Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in Minnesota alone due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the federal unemployment benefit program ends this month, many will still be looking for work.
At Gemini, they felt the effects of the pandemic on their bottom line, but their employees didn’t.
Gemini was named a 2021 Best Places to Work in Southeastern Minnesota with 150 employees, their second time receiving the award.
Phil Jacobson, Vice President of Human Resources for Gemini, said they never shut down completely when the first state at home order was given by Gov. Tim Walz. Jacobson, who has been with the company for eight years, said people who were able to work from home did so, but being in manufacturing, they still needed people in the building.
Throughout this pandemic, Jacobson said there has not been a single employee who has been laid off, a tradition that has stayed true throughout the company’s history.
“Gemini has never had a layoff in the history of our company,” Jacobson said. “Even though sales were down, we have a commitment that our people would receive full paychecks and full benefits throughout the pandemic.”
Along with paychecks and benefits came 160 hours of “COVID pay.” This pay could be used by employees who either had the virus, were in quarantine for a close contact or a family member had the virus.
Employees are what keeps Gemini afloat, Jacobson said. The company’s top recruiting method for potential employees is through their own workers.
Jacobson said they don’t work to win awards, but the recognition is validating their efforts as a whole on what they’re trying to accomplish as a company.
“It’s a good reinforcement that we’re doing the right thing,” Jacobson said. “We try to listen to our employees. We have regular meetings where we ask, what is going well and how can we improve? And we incorporate a lot of those ideas in our annual plans.”
Like many other businesses trying to find ways to benefit their community during the pandemic, Jacobson said Gemini made masks and acrylic sheets for businesses to display.
Jacobson said it’s not likely those types of products will be long term for Gemini, but it was a small way they could help businesses stay open and be safe.
Along with the Best Places to Work award, the business also received the 2020-2021 Future Ready Community Partner of the Year award from the Cannon Falls School District this year.
Jacobson called the relationship between Gemini and the school district “outstanding.” Gemini is a sponsor of the robotics team in Cannon Falls and gives students a chance to meet with their own engineering team throughout the year.
Gemini also awards the annual Ross Wagner Engineering Scholarship which gives $100,000 paid over four years.
Being able to show local students that a long term option, in this community, is viable is an important thing for Jacobson and the rest of the good stewards of Gemini.
Whether it’s engineering, manufacturing, accounting, or even working alongside Jacobson in Human Resources, Gemini has options many other businesses don’t.