Hiring becoming difficult for some
by the numbers
3: Pages of help wanted classified ads in the July 10 Vail Daily.
1: Page of rental classified ads in the same edition.
410: Help-wanted ads during a search for “Vail” on Craigslist.
113: Number of new Lion’s Ridge apartments.
EAGLE COUNTY — Back in the boom days of 2007, employers in virtually every sector of the economy faced nearly-constant struggles to hire enough employees. Back then, many of those employers said housing was one of the biggest problems faced by workers. Now, these days in 2015 are starting to look a lot like those days.
Matt Ivy is the general manager of the Vail Racquet Club. That lodge has several openings right now, and Ivy said he’s having a hard time finding people to fill those jobs.
“It’s across all departments,” Ivy said of the Racquet Club’s staffing. “It’s been tough to find qualified people … we’re not seeing multiple applicants the way we used to.”
The biggest problem is housing, Ivy said, adding that he recently lost a good employee who couldn’t find an affordable place to live for his family.
“It’s a big concern for businesses,” Ivy said, adding that the Racquet Club may have to evict some good renters to make room for employees.
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A recent workforce survey conducted by Vail Valley Economic Development, a part of the Vail Valley Partnership, shows growing concern about the ability to hire people. Overall, 36 percent of responding employers reported taking at least two months to fill vacant positions. Among employees, an almost-equal percentage, 35 percent, indicated that “finding housing they desire at an affordable price” was a major frustration.
On the other hand, more than half of employers surveyed said it took between two and four weeks to fill vacant positions.
Lance Thompson is the managing director of resort operations for Timbers Resorts, which operates The Sebastian hotel in Vail and the Timbers Bachelor Gulch, a residence club.
Thompson said the company’s properties in the Vail Valley have so far been “fortunate” in hiring people to fill open positions. Many of those people are promoted from within the company, Thompson said, and the broader company also encourages people to move up among different properties. The company also works with hotel management programs at colleges and universities to bring in seasonal employees.
But, Thompson said, hiring entry-level employees has been tough, especially on the housekeeping staff.
“We’re hearing from them that housing is an issue,” Thompson said. The Sebastian has a few units of employee housing on site, but more is needed.
“We’d love to see an influx of housing at all levels,” Thompson said.
Help is on the Way
Some help is on the way.
The Lion’s Ridge apartments in Vail are now under construction on the eastern half of the Timber Ridge property. The project took more than 100 apartments — mostly geared toward seasonal employees — out of the town’s inventory last winter. Lion’s Ridge will add 113 units — a combination of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments — with the first of those units being ready for move-in late this year. Those units are being marketed to people who live in Vail all year.
Also in the pipeline for year ‘round residents is a town of Vail-sponsored project to build for-sale housing at the Chamonix parcel in West Vail. Those units will be aimed primarily at younger professionals.
“The town’s headed in the right direction,” Ivy said. “But we need to be doing more.”
Remember, though, that more than 60 percent of employers responding to the workforce survey reported being able to fill jobs within a month.
Jim Pavelich owns the Northside Coffee & Kitchen restaurants in Avon and Vail. Pavelich is also a founder of the Vail Daily and founded another valley newspaper in the previous decade, so he’s been hiring people in the Vail Valley for significant parts of the past 35 years.
While pouring coffee for guests at the Avon restaurant, Pavelich said hiring is going well at the moment.
“It’s kind of like it’s always been,” Pavelich said. “When we go to hire, we always get applications, and if we screen them properly, we get good results. The market is a little tighter right now, but we still get good people.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.