The Steamboat Smokehouse restaurant, shown here along Lincoln Avenue on Thursday afternoon, is one of many businesses in Steamboat Springs searching for additional employees.

Photo by Brian Ray

The Steamboat Smokehouse restaurant, shown here along Lincoln Avenue on Thursday afternoon, is one of many businesses in Steamboat Springs searching for additional employees.

Businesses feel labor crunch

Visa issues, housing costs affect local employment market

Advertisement

— In the job merry-go-round that is Steamboat Springs, employers sometimes have a tough time finding and hanging on to qualified workers. The labor market is tight, some say, which partly accounts for the "help wanted" signs plastered around town.

Steamboat Smokehouse Restaurant on Lincoln Avenue always is looking for people, owner Fritz Aurin said.

"We have been shorthanded most of the season," he said. "We have been lucky that a lot of good people have just come in at the right time."

Aurin has run the restaurant for 17 years. He said it gets more difficult to find workers each year. It's also tough to go outside Steamboat to recruit, Aurin said, because employees then have to find housing.

New hires often join up with employees who are looking for roommates, he said. Aurin has even put employees up in his own home.

"It seems like they always find something, but the economic pressures on the rent payments are just huge," he said.

Employees who came from out of the country on work visas saved Smokehouse this ski season, Aurin said. Many of his workers have three-month J-1 visas.

Visa challenges

Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, said visa issues are creating labor shortages toward the end of the ski season. She said businesses in the tourism industry typically rely on two types of foreign workers: those who have three-month J-1 visas and those who have six-month H-2B seasonal visas.

The government caps the amount of H-2B visas at 66,000 nationally each fiscal year, which Evans Hall said left some local seasonal businesses in the lurch. The government previously had allowed workers who previously worked here on H-2B visas to return for an additional two years without counting them toward that 66,000 cap, Evans Hall said, but that arrangement expired.

That meant employers relied more on J-1 workers, she said.

Employees with J-1 visas typically "can't start until a little bit later in December, which is usually not a huge issue," she said. "But the other side of it is they have to leave the first of March, which is a huge issue."

Evans Hall said she did hear about a labor crunch.

"It felt like we were a lot shorter on staff, and I think everyone I talked to (said) it was because of the J-1 visa workers," she said. "That's what caught us in a bind this year: We had a huge part of our work force that had to leave early."

Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. saw a few employment dips but was not consistently short on workers, spokeswoman Heidi Thomsen said. A couple of weeks ago, office workers had to help out on the mountain, she said. But Thomsen said that was mostly because the day was particularly crowded - not because Ski Corp. was short-staffed.

"That's not out of the ordinary," Thomsen said. "That's something we do at peak times, typically around the Christmas holiday."

Evans Hall said the chamber tried to pitch in and boost morale in the tourism industry a couple of weeks ago. Staff members baked more than 500 cookies and carted them around town to workers on the mountain and in businesses.

"It was the end of the season here, we wanted them to be friendly, and it's hard to do that when you're understaffed and overworked," she said. "We wanted to show appreciation to some of the workers."

Seasonal transition

Ski season is entering its last week, and other businesses are starting to look for spring and summer workers, Duckels Construction owner Fred Duckels said.

He said his company has about 40 workers now and typically has at least double that in summer.

Duckels has just started looking for his summer staff.

"We're always shorthanded," he said. "We have to work with the competent people we have. You could do a lot more work, but you can't find the people. As soon as you try to get marginal people and do more work, that's a recipe for losing money."

He said they have to sort through a lot of applications to find people who fit. Duckels said he prefers people who live in Steamboat because his company has had little luck with those who don't. The housing issue crops up again with out-of-towners, Duckels said.

"I'm sure that's a problem," he said. "That's why it's difficult for people to come in from outside. If they don't have a place to live and everything, it's hard to get started."

Connell Resources almost is set on staff for the summer, senior estimator Trace Musgrave said. The construction company has three spots to fill, which he said Connell hopes to have covered by the time the season gets going the first of May.

But those employees don't necessarily live in town.

"At least 50 percent of the people we employ here live in either Hayden or Craig," said Musgrave, a Hayden resident who serves on the community's Town Board.

