Lots of work, not enough workers | PostIndependent.com

Lots of work, not enough workers

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

Let’s face it. It’s darned expensive to live in the Roaring Fork Valley. With ever-increasing property values and limited housing opportunities throughout the valley, employers are struggling to find help.”Employers have to aggressively recruit people. And when you get them you need to take care of them and do right by them,” said Office Depot Store Manager Peter Vernie.Up and down Grand Avenue, “Help Wanted” signs clutter store windows. Some of the larger employers like Target and Lowe’s, whose doors have been open for more than a year now at the Glenwood Meadows Shopping Center, have had trouble acquiring employees.One reason in particular, said Lowe’s Human Resources Manager Donna Hale, is the competition during the summer season with the construction contractors and the oil and gas industry and during the winter with the ski resorts. Hale has already had about five employees leave for seasonal positions.”We can’t pay wages competitive with those industries,” Hale said.

Lowe’s, one of the largest employers in town, is currently operating short 40 employees, Hale said. But by next February, when homeowners start doing home improvement projects and yard work, it will need about 60 more employees in order to be considered at full staff.Without the extra help they will find themselves in quite a pickle.”Right now we are sort of holding our own,” she said. “But we could always use 10 to 20 more people.”Even managers like Hale have been working on the floor helping out with customer service and other areas just to keep things running.Target has just recently found its way out of staffing struggles and is finally at a comfortable level, according to one employee. However, over the past year there have been a couple of instances where it’s had to import personnel from locations as far as Denver and Utah, to fill the void. The anonymous source also stated that the situation has improved over the past two months and that Target is currently running close to a full staff.A large percentage of the employees at Lowe’s are second-income workers, the majority of whom are women. A starting position at the home improvement store pays at least $10 an hour, and the store will schedule around the individual’s needs. But it has still not received as much interest as other stores around the state.

Lowe’s outlets in the Denver area will have thousands of people apply for positions, whereas Hale is hiring one or two at a time, she said.During inventory the stores brought in employees from other locations in order to get the job done.”It just isn’t possible to pull 15 to 20 people off the floor,” Hale said.New employers like Office Depot, scheduled for Grand Opening on Nov. 19, will more than likely be short staffed as well.Office Depot managers have been working with Colorado Work Force, a division of the state labor department, and have advertised for weeks recruiting workers, though they’ve had little luck.”Unfortunately, we haven’t had a large turnout,” Vernie said.

Contributing to the shortage, Vernie said, is the lack of affordable housing in the valley. “It’s just not here anymore,” he said.Vernie anticipates the shortage at his store will get better and is focusing on hiring people that need second incomes. But he expects this will always be a problem.”It’s an ongoing battle that every single business in town struggles with,” Vernie said. “Finding labor in the valley that is dedicated and will stay with you is difficult.”Contact John Gardner: 945-8515, ext. 16604jgardner@postindependent.com

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