Some Steamboat companies decide to lift wages, add advantages as COVID-19 employment crunch continues


An indication exterior Wagner Rents in Copper Ridge in Steamboat Springs lets individuals know the enterprise is in search of candidates. Indicators like these aren’t that unusual as companies are doing what they’ll to fill open positions whereas the economic system seems to be to rebound from the pandemic. (Picture by John F. Russell)

The pandemic introduced many new challenges for companies in Steamboat Springs the previous 16 months, however Jessica Valand, director of workforce improvement for Northwest Colorado, believes it additionally accelerated some present points.

Valand contends these points are a giant cause many employers in Routt County are challenged with discovering staff to fill staffing wants regardless of the economic system trying to rebound. Particular points embody the county having a brilliant aggressive housing market and a extremely educated workforce that doesn’t line up with the abundance of low-wage, entry-level jobs wanted to help a service-sector, tourism-driven economic system.

“The pandemic exacerbated issues that have been form of already within the works, however it’s simply the best way that issues have shaken out within the economic system, and it definitely looks like it’s added gasoline to a fireplace,” she mentioned.

Even with an April unemployment charge domestically of 5.9%, companies throughout all sectors have struggled to seek out candidates. At present there are 485 verified jobs within the space, however most are entry degree and require few stills. Within the fourth quarter of final yr, the typical hourly wage in Routt County was $26.55 an hour in contrast with the state common of $34.40 an hour.

Mike Higgins, co-owner of Gecko Landscaping & Design in Steamboat, mentioned the corporate has elevated its hourly wages however with restricted success in attracting new staff. At present staff with restricted or no expertise can begin at slightly below $20 an hour, and people with expertise can earn as much as $30 an hour.

“The playing cards are lined up for us to have our greatest summer time ever,” Higgins mentioned. “We have now a number of the finest landscapes we’ve ever designed … and we are able to’t do it.”

Gecko Panorama & Design sometimes has slightly below 50 staff. Final yr, due to impacts from COVID-19, the corporate ended with about 40 staff. This yr the corporate’s workers is down 30%. Due to the lower, Higgins advised many longtime shoppers Gecko wouldn’t be capable to work for them this summer time.

Many of the issues discovering staff are instantly associated to the housing market in Steamboat, based on Higgins.

“If we discover individuals, they’ll’t discover housing, and so it’s like that: You discover somebody nice, and so they don’t need to commute all the best way from Craig or Hayden,” he mentioned.

Rex Brice, proprietor of Rex’s Household of Eating places, is dealing with the identical state of affairs.

The native restaurant group has about 340 staff between its eight eating places, however is scrambling to fill just a few open positions. This summer time, Brice is providing a $500 signing bonus and $500 referral bonus for back-of-house staff. He additionally presents staff aggressive wages and advantages package deal, together with bonuses, persevering with schooling funds, medical, dental and extra. Rex’s eating places lately began providing psychological well being counseling reductions for workers and, in July, will start providing a 401(ok) with a 4% match.

“I feel we’re fortunate in that individuals need to work for our group,” Brice mentioned. “We’re nonetheless in want of individuals, and that’s precipitated us to not open eating rooms that 100%.”

The restaurant group’s shortfall totals about 20 staff for this summer time, which is able to pressure lots of the areas to partially shut on sure days or nights.

“We’re making changes the place wanted,” Brice mentioned. “As a group we actually need to do not forget that we don’t get to only flip a change and be carried out with this pandemic. … What we’re coping with (this) summer time is just a symptom of the pandemic and part of our therapeutic course of.”

As one other native restaurateur, Phil Armstrong can also be having hassle closing the employment hole.

Armstrong, who owns Vacation spot Hospitality that features three Steamboat Springs areas and one in Breckenridge, has needed to change hours on a few of his native eateries.

“We’re spending all of our time brainstorming and attempting to determine methods methods to finest fight this subject,” Armstrong mentioned. “The demand is unquestionably outpacing our means to satisfy the demand from a staffing standpoint.”

In an effort to beat the native housing disaster, Armstrong bought a number of condominiums and has seven bedrooms obtainable for worker housing. He additionally began providing a advantages package deal — one thing that he believes has been missing within the restaurant trade for years.

“I need to assume that it’s going to get higher as soon as the mud settles, however I’m actually involved that many individuals simply have fled the trade and I perceive why,” Armstrong mentioned. “I’ll be the primary to confess that the restaurant trade is that brutal on individuals.”

Along with the restaurant sector, lodging was additionally taken by way of the gamut within the pandemic.

Robin Craigen has seen a decline in candidates strolling by way of the doorways of Shifting Mountains, a locally-run property administration firm that oversees 120 luxurious trip leases in Steamboat, Vail and Beaver Creek.

Regionally, Shifting Mountains manages about 60 properties and has about 70 staff through the ski season and between 30 and 40 in the summertime. In 2019, an worker survey helped the enterprise rank among the many High 100 Greatest Locations to Work by Outdoors Journal.

The good thing about being on the record, Craigen mentioned, is it’s utilized by potential staff when taking a look at locations to dwell.

“The one cause we are able to do what we do is as a result of now we have nice staff. … It’s form of a rooster and egg factor as a result of should you don’t have nice staff, you’ll be able to’t do nice issues and you may solely do nice issues when you’ve got good staff, so it’s a circle of life for us,” he mentioned.

Craigen continues to be making an attempt to fill some summer time positions, however isn’t sounding any alarms simply but.

“We have now long-term methods in place to rent and retain good individuals,” he mentioned. “Our wages and advantages are extraordinarily aggressive … and we’ve been working at this for some time to be sure that persons are conscious that now we have availability, understand that they get compensated, that they get advantages and it’s an excellent place to work.”


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