RDI Seeks To Double Workforce In Newport City

Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman waves his hand while talking with Louise Whipple at the trail head of Memphremagog Trails, a mountain bike and cross country skiing area in Derby, during a visit to the Newport City area Wednesday. With them are Mike Kiser, at left, and Paul Kusner. (Photo by Robin Smith)

NEWPORT CITY — RDI is expecting to double its workforce at its sales and service call center in Newport City.

Joe Hatley, the new site director for RDI’s Newport plant, told Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman on Wednesday afternoon that the company wants to expand its Newport workforce from 90 to 200 within the next four months.

RDI will hold a job fair July 30 from 10 a.m to 2 p.m., Hatley said.

The company is seeking more than 100 full and part-time permanent employees at its plant on Lakemont Road in one of the city’s industrial parks, including supervisors.

Zuckerman, who spoke with several employers during a full-day tour in Newport City and Derby, asked Hatley if he would be able to find enough new employees in this area.

“I am hearing there’s not the workforce out there,” Zuckerman said during an informal conversation at the Goodrich Memorial Library.

Hatley said RDI is not competing for new employees with a company like Ethan Allen Manufacturing, which held a job fair on Wednesday at the Community College of Vermont’s Newport campus. Ethan Allen had multiple jobs to fill at its Orleans and Beecher Falls plants.

The skill set for RDI employees is different than for manufacturing. Hatley said, with the ability to communicate with someone on the other end of a phone line critical to success.

RDI is working with partners like the Vermont Department of Labor, Creative Workforce Solutions, which helps potential employees with possible barriers find and stay in jobs, and Go Vermont, which helps set up ride share opportunities.

Hatley said the company is looking beyond Newport City for its employees.

RDI is not a direct marketer, making cold calls to people on their phones, Hatley said. There are no “robo-calls.”

RDI provides call center services to customers like Direct TV, Hatley said.

RDI employees working on the Direct TV contract will do a blend of customer service calls, sales calls to offer upgrades to existing Direct TV customers, and technical support, he said.

“Right now Direct TV can’t give us enough hours,” Hatley said, adding that RDI could do much more for Direct TV if RDI had more employees.

The starting wage is minimum at $10.78 an hour plus benefits. But the average employee does more, earning another $1,000 a month, Hatley said.

The company is looking at its base rate, he said.

The company has a policy called “ELL WELL,” Hatley said: “Earn, Live And Learn Well.”

That includes helping employees who need financial literacy training to be able to maximize their earnings and be able to move up in the company or field, he said.

They have brought in financial planners to help employees be able to buy a vehicle if needed, he said.

“We not only give someone a job, but give them a career,” he said, adding that communication skills learned at RDI will help in other fields.

RDI would hire those who have seasonal employment already, perhaps suiting those who work in education, agriculture or ski areas.

Bruce James, president of Vermont’s North Country Chamber of Commerce, also introduced Zuckerman to Phil White, owner of Kingdom Games.

White talked about the need to market the state’s special events, like his winter swim or In Search of Memphre, the swim the length of Lake Memphremagog, both of which attract swimmers from across the U.S. and the globe.

Zuckerman also said he would look into why the state limits what can be sold on state property. The successful Wednesdays on the Waterfront organizers, who lease the waterfront at the state office building, are only allowed to sell alcohol, not food or products, James said.

Zuckerman said sometimes such rules were crafted for a reason that is no longer relevant, or is relevant but not obvious.

Zuckerman did a short mountain bike ride on Memphremagog Trails in Derby on Wednesday, seeing one of the best views in the area.

He also spent time with veterans who are looking at creating a non-profit center in Newport City.


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