Grocery attracting foreign workers

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— The Steamboat Springs City Market grocery store could participate this winter in a company plan enabling foreign nationals to work here.
City Market employee relations manager Milt Christensen, who works in Grand Junction, said the grocery chain is pursuing H2B visas that would allow the company to employ people from other countries for a period of six months this winter. Christensen said he couldn't speak specifically to the Steamboat store's situation, but the company's hope is to attract enough foreign workers to employ four to five in each of the mountain towns.
"We aren't sending people to other countries to recruit employees," Christensen said. "Once a company has been approved (for the visas), postings go up in various counties' embassies. If they're interested in a job, then we'd bring those people over."
Christensen said the new employees would be responsible for their own housing and transportation. Christensen said it would be desirable, but the ability to speak English would not be a requirement.
"We're always looking for courtesy clerks, deli workers and stock clerks," Christensen said.
Steamboat City Market Manager Eric Widner said he would welcome more foreign nationals to come to work in his store. He employs a man and a woman from Bulgaria as utility clerks. They are in the United States on standard work visas, Widner said.
"It's been a very positive experience," Widner said. He added that the rest of the staff has responded very positively to the Bulgarians.
The Steamboat City Market employs 130 people.
"It would be nice to have 145" employees during peak tourism seasons, Widner said.
Over the summer, he was short about 20 employees.
The H2B visas being sought by City Market require the grocery chain to demonstrate convincingly the jobs they seek to fill with foreign nationals can't be filled any other way. Each visa is tied to a specific job description. And when people accept the visas to come here to work, they cannot legally take a second job in this country.
At Safeway, Manager Bill Solinger said he's looking for new employees almost anyplace he can find them, but he isn't aware of any concerted effort by his company to find employees in other countries. Solinger said his store employs between 45 and 50 people this time of year, and the number grows to 75 or 80 in winter. But the number of employees in peak seasons never matches his needs, Solinger said. And July and August of this summer were even busier than last ski season.
Mike Kennedy at Clark's Market said the Steamboat store employs 52 people and will add 12 to 15 employees for the ski season. He isn't actively seeking employees from outside the country.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210 or e-mail: tomross@amigo.net

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