Despite cost, valley can be attractive for job-seekers |

Despite cost, valley can be attractive for job-seekers

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado
Kira Horvath/Vail DailyMedical physicist John Sweet calibrates a radiation machine called a linear accelerator at the Shaw Cancer Center in Edwards on Thursday.

EAGLE COUNTY ” It can be hard to hire people in the Vail Valley. But John Sweet jumped at the chance to move here.

Sweet is one of just a few thousand “medical physicists” in the country. Most people with his training and skills are working in hospitals in good-sized cities. Sweet was working in Cincinnati in 2004.

But years of ski vacations in Vail, plus a job opening at the Shaw Regional Cancer Center, brought Sweet to the valley.

For Sweet and others, the biggest problem to solve before moving was how to handle the cost of local housing.

“It’s about four times what it was in Cincinnati,” Sweet said. “I knew we weren’t going to get another four-bedroom house with a big garage. But I’m here, and it’s great.”

Lachie Thomas grew up in Australia. He came to Vail as a young ski racer, and met his wife here.

Like most young ski racers, Thomas found a different adult profession, and is now a Web developer. He and his wife landed in Milwaukee a few years ago, started a family and bought a home.

“We thought we’d be there for quite a few years,” Thomas said.

But the thought of returning to the Vail Valley was always in Thomas’ mind. On a recent vacation, he looked around Eagle for the first time.

“We fell in love with the place,” he said. About that time, Eagle County advertised a job for a Web developer. Thomas applied, and soon the family was moving.

“It’s extraordinarily more expensive than Wisconsin,” Thomas said. “But we love it here.”

Housing costs didn’t stop Sweet or Thomas. But high prices still keep good job candidates away.

“In the past few weeks, two finance director candidates had scheduled interviews,” Eagle County Human Resources Director Nora Fryklund said. “Then they went on line and both said ‘We can’t make this move.'”

Fryklund said every job applicant who would have to move to the county is told up front about housing costs.

“It continues to haunt us,” Fryklund said. “But it seems we always get one person who wants to live here.

“Most people don’t come just for the job,” she added. “People come for the quality of life.”

Eagle County has a number of people on the payroll like Thomas, Fryklund said, including department heads and other employees.

While job candidates willing to accept a smaller home to move to the valley crop up, Fryklund is worried that the county has some stiff competition to the west.

“What we’re really worried about these days is Haliburton,” she said. That company is heavily involved in oil and gas exploration in Garfield County, needs people, and is willing to pay whatever it takes to get them.

“We pay well and have good benefits, but we can’t match them,” Fryklund said.

“We’ve already lost a couple of people.”

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