Comments

colowoodsman 6 years, 8 months ago

It's the same old song and dance. Buisnesses want workers, workers need housing. Buisnesses can't afford to pay workers enough to compete with tourists for housing. This is the result of all the 'brutal marketing' that used hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of tax dollars to promote tourism. So what is wrong with using tax dollars to support affordable housing???

0

casius109 6 years, 8 months ago

I have to agree that people will not hire anyone unless they live in Steamboat. We are currently looking to move back to Steamboat and no one will even look at our resumes because we don't have housing in Steamboat yet. Rental are tough to find if you don't have a job, vicious cycle, keeping good workers our of Steamboat. Looks like we will have to crash on family couches until we get jobs.

0

bigdog 6 years, 8 months ago

The free market will resolve the problem (has worked in the past) in time. If an employer is really desperate for an employee, they will offer more $$$$ to attract an employee. Then the new employee has more $$$ to spend on housing.

Everyone seems to want the imperial government to step in and make the decisions for them. In the long run it will hurt those it is trying to help.

0

housepoor 6 years, 8 months ago

remember when you a had to go to a job fair for ski corp then call the next day or so to see if you were hired. At that time they had 125 jobs and 300 applicants.

0

addlip2U 6 years, 8 months ago

How is it that the employers find housing for J-1 or H-2B's??, but not for the "citizens"?

Here is how it should or does work once the "visa's'" people leave. The employer provides housing in the (now empty) condos, houses AND .... god forbid...... even in the vacations home rentals?

The employer simply increase the cost of the project by the cost of the housing they provide for his/her employees.

0

colobob 6 years, 8 months ago

Money for everything except affordable housing and now there are those that complain about not being able to get quailified help. Maybe it's time to get our priorities in order. Either that or pay help more and live with a smaller profit margin. No easy answers but at some point in time people are going to have to address the housing problem in earnest. It's only going to get worse and at a much faster rate than it has previously unless someone comes up with a viable solution. Of course business owners could always revert to the old ways and do the work (some still do and always have) themselves. Sometimes life is a bowl of cherries, other times it can be a bowl of pits. Looks as though the pits are beginning to pile up.

0

Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 8 months ago

addlip- Local employees can get employee housing also. Not sure where you're getting your info from. They need to be able to show they are working somewhere and sign a lease. In the J1 and H2B's case, their leases are tied into the workplace that brought them over. Should they leave that workplace, they could lose their housing. In a lot of cases, as long as they can still pay the rent, they are allowed to stay.

0

colowoodsman 6 years, 8 months ago

What free market? Government subsidy of one industry (tourism) is what created this mess. Tourism has enough housing for TWICE the population of Steamboat. Another local industry, minning, is taxed for it's impact on the infastructure and that money is ditributed through Energy Impact Grants. Why shouldn't tourism be made to carry their fair share of the burden especially after they have received so much FREE help from taxes??? The Federal government is already deeply involved in housing with HUD, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac etc. Get a clue (you can't run with the bigdogs if you pee like a puppy)

0

bigdog 6 years, 8 months ago

So your solution is to run to the government to make it "fair"? This nation is becoming a bunch of bed wetting ninnies.

Also, your argument about the government subsidy to promote tourism doesn't hold water. It in the end is spending the little money it does to feed itself (sales taxes).

0

addlip2U 6 years, 8 months ago

kielbasa so if I read your comment correctly": " Local employees can get employee housing also. They need to be able to show they are working somewhere and sign a lease."

Than there is no housing shortage. This eliminates an issue the need for affordable housing, period.

By the way, today on the national news they showed a survey: average commute to work is around 35 minute one way.

0

Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 8 months ago

I never said the price of these units, did I? And how many times does Steamboat fall into the norm for national surveys? Not much, by my recollection. And in a town that is maybe less than 10miles long...a 35min commute is ridiculous. That would mean the average worker HAS to live in Oak Creek or Craig just to work here.

So then it comes back to, "If this is average, why on Earth do we HAVE to bring in J1 & H2B workers just to fill jobs?" If this is average, we should even have a higher unemployment rate because people are competing to work here. Guess not, eh? In fact, a lot of these workers (imported or local) still work 2-3 jobs in order to afford their employee housing...and we still can't fill all jobs.

0

Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 8 months ago

Bigdog- If you own a business and decide to pay your employees more, where does that money come from in order to do that? Will you take a cut in profits or increase prices of your product to cover it?

