U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) took time from his busy schedule to meet with folks at Kovatch Mobile Equipment Corporation (KME) in Nesquehoning to see how he can help this local business continue to be successful.
"I'm here today to see how I can be helpful in business," said Toomey. "Kovatch makes impressive vehicles and they continue to be successful because they have been adaptable and were able to respond to changing markets."
Toomey said he was going to do his best to promote sales to government agencies and be as helpful as he can be.
KME Kovatch is the second largest manufacturer of fire trucks in the country and the largest that is family owned and privately owned.
During his visit Toomey heard that KME Kovatch's biggest drawback to filling orders is the lack of qualified, trained employees who are willing to work.
Toomey seemed surprised that Kovatch has problems with hiring employees when there is a such a high number of people out of work in Carbon County.
"We're approaching 850 people," said Richard Reaman, chief financial officer. "We have 25 active and open positions available."
Reaman went on to say that employees that are needed truly need to be craftsmen welders and electricians who have a high skill ability and are flexible in their positions.
He noted that the local vocational school and Lehigh County Community College is working with KME Kovatch to help fill the positions by offering specialized training.
"Our struggle to find qualified employees is our biggest barrier to expanding," said John Kovatch III, CEO and president.
Reaman said that fire trucks are the core business of KME, but they have adapted adding product lines such as building trucks for use in fracking and that KME's latest announcement is that it is sending firetrucks to China.
Reaman said that three fire trucks were shown as a product introduction to China last year and they were well received. He said they are now actively doing a product launch of additional trucks.
"The potential is large," said Reaman.
Reaman explained to Toomey that it takes approximately 350 to 400 labor hours to build a firetruck.
Kovatch said that KME has been able to remain competitive by continuing to upgrade facilities and training for it's employees even when sales were down a few years ago and managed to maintain its employee base even when there was little work.
"Our planning paid off and today we are busy," said Kovatch. "We're backlogged and that is why we are looking for employees. The backlog is strong and we have work for a lot of people."
Kovatch also explained to Toomey that KME has become a global business along with making vehicles for the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.