But Menard spokesman Jeff Abbott said there was good interest when the company held a job fair in Eau Claire earlier this month to hire workers for its Minot store. Menard intends to train the workers at Wisconsin stores and send them to Minot "as soon as possible," he said.
Menard has offered a starting wage of $13 an hour at the Minot store, well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which prevails in Wisconsin. It's also the minimum wage in North Dakota, but most jobs there pay more. A listing for a pizza delivery driver in Minot was advertised Thursday at $15 to $20 per hour, plus a $250 signing bonus.
Competition for the Menard jobs has been tough in Wisconsin.
Pam Weaver, of Eau Claire, said her husband, Gary, had his heart set on one of the positions with Menard in Minot but was told Thursday that he wouldn't be hired. No reason was given, she said.
"It's frustrating," Pam Weaver said. "He seemed disappointed."
Gary Weaver, who was laid off from his job as a telemarketer several weeks ago, was back at the unemployment office Thursday filling out job applications, said his wife, a 55-year-old claims auditor for a health insurance company.
"Who would have thought that we'd be in our 50s and struggling?" Pam Weaver said. "We're not the only ones. We've had three different friends who have lost businesses in town in the last five years."
Zimbelman, the Minot mayor, and Menards store manager Graef said they hope some Wisconsin workers eventually decide to make Minot their permanent home instead of commuting more than 500 miles by air to get there.
But Eau Claire's Schatz has another idea.
"We would hope just the opposite," Schatz said. "We want them to bring that North Dakota money back to Eau Claire."