"It's going fast and furious here," Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman said. "As it is, there is not a big enough labor force around here, and as it gets colder there is less of one."

The unemployment rate in Eau Claire is 6.3 percent, lower than the national rate of 7.9 percent in October. Mike Schatz, the city's economic development director, said its economy is strong and that there are job opportunities in the town of about 65,000.

"It's not like people can't find work here â¿¿ there are plenty of expansions going on," Schatz said.

But Menard spokesman Jeff Abbott said there was good interest when the company held a job fair in Eau Claire earlier this month to hire workers for its Minot store. Menard intends to train the workers at Wisconsin stores and send them to Minot "as soon as possible," he said.

Menard has offered a starting wage of $13 an hour at the Minot store, well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which prevails in Wisconsin. It's also the minimum wage in North Dakota, but most jobs there pay more. A listing for a pizza delivery driver in Minot was advertised Thursday at $15 to $20 per hour, plus a $250 signing bonus.

Competition for the Menard jobs has been tough in Wisconsin.

Pam Weaver, of Eau Claire, said her husband, Gary, had his heart set on one of the positions with Menard in Minot but was told Thursday that he wouldn't be hired. No reason was given, she said.

"It's frustrating," Pam Weaver said. "He seemed disappointed."

Gary Weaver, who was laid off from his job as a telemarketer several weeks ago, was back at the unemployment office Thursday filling out job applications, said his wife, a 55-year-old claims auditor for a health insurance company.

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