[caption id="attachment_212550" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Dot Foods is looking to hire more truck drivers at its Bear facility, feeling the pressure from a nationwide shortage of truck drivers. | DBT PHOTO COURTESY OF DOT FOODS[/caption]
BEAR – The warehouse and distribution market has rocketed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and Dot Foods is no exception.Dot Foods is looking to hire at least 50 more employees at its Bear warehouse, pushing its employment base to at least 228 in Delaware. That would surpass the goal of 200 employees by 2022 that CEO Joe Tracy set when the $37 million warehouse first opened last year.“We are excited that we are on pace to exceed the goals we originally set when we first opened our Bear location. Last year was challenging for many businesses, so to come out of the pandemic and see our business growing like this is really wonderful news for our employees,” Dot Foods Delaware General Manager Joe Little told the Delaware Business Times. “It also means we need to find more great talent to join our team, so we can keep providing the best service possible to our customers.”Dot Foods, the country’s largest food redistributor and a top 100 largest private company, leased a facility in Delaware from 1986 to 1994. It left to build a facility in western Maryland but came back to the First State when it was looking to build its 12th facility, due to access to Interstate 95 and proximity to the Port of Wilmington.Dot Foods built its Bear facility with expansion in mind, and Tracy once speculated it could push employment figures to 350.When Tracy cut the ribbon on the Bear facility, there were 24 employees hired on and a strategic plan in place to hit headcount benchmarks as the food volume grew. But the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and while that slowed some employee training processes and food transfers early on, Dot Foods Delaware Human Resources Manager Nakishia Bailey said the company did not miss a beat.“In the first two months of the pandemic, things slowed because people were staying home and not buying as much food. But then the rebound happened and we really stepped up,” Bailey said. “While it was always planned to increase our employment numbers, but because demand has really blown up demand.”Dot Foods strategic plan appears to steadily grow its 16 locations across the country, although the pandemic was a hiccup in those plans. The company hired nearly 250 people in 2019 overall and another 100 in the first quarter of 2020, but froze hiring when the pandemic started, according to the St. Louis Business Journal. Dot Foods also instituted a voluntary furlough program from April to July 2020.But in the First State, Dot Foods eventually worked to raise its headcount to 178 people today, or 641% from when it first opened for business. Hiring fairs for the Bear warehouse restarted in November 2020, and have been continuing periodically since.To attract the best candidates, Bailey said that warehouse handlers have the opportunity to earn up to $24.25 per hour. Starting salary is raised from $19.25 per hour for day shifts, and $20.25 per hour for night shifts.“We first did a labor market survey to understand the area and how to be competitive, so when we first opened, starting wages were at $18.50 an hour, with the option of a 75-cent increase in the next six months,” Bailey said.Like across the country, Dot Foods is struggling to hire enough drivers to meet demand, as Bailey said many are headed to transporting lumber due to the record-high prices. Dot’s transportation arm raises wages twice this year, marking the average salary for drivers at $92,000.“I would definitely say our need right now is 75% drivers, because they’re priceless at this point,” Bailey said.The Dot Foods job fair is set for June 24.