Palm Harbor Homes is a builder of manufactured homes with deep roots in Plant City, having operated at its facility’s current site since 1978. The company will be hiring dozens of positions in the coming months as it prepares to reopen a second Plant City manufacturing facility that has not been in use since 2009.
Chelli Antle, human resources manager with Palm Harbor Homes, said the reopened plant should be open and operational in the next eight months and will require the company to fill another 50 to 80 new jobs for the plant. “Everything that we have in this plant that we’re running now is going to need to be duplicated at the other plant,” she said. It’s a telling sign of how strong business has been for the company -- and how promising the future looks.
In an interview, Antle explained why now is such a great time to be joining the Palm Harbor Homes team.
There’s always more work coming in here. We are in business-to-business sales. We work with communities and developers who purchase our homes and with street retailers who go to the public and sell our homes. Right now, we have over 500 floors (our houses are either two or three floors) in our backlog to build. We’re considered an essential job for two reasons -- we’re manufacturing and we’re construction -- so never once did we shut down or lay off anyone during COVID. We’ve never stopped working.
We have every facet of construction here in this facility. We build our homes from the ground up, and everything that goes into that home is either built or installed here. And it's done in a true manufacturing, assembly line-type fashion. Each department is responsible for a different section of the home. So we have cabinet builders, cabinet installers, countertop builders, countertop installers, wall framers, wall setters, electricians, roof builders, trimmers, tile and floor installers, and the list goes on -- pretty much anything that goes into making that home. When it comes off the end of our assembly line, the home is in sections but otherwise it's a ready-to-move-in home. It has window coverings, paint, flooring, appliances, ceiling fans, lighting, everything’s in it. And we’re hiring for every position. We’re hiring for everything.
Who they’re looking for
If someone has experience in a trade, it’s a plus, but it’s not a requirement. We look for people with a strong work ethic, a positive personality, a willingness to learn, flexibility, and someone who will be there. Attendance is so important. If you don’t have experience, we know we can work with you and teach you a trade. We can take somebody who just knows how to use a tape measure, and we can teach them a lifelong skill. But it’s a lot harder to teach someone a good work ethic and a good attitude. We want them to bring that.
Our benefits are comprehensive. Medical, dental, vision, life, long-term and short-term disability, and a 401k. It’s very competitive and very affordable. We have personal time off. We have holiday pay. We do a lot to show our appreciation for all of our employees. We have cookouts, we have drawings, we have raffles, we have several reward and recognition programs that we do here. We do a monthly bonus. On average, for their most recent bonus, most of my employees made $537 on top of their hourly pay for the month. We also have a Christmas bonus that they can earn money toward every month that they work here.
Advancement within the company is very important to us. Half of our supervisors are homegrown, and almost all of our managers are, too. For our plant manager, this is the only job he’s ever had. Our general manager has been here for 38 years. If you have the skills and the right attitude, the opportunity definitely is there. Our corporate office has invested a lot of effort and money into management training and helping the members of our team develop all of those skills that go into being a good leader.
A culture of continuous improvement
It’s a melting pot here. We have a wide mixture of people of different age groups and ethnicities. The work is fast-paced, and we’re very transparent about that. It’s part of being in manufacturing. Our culture here is built around always looking for ways to improve. No company or person is perfect, but we’re always looking for ways to get better. We do employee surveys throughout the year to get their feedback. Sometimes, these will be spot surveys asking how they feel about their tools and the things they’re doing in their jobs. And sometimes we’ll do full-company surveys to get their opinion about the company and how they feel about things, like supervisory communication, pay and benefits, the work environment, and do they feel appreciated. We want to hear from them.
There’s a lot of longevity here. People that have been here for five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years. That says a lot about the people that work here and a lot about the company. We're building people's dream homes, and they're not just pretty to look at. They’re sturdy. Our homes have been some of the only homes that have survived hurricanes that have come through here. I'm super proud of the employees and what we build here, and the hard work they do. It’s amazing but we can build a full home within two weeks. From start to finish. And it's a beautiful quality high end home. I think that that says a lot about what we do here, and it's something to really be proud of.
At home in Plant City
We're one of the larger employers here in Plant City -- we have about 220 employees here -- and this community is very important to us. We’ve been here a very long time. Most of our employees live here in Plant City or nearby in Lakeland, most of our management staff lives here, too. We try to get as involved in the community as we can. For instance, we’re in the Strawberry Festival Parade and the Christmas Parade every year, and that’s always a lot of fun. We want to hire as many local people as we can because it’s better for us and it’s better for the area.