Axios Takes Em Out To The Ballpark And Raceway

April 10, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Axios Inc. recently hit a pair of round-trippers and ended up in victory lane.

The human resources management company scored an exclusive contract to provide the workforce for the West Michigan Whitecaps and Whitecaps Racing, the firm that owns and operates Berlin Raceway. The renewed agreement gives Axios another three years to meet the labor needs at Fifth Third Park in Comstock Park and the oval track in Marne.

"Going into our ninth year and beyond with Axios, we're happy to have a partner that knows our business as well as Axios does and can facilitate our staffing needs," said Scott Lane, president of Whitecaps Baseball and Racing.

Axios will provide 425 employees for the Whitecaps' home season, which gets underway Thursday evening with a game against South Bend and runs through Labor Day weekend. Axios has had a working agreement with the Whitecaps since the franchise's opening day in 1994. The firm also will send up to 140 workers to Berlin Raceway, which drops its first checkered flag on April 27 with Sportsmen, Super Stock and Late Model racing.

"We are excited that we will continue to be the long-term partner in providing the human resource needs at both the Whitecaps and Berlin Raceway," said Craig Harfst, vice president of the firm's Flexforce Strategies Division, which staffs manufacturing, entertainment and sporting businesses.

Cindy Taber will manage the ballpark and racetrack operations for Axios.

Axios recently renewed its three-year agreement to staff events at the Van Andel Arena and the Grand Center, something the company has done at the arena since the building opened in October 1996. Back then the firm was known as Staffing Inc. But the company has grown into other human resource areas since then, and a name change became necessary about two years ago.

Axios COO Kellie Haines told the Business Journal that the firm places from 100 to 300 people for every event at the arena, the exact number depending on the event itself.

"We do everything at the arena from ticket takers to ushers, from clean-up crews to the full set-up and take-down crews. So it's a 24-hour operation for us," she said. "Last year, we hired about 810 people."

Those 810 people filled 17,000 positions at the arena last year, and Axios filled roughly the same number of positions with the same number of workers the previous year.

In filling those positions at the arena, Axios, then known as Staffing Inc., pledged to work with Faith Inc. to provide at least 10 percent of those jobs to Heartside residents, people from the downtown neighborhood the arena is in. Working with Faith, Axios has surpassed its pledge by placing Heartside residents in 72 percent of those jobs over the past two years.

"We recruit on our own. But we also recruit with Faith. We've had our partnership with Faith since the very beginning," said Haines.

Axios also staffs at Oldsmobile Park in Lansing, L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon, and the Philip B. Elfstrom Stadium in Geneva, Ill., home of the Kane County Cougars. And CEO Daniel Barcheski recently told the Convention and Arena Authority that Axios vied for the staffing contract at Wrigley Field, the ivy-covered home park of the Chicago Cubs.

"We did not get the Wrigley Field contract. In our negotiations with them, the person we were working with unfortunately got moved to another ballpark," said Haines.

Wrigley currently uses its own employees at the park. But because Cubs officials solicited bids to outsource the work, Haines said Axios hasn't given up on getting the contract.

"We will continue to have talks with them, and maybe someday be able to help with their staffing," she said.

In addition to Flexforce Strategies, Axios also has divisions for professional placement, office employment, lean consulting and professional recruitment. Its nonprofit division offers job training to the chronically unemployed.

Axios Inc. is a privately held firm that has been in business for 14 years. Over those years, Axios has made the Inc. 500 list of top privately held companies three times.           

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