and result of the true culture of JLG. A culture that prides itself in enjoying and excelling in doing what is essential to their work. A culture that truly believes that our region is a great place to live, and a place that will only get better if the people that live here take action in making it a better place."

Two of these local businesses — AE2S and JLG — recently converted to ESOP (employee stock option plan) ownership. That means the employees themselves own the companies, and we assume that innovative step has cemented a certain level of staff loyalty and company enthusiasm.

Aside from that, the companies in the Prairie Business "50 Great Places to Work" edition have many similarities, including great benefits, strong managers, competitive pay and flexibility. Many are just fun places to work. And it's important to note that the aforementioned employee comments are just a small sample of work being done by these companies to attract and keep the region's top talent.

Other businesses could learn much from this year's winners.