Summit County Employee Dilemma

Why is it so difficult to find local employees this year? I can see the restaurants and retail understaffed…businesses shutting their doors a couple of times/week and ‘Now Hiring’ signs everywhere.

Is it because we have lost a lot of locals who moved out of the County during covid? Or is it because the government extended the stimulus package? Is it because second home owners want to spend more time up here which increases our visitor volume and decreases long term rentals? Or is it just too expensive to live here?

Rent costs are rising, grocery prices are on the increase (some meat and eggs at 16% according to the USDA) and anything that requires shipping is getting more expensive. Employee compensation is slow to follow. Our business owners are not able to increase wages to exceed a stimulus package intended to replace salaries. We started out the Summer season just lucky enough to have any staff and are ending the season with exhausted and burned out employees who have never before seen these tourist numbers.

I would suggest that our local employee dilemma is a combination of the perfect storm above, not just for our County, but around the Nation.

How are we going to solve this issue? We need people to work, people need
affordable places to live and feel safe.

Supply and demand are going to guarantee that this issue continues to
expand…few homes to rent, more tourists mean more need for workers, higher cost of living means that small business owners have to increase their wage expense.

Although not a popular opinion, I think that it is a romantic dream to think that we can house all of the locals where they work. It hasn’t worked in Aspen or Vail or any other resort area. Frankly, it isn’t just a dream because it is financially impossible. Why do locals want to live where the tourists are playing? How many locals are complaining about how busy it is here now? If they came to work and left for a peaceful home, they might be more excited about the significant increase in our paying visitors.

You can see the growing pains everywhere…I’ve heard several second home
owners complain at the treatment they receive from exhausted locals. I hear the locals chat constantly and daily about the good old days that we are too busy.

We are going to have to expand housing to other entities…Kremmling, Leadville and Fairplay are candidates. Just like the Carbondale of Aspen or the Avon of Vail…surrounding less expensive towns can house our locals with bigger more affordable homes and a quick commute.

It’s the inevitable solution…could we just fast forward to it?