‘A shortage of people:’ Businesses struggle to fill openings in Glenwood Springs | PostIndependent.com

‘A shortage of people:’ Businesses struggle to fill openings in Glenwood Springs

Some businesses in Glenwood Springs are having a difficult time filling open positions.

The inability to fill positions resulted in the closure of Fiesta Guadalajara, which closed its doors in Glenwood Springs on May 9, according to Alex Sanchez, the restaurant’s general manager.

Being unable to find enough workers is a trend throughout all of Garfield County, according to Director of Workforce Development for Northwest Colorado Jessica Valand.

Valand said the unemployment rate in Garfield County is sitting at 5.6%, which means there are people without work.

“There’s a shortage of people willing to step into these hospitality or tourism related jobs,” Valand said.

Valand said there’s been a lot of speculation that some people aren’t returning to the workforce due to the $300 COVID-19 supplemental unemployment insurance payments, which are slated to be paid until they expire in September.

“People might not have child care again or perhaps they are immunocompromised where they don’t feel comfortable getting back into customer service or public facing occupation,” Valand said.

Valand noted another reason why workers may be difficult to find in the Glenwood Springs area is due to expensive housing.

“It’s just gotten completely out of hand over the last year. In order for a worker to accept a job they need to be within a reasonable commuting distance,” Valand said.

“I’ve had conversations at hospitals who are struggling to recruit OB-GYNs because people at that level can’t find appropriate housing,” Valand said. “The inventory is so thin, and the price per square foot is just so high.”

Valand said the difficult to fill open positions is not unique to just Colorado.

“With the pandemic it’s uncharted territory so there are a lot of unknowns at the moment,” Valand said.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is about 30 to 40 people away from being fully staffed for the summer, general manager Nancy Heard said.

“We’ve had some people apply but they don’t follow through,” she said. “The majority didn’t follow through either with call backs or didn’t come to the interviews. We were spending a lot of time just to get people to show up for the interview. If they did show up for the interview, they didn’t show up for the first day of work.”

Heard said the adventure park typically sees a decrease in staffing towards the end of summer when students begin to return to school.

“When we get to mid-August we come to expect it, and push through to Labor Day,” Heard said. “However, the fact that this labor crunch is starting before the season even starts is concerning.”

Heard said being short staffed is taking a toll on the park’s management staff.

“Every department has openings right now,” Herald said, noting that the average pay for the open positions ranges from $14.50 to $16 per hour.

One incentive the park has started is offering tuition reimbursement for employees.

“Anyone that’s enrolled 12 credits hours, the more you work the more tuition we pay for,” Heard said.

Heard said hiring staff wonders if the unemployment incentive provided by the state and federal government is hindering their ability to fill open positions.

“We get the feeling that that’s the biggest reason for this crisis,” Heard said. So we’ve got people making $20 per hour— that is more than we can pay them to work for us. It’s a national crisis. It’s not just us, but it’s hospitality, too.”

One business successfully finding workers is Glenwood Adventures.

Glenwood Adventures owner Ken Murphy said across the board, his business is in a relatively unique position.

“First of all, last summer was a tough summer with staffing because of COVID, no one knew how busy we’d be. We were very busy and very understaffed,” Murphy said.

“In the Fall of 2020, I went in with a ‘that’s not going to happen again’ mentality. We were very aggressive and started earlier with looking for applicants because we have so many staff.”

Murphy’s year round staff consists of six people, then substantially increases to over 150 workers in the summer.

All those spots are filled.

“We’ve been very lucky. Everybody is showing up for work and has been excited about staying here,” Murphy said.

From high schoolers to retirees, Murphy said he’s had an array of applicants come on board to work in various departments, ranging from rafting guides to manning the call center.

“We have a lot of new staff that are looking for something different in life,” Murphy said.

“I’ve had some nurses that had a tough year and decided they were going to have a fun summer. I’ve had school teachers. To live in this valley, people need to have work and we’ve been very lucky to get the people we have.”

Murphy said he feels very blessed right now to be fully staffed, unlike many businesses in the valley.

“We’ve got people in from all over the country. There’s a lot of people that moved here in the valley to escape suburbia outdoors,” Murphy said.

“I think there was a lot of carry over and we’ve benefited from those folks who came in the winter and are staying for the summer.”

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or smarvel@postindependent.com.

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