And if all businesses did that, including landlords to cover their higher expenses in upkeep because you gave your employees a raise and passed that onto customers like the landlords...

Cause and Effect goes 'round:

"For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the knight was lost, for want of a knight the battle was lost. So it was a kingdom was lost - all for want of a nail."

0

bloggyblog 6 years, 8 months ago

yea kiel!! thanks for busting out with the todd rundgren lyrics. one of blog's favorite songs! good way to start a monday. the song is actually about the folly of living your life without love.

0

Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 8 months ago

From Wiki, it actually dates back as a 14th Century Proverb, and had variations that Ben Franklin wrote in Poor Richard's Almanac.

The version I used was from DC Comics Elseworlds comic mini-series, "JLA: The Nail," about what would have happened if Jonathan & Martha Kent had gotten a flat from a nail during their historic drive that allowed them to witness a baby Kal-El's rocket ship crash, having them to find the baby Superman. A very telling...ummm...tale, so to speak.

It's all about not looking forward into the big picture. I was never a big Rundgren fan, so didn't know it was a song's lyric.

0

justathought 6 years, 8 months ago

colowood, you said "Government subsidy of one industry (tourism) is what created this mess" and you think more government subsidies will cure it? Haven't you noticed that the more government interferes the more government interference is needed? If government would quit trying to redistribute wealth the markets would take care of themselves. (If you can't run with the bigdogs, stay on the porch).

0

corduroy 6 years, 8 months ago

I used to live in Steamboat.. then rent got too high and I bought in Stagecoach. Sure its a half hour drive AND MY VOTE NO LONGER COUNTS IN STEAMBOAT BECAUSE I LIVE IN OAK CREEK TECHNICALLY but its a place to live and I'm not beyond my means..

think about how many Steamboatians who work in town but don't get a say in our government because we live in Oak Ditch or Hayden.. its messed up, and I was pissed last election that I did not get to vote.

Not to bash Oak Creek, but I spend about 80% of my time in Steamboat. I never go to Oak Creek.. yet apparently I need to care about THAT election?

Sorry Steamboat, I miss you, but this is how its got to be, you are losing your local workforce..

0

sbsblabber 6 years, 8 months ago

you get what you pay for...unfotunately for sbs, that means that you have to pay a consultant to tell you that you need to pay your employees more or come up with an acceptable solution to the housing situation. not a lot of people can even afford to work here anymore, and that's what we as a community get for voting in people with no respect for the people that make their lives comfortable, not to mention functional. i'm personally thinking that i could do a decent job as an upper management monkey in intrawest, and i'm pretty sure that salary would allow me to quit my other two jobs...

0

arnonep 6 years, 8 months ago

Do you all know that the Yampa Valley Housing Authority has taken over Fish Creek Trailer Park? With this new "government" they have made it owner occupy. So we are now seeing trailers sell for $80,000 in anticipation of the "possibility" of being able to buy the lot some 2 years down the road. They also forgot to include any option for us employers to buy one for employee housing. Then try to get an answer as to what those lots are going to cost. I'm sure the owner will sell them for less than market value out of the goodness of his heart (NOT). In my opinion the only thing any Affordable Housing entity has done that works is a profit limit deed restriction. All of the rest of it is just keeping wages down. And yes I have just hired a new guy and at $5/hr more than the guy I hired 3 years ago (starting pay).

0

424now 6 years, 8 months ago

I am going to pay this insane rent for one more year. At that point I will have to face a decision that several of us square off with.

Should I stay or should I go now!

I will have a down payment significant enough to purchase either a trashy 2 BR 1 BA in the boat.

or

A 3 BR 2 BA 2 Car Garage in Oak Creek or Hayden. Maybe even face that hour drive and find a 35 acre Ranch going for $400,000 out on the forty.

I truley love Steamboat Springs. What I will do next year is dependant on the market, here in the Boat. If the 700 not only gets greenlit but has significant quality housing priced in an affordable range. Then I get to remain a steamboat resident. If not then "So be it" I get to commute.

0

another_local 6 years, 8 months ago

Government subsidy for tourism? What subsidy?

It is the other way around... it is tourism that is subsidizing a bloated local government.

