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For small business, hiring depends on the industry

Associated Press Modified: October 10, 2012 at 5:30 pm •  Published: October 10, 2012



At PRISM Plastics, based outside of Detroit, the recovery in the auto industry and the demise of many of its competitors during the recession created more demand for its products. PRISM makes seat belt and airbag parts and components that go into cars and trucks. The company has been hiring for more than a year and opened a new plant in Chesterfield Township, Mich. six months ago. It has about 20 new workers and five positions still open.

Gerry Phillips, one of the PRISM's three owners, says some of the new hires have been people who were unemployed, but others moved out of jobs they didn't like.

The company is looking for people with technical skills and auto industry experience. It can be hard to turn anxious applicants away, he said.

"You want to give everyone a break and sometimes we get people in who are very nice guys and good people that maybe lack the skills you need, and those are the people you feel the most for," Phillips says. "You feel bad about the people you can't hire."

PRISM anticipates hiring four more workers next year when its new plant begins running 24 hours a day five days a week. In 2013, it's expected to run 24/7.



Hil, Chesson & Woody, a Chapel Hill, N.C., a health benefits brokerage and consultancy with 51 employees, is hiring because companies need them to help navigate the health care overhaul that Congress passed in March 2010. The company has hired three people in the last three months and plans to hire two more this year. And because many parts of the health care law won't take effect until 2014, it expects to hire at least six more people in 2013 and a minimum of six in 2014.

The firm's clients are in the dark about the law, says co-owner Skip Woody. "They don't know how it will impact them," he says.

One recent hire was an attorney, a position they originally planned to fill next year. The woman who was hired had been unemployed for six months.

Applicants are becoming more aggressive because they're so anxious to be hired, Woody says. The company's new attorney applied after her husband interviewed with the firm and was rejected.

"It turned out that we loved her," Woody says.



Although the busy holiday season is approaching, Roberta Rubin isn't planning to hire more employees for her Winnetka, Ill., bookstore, The Book Stall at Chestnut Court. She just took on two part-timers, but only because other employees cut back their hours. Her overall staffing level won't change.

"I'm not real happy with the economy right now and I worry — but I have great faith in the book business," says Rubin, who has owned the store for 30 years. The number of workers at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores are below levels reached 12 months ago, according to the BLS.

Aside from the economy, Rubin is faced with changes in the book business as more people download digital versions of books for e-readers, smartphones and tablet computers.

But The Book Stall is busier since three nearby Borders stores closed in April 2011, she reports. "That's been such a bonanza for us," Rubin says. And it's not just more sales at the store -- The Book Stall sponsors and sells books at author appearances and readings at schools and libraries in the area.



"We're being guarded right now. We think we're OK, but I'd still say we're nervous," says Mark Gross, owner of Oak Grove Technologies, a company whose services include helping the Defense Department train military personnel in intelligence and security.

Gross isn't hiring while he waits to see if the Army and other service branches have to cut the number of employees they use for their training programs. Defense contractors of all sizes may have to eliminate jobs if Congress doesn't stop the budget cuts that are set to take place in January.

"We don't know what programs are being cut," says Gross, who has 120 people in administrative jobs and 480 who work on contracts with the government. Oak Grove is based in Raleigh, N.C., and has offices in Washington, D.C., and Orlando, Fla.

Gross has not only put off hiring, he's also delaying plans to buy a smaller company that provides similar services to the government. His bank and attorney told him not to make any commitments until there's more certainty about the Pentagon budget.

"Right now, there's no way to plan," he says.