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      June 05, 2024

      It’s a family affair: Seven members of the Esmali Family Work at Continental’s Wahpeton Facility

      The Wahpeton plant uses a tried-and-true approach to attract new employees: referrals from current employees. In fact, 9 out of 10 new hires currently come from internal referrals which can lead to multiple members of the same family working at the facility. Currently, there are seven members of the Esmali family working at the Wahpeton plant.

      Continental’s Wahpeton manufacturing facility is located in a small rural town in North Dakota, U.S., where unemployment rates have remained at zero percent for several years. Because of this, hiring is difficult for businesses in the area. The Wahpeton facility uses a tried-and-true approach to attract new employees: referrals from current employees, many of whom refer their own family members to the plant. In fact, 9 out of 10 new hires currently come from internal referrals. This has led to multiple members of the same family working together, including siblings, spouses/partners, and even parents and kids. Currently, 22% of the Wahpeton workforce has a family member working at the facility. 

      One example of family ties among employees at the Wahpeton facility is my family, the Esmali family. Seven members of my family work at the Wahpeton plant including siblings, wives, husbands, and kids. Members of our family, originally from the Philippines, have lived in Wahpeton, N.D. since 2007. 

      I was the first member of the family to join the team at Wahpeton, formerly WCCO Belting, in 2007. I recruited my brother, Julius, to work at the company in 2009. Next, my sister, Imelda “Mel” Habiger, joined the team in 2014, and then my sister, Cattlea Oroc, joined in 2019. Three other family members also work at the facility.

      Over the past 16 years I have held multiple roles including extruder, fabrication, presses, and tooling, and I am now an Assistant Supervisor on the first shift. My brother, Julius, followed suit in 2009, mirroring my path through different roles and now serves as an Assistant Supervisor on the third shift.

      What keeps us rooted here isn't just the familiarity of family ties but also the welcoming atmosphere and growth opportunities offered. Julius and I both appreciate the respectful environment where camaraderie reigns supreme. It’s not just about doing a job; it's about contributing to a community where everyone is valued.

      Mel, in her role as a Cell Lead, realizes the importance of continuous learning and sharing knowledge—a sentiment echoed by Cattlea, who also values the flexibility and supportive culture of the workplace. Their experiences resonate with mine; each of us finding fulfillment in our roles and appreciating the chance to make a meaningful impact.

      Reflecting on our journey, I take great pride in my evolution from a frontline worker to an Assistant Supervisor. Julius shares my sentiment, highlighting the satisfaction of mastering new skills and techniques. Mel finds joy in her productivity, while Cattlea cherishes the unexpected opportunity to lead and support her colleagues.

      Our supervisors, Dewey and Rod, commend our family for our dedication, reliability, and positive demeanor—a testament to the values we hold dear, and the work ethic instilled in us.

      The Wahpeton facility offers a great environment, flexible schedules to fit anyone’s lifestyle, and provides a genuine camaraderie among colleagues. There is also a great sense of belonging that comes from being part of a workplace that feels like family—a sentiment the Esmali clan knows all too well.

      Ramil “Doy” Esmali

      Assistant Supervisor, First Shift