0

colowoodsman 6 years, 8 months ago

Tourism in Steamboat received hundreds of thousands of dollars from city tax revenues through the Chamber Resort Asc. to 'market' Steamboat hence the expression 'Stop the brutal marketing' grew from the expression ' Stop the brutal grooming'. This continued for a number of years. Whether or not it is still going on I am not sure. The Colorado Tourism Board that I belive voters disbanded in 1986 once had a budget of nearly 20 million dollars. There is now another tourism group operating 'under the radar'. I do not belive government can fix any of the 'messes' it creates. The question is 'Why do we allow them to build amenitys for tourists and ignore the very workers that make that industry possible?' Bd - it is the tourism people who are constantly whinning and crying for more goverment help, not the workers. The irony is that tourism has abundant worker built housing but it is all reserved for tourists.

0

wyowind 6 years, 8 months ago

It seems that everyone of you like to bitch and complain how bad it is but none of you are doing anything about it. Evcept bitching and complaining. It seems to me that if it is that bad in sb or Oakcreek then move the hell back where you came from. jeeeeez louiseee.... welcome to the real world!

0

chillppl 6 years, 8 months ago

Just a thought...at least the property values in Routt County in general are sitting pretty. This is about the only area in the entire country where the real estate market is still improving, while in Denver, it is bottoming out. So for those fortunate enough to own up here, thank goodness! For those who are seasonal or still renting, I'm sorry. Just know that when/if you move to a non-tourist based locale, you will be able to live much cheaper.

0

housepoor 6 years, 8 months ago

The market may not be in decline yet but it has lost some steam. Don't be fooled that we will not be affected by the credit crisis. I have heard of well funded parties finding it difficult to finiance projects that would have been a rubber stamped 12 months ago.

0

justathought 6 years, 8 months ago

corduroy, you apparently do not need to care about THAT election either because you have to live within the town limits to vote in a local election. Seems all you need to worry about is county, state, and prez elections. Oh, maybe a HOA election.

housepoor, THE main problem in the housing market is the "rubber stamping" that was going on.

0

corduroy 6 years, 8 months ago

justathought: Unfortunately, since I work in Steamboat, and do business there, I DO care about the elections here. Whether you like it or not, the City Council here affects my life in a large way. I can't even vote in Steamboat for a County election, they MADE me go to Oak Creek.

The Steamboat Government affects all who work in Steamboat, not just those who LIVE in the city limits

0

armchairqb 6 years, 8 months ago

Wyowind: Be careful what you wish for. If everyone leaves "where will Steamboat be then?" Yes, you will get someone to do the job, but will it be a quality worker? Will they have a good attendence record? Will they stay for more than a season? I see this happening more & more right here in Steamboat. Bad service, people who just don't care etc.....showing up for work drunk,stoned or hung over. Is this what we want to portray our STEAMBOAT cause that's what REALLY happening here!!!!

0

justathought 6 years, 8 months ago

corduroy, The Steamboat Government also affects the millionaire 2nd home owners and billionaire 3rd home owners, out of state condo owners, and out of town business owners, if they are ineligible to vote where their investments are, why should someone that just "works and does business" in stmbt have a say? As for whether "I like it or not", I couldn't care less where you live, work, shop, or vote, you ended a line with a question mark and I responded. As for your statements "they MADE me go to Oak Creek" and "I never go to Oak Creek..", I am sure OC thanks you.

0

housepoor 6 years, 8 months ago

justa, I am aware that the 'rubber stamping' of suspect loans is the main contributing factor in the nationwide housing crisis. The point I was trying to get across was that even the well qualified buyer is have issues with getting loans now.

0

another_local 6 years, 8 months ago

Woodsman,

The money that goes to the Chamber for marketing is the vendor fee. That money was and is given by BUSINESSES, not by the government. Hardly a subsidy.

0

contrarian 6 years, 8 months ago

another_local: Please stop confusing us with facts. It's much easier for us to just spread rumors, stupidity and lies.

0

colowoodsman 6 years, 8 months ago

Anyone that does not realize that city government supports tourism is in denial (not a river in Egypt). You probably also belive there are no illegal aliens in Steamboat either.

0

dave reynolds 6 years, 8 months ago

Hey Blabber..what does the mountian have to do withany of this.....i agree with you about the working class.so go apply at ski corp with your degree from Harvard and show them how it should be done..please..knothead

0

QuitYerWhining 6 years, 8 months ago

I agree with GUS... the only "real world" is on prime time TV.

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.