Employers: Worker worries start and end with housing problems | PostIndependent.com

Employers: Worker worries start and end with housing problems

Pete FowlerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kelley Cox

CARBONDALE – With available jobs expected to increase and no end in sight for the lack of affordable housing for workers, the Roaring Fork Valley and surrounding areas could be heading for a “perfect storm.”That was the message that surfaced at the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce’s Business Conference Tuesday morning.There’s booming resort-town related construction going on in Vail and Aspen, and lots of oil and gas activity to the west. But despite increased business opportunity there is a lack of employees due to a lack of affordable housing, according to Mark Gould, president and CEO of Gould Construction.”We’ve picked up probably 25 employees from out of state,” he said. “They can’t find a hotel or motel because oil and gas has them booked from here to Grand Junction.”

He said in August last year his company began following House Bill 1343 when it was created. It requires all his employees to be authorized through the Department of Homeland Security because Gould Construction does work for governmental agencies, he added. The homeland security check was added to existing employee eligibility verification procedures.Gould said the government recently sent out a letter with all the Social Security numbers of employees that don’t match names.”We are in the middle of a perfect storm,” Gould said. “Now it will get worse because as we have to manage this mishmash letter, we will have to fire people within 90 days that the government says are not documented.”We all need in this room to start being proactive with our leaders and politicians to start solving problems, which all boil down to rooftops,” he added.

Gould was part of a workforce discussion panel at the conference.Louis Meyer of Schmueser Gordon Meyer (SGM), also on the panel, said, “I don’t think you’re going to solve the housing problem in the short term.”He shared some recruiting and human resources strategies including identifying the demographic a company is most successful at recruiting. He said SGM often hires college graduates and trains them. The active corporate culture of SGM – including hockey leagues and skiing on Friday afternoons – helps recruit and keep young people, he said.He said his company’s efforts include sharing profits with all employees quarterly, recruiting from colleges, participating in internships and scholarship programs, working to find jobs for spouses of employees, and working to remain involved in the local community.

Nikki Jost, human resources director for the Roaring Fork School District Re-1, said jobs in the area are expected to increase in the area by about 31 percent by 2015, which will likely make things tougher. She said it’s important to get staff to believe in the school district, and that the district is working to create its own employee housing. Employers should figure out why people are leaving so they can make efforts to retain them, she added.The workforce panel discussion was only one part of the conference, which included transportation and housing panels and other speakers.Gould said unless housing stock increases, employers will be fighting each other for the same group of employees. He seemed to find it ironic that Gould Construction starts dump truck drivers at $50,000 a year while teachers start around $34,000 a year.”I have people from all walks of life driving a dump truck because in reality that’s what puts food on the table in this valley,” he said.

Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. 16611; pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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