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Dowco’s H2B Story

Posted on Thursday, February 7th, 2013 at 9:45 pm by dowcoenterprises

I was aerating a lawn on a Saturday afternoon alone by myself.  We were always a person or two short which meant I was juggling production, hiring, administration, sales, marketing, repairs and everything else.  That particular Saturday afternoon brought an answer to a prayer.  Three Mexican guys were mowing grass in the same subdivision.  I approached them, placed my card in their hands and asked them to call if they needed a job.  Monday morning a carload of Mexican guys showed up at our office looking for work.  We hired them on the spot and production staffing worries became a thing of the past.

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Two years later we received a wake up letter from the Social Security administration which advised us that we had social security numbers that did not match.  Guess which ones?   All this occurred while we were under scrutiny building a facility via a SBA loan.  My family’s biggest fear was arriving at work, finding the INS trucks waiting and our guys being dragged off in handcuffs!   We knew we had to do something to relieve this stressful situation.

Trying to find a legal way to keep our Mexican employees, we were taken for a ride by a fellow impersonating an immigration attorney.  This character took $5,000 of our money masquerading as a fiancé to my cousin. He promised to legally solve our visa problem. That really was the low point of our immigration experience.   I actually found our immigration attorney as the results of a Google search “immigration help.”  I sent an email stating that we were “Labor less in St. Louis,” and listed a few of our concerns.  As soon as that email went out, I thought, “Oh my, I have just turned us in to the INS!”  Fortunately, the email address belonged to one of the top labor attorneys in the Midwest, who we have now employed for 16 years.  His knowledge of the process helped our Mexicans acquire legal papers.  They had to go home and re-enter the country via the temporary visa program or H-2B.  This program has worked well for us since then.

The H-2B visa program has allowed our business as well as many other businesses to grow by supplying us with a steady workforce of individuals who see and appreciate the opportunities our country affords.  Our crews sacrifice 8-9 months of quality family time per year to live and work in the United States. We employ multiple generations of family members, cousins, brothers and dads.  It is extremely rewarding to see a family leader take a relative under his wing to show them the business of the green industry!

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The starting pay rate for our H2B workers last year was $9.35 per hour.  At Dowco this is the starting wage for a new employee with no experience. As our staff grows their skills and responsibilities their wages also increase. These fellows are paid for holidays, 2 weeks of vacation, and overtime in the busy seasons.  They have workers’ compensation benefits and they pay taxes!  The taxes are a windfall for the government, as these employees will never collect social security, or unemployment benefits.

One of the difficulties we have managing a seasonal business is finding staff to work only 9 months of the year. Our season does not fit nicely into a college student’s summer vacation and most full time employees are looking for year-round employment. The temporary visa solves our seasonal dilemma.  The community benefits when we can grow our business while creating quality jobs for American managers and professionals.  The H2B guest worker visas are truly a win-win program for Dowco and other service industry firms in America.

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-Written by Maurice Dowell, CLP

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