Vail Valley hiring a mixed bag for local businesses
Some are doing well; others are scrambling for help
Hiring, like housing, is a long-running challenge in the Vail Valley. For some businesses, that challenge is even greater today than in the past.
At Leadfoot Linda’s auto repair in EagleVail, shop manager Jeff Roberts said there were only two mechanics on duty as of May 11. A third mechanic returned to work May 12 after recovering from a second COVID-19 vaccination.
Roberts said Leadfoot Linda’s could use another two mechanics at the busy shop, which currently is scheduling work about two weeks into the future.
“We can’t find qualified applicants,” Roberts said. “We can’t really find applicants at all.”
Meanwhile, R&H Mechanical in Eagle is close to historically busy. General Manger Tim Braun said the company works with a priority list, and can get to those with immediate needs fairly quickly.
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“When there’s a leak or a flood (in a home) we’ll adjust our schedules,” Braun said.
Still, Braun added, R&H could use another 10 people these days.
“It’s a good problem to have,” he said.
Dave & Matt Vans makes custom recreational vehicles from new Ram ProMaster vans. Like most companies involved in virtually any segment of recreation, Dave & Matt Vans has become very busy in the last year.
Co-founder Matt Felser said the company just a year ago had a staff of about six. There are 25 people working now at the Gypsum-based company, and Felser said he hopes to hire another five people in the next month or so.
“We had great success (hiring) last summer and fall,” Felser said, noting that the company hired a number of people who had been furloughed from other positions.
“It seems we have half the Marriott working for us,” Felser said.
Others came to Gypsum from out of state. Three of those new employees came in their own vans, so they had places to stay while looking for housing.
While applications have dipped recently, Felser said a bigger problem is getting vans. A computer chip shortage has slowed delivery of many kinds of vehicles, including vans.
Still, Felser said things are going well at his company.
“Because we were so fortunate last year, we’ve built a culture and a community,” Felser said. “Now others are intrigued to come work for us.”
At the Westin Riverfront in Avon, human resources director Tina Petersen said the hotel has recovered from those furloughs last year and is currently well-staffed for the summer.
But, she added, “We’re always hiring talented, passionate people to take care of our guests.”
Petersen has worked in the valley for more than a decade. She’s familiar with the hiring challenges many businesses face.
“Hiring in the valley can always be problematic,” Petersen said, adding that this year doesn’t seem to be any more trouble than years past.
Petersen added that the Marriott is currently starting internship programs that will bring high school and college students to the hotel. Those interns will be doing much more than “get the coffee” work, Petersen said, adding that all those interns will work in various parts of the hotel’s operations, and will eventually wind up in career-track positions.
The lure of the mountains
The prospect of career-track jobs is also attracting people to RA Nelson, one of the valley’s biggest construction companies. That company, like others in the the industry, is just about historically busy right now.
RA Nelson President Travis Bossow said that company has been able to bring in people from outside the area who have decided they want to live in Colorado.
“We’re not doing anything magical,” Bossow said. “People are tired of the grind of the big city and want to be in Colorado.”
Moving to the mountains comes with costs, Bossow acknowledged. The pay generally isn’t as good as in big cities, and the cost of living here is generally higher.
“But a lot of people have stepped back and said ’Where do I want to be?’” Bossow said.
RA Nelson can provide work with a professional company that offers benefits. That helps attract the right people to the job, Bossow said.
In fact, RA Nelson is well-staffed enough right now that the company has been able to expand its capacity and is looking for projects in November and December.
Jim Pavelich is well familiar with the ebbs and flows of hiring in the valley. Pavelich, a founder of the Vail Daily, currently owns Northside Coffee & Kitchen and Southside Benderz in Avon, as well as Northside Grab & Go in Vail. Pavelich this summer will open a new restaurant in the former Blue Plate Bistro space in Avon.
“So far everything’s been fine,” Pavelich said of his company’s staffing needs. Pavelich acknowledged that those restaurants will be hiring soon for what most expect to be a busy summer season.
“We’ll find out then” about the state of the labor force, Pavelich said. “We have our fingers crossed.”