Harry & David has been down a well-documented rocky road over the past year, but when it comes to preparing for its busiest season, it's business as usual at Medford's largest employer.
A late pear harvest has delayed the process slightly, but hiring plans indicate the fruit and gift basket retailer is ramping up for picking, packing and all that goes along with preparing its treats for destinations around the globe.
As if to underline its imminent emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Harry & David has announced plans to add about 700 seasonal production jobs and another 1,400 jobs in its Medford call center.
The company's packing house is processing the peach harvest and the delayed Comice pear picking will soon get under way, signaling the need for thousands of seasonal employees.
"We're pretty much mirroring what we have done, but we're starting almost two weeks later," said Beth Lindsay, Harry & David's vice president for talent management. "We're gearing up to reach full capacity by the second week of September. That means going from 300 people in the packing house to more than 1,000 in a matter of days. The third shift will be small, but we need to go around the clock."
Peter Kratz, executive vice president for operations, said the company is adding a third shift for the first time in years so it can make best use of collection bins when fruit is moved between orchards and the packing house during the shorter season brought on by a long, wet spring.
Lindsay said call-backs for past seasonal workers account for a little over half of the ramp-up, meaning there are hundreds of new hires to process in a short period.
The late start is a double-edged sword, compressing the harvest season and creating three shifts in the packing house, but giving new opportunity to workers who might otherwise taken a pass.
"When people have called about hiring, I've told them I have good news and bad," Lindsay said. "Even though they've read the paper and know the season is later, I have to tell them we've had to back off a few days. The good news is that a lot more people are willing to work after Labor Day because the kids are back in school and they don't have to worry about child care. That's a little bit of a silver lining."
Beyond sorting, there are openings for basket and tower assembly, material handlers, forklift operators, Hyster operators and drivers. Lindsay said a substantial number of the company's forklifts are rented and trucked in to the plant.
She said the company also will hire 1,400 full- and part-time workers for its Medford call center and more than 1,000 at its Hopewell campus outside Hebron, Ohio, in the weeks ahead.
Lindsay said the late-hiring that hampered call center operations in 2010 has been dealt with in planning for the coming campaign by vice president of customer care Darren Prescott.
"Nothing will be last-minute, it will be well planned out and collaborative," Lindsay said.
The company's poor performance last Christmas underscored a calendar year in which it lost $57.6 million, leading Harry & David Holdings to seek Chapter 11 court protection in March. The reorganized company is due to exit bankruptcy next month.
People applying for the seasonal jobs should go to the company's employment center south of the main plant at 2800 South Pacific Highway, Medford, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays.
"We like to get them down there for some baseline testing and move them through as quickly as possible," Lindsay said. "It expedites hiring if they show up in person."
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email email@example.com.