Winter staffing going well, businesses say
By the numbers
9: Bedrooms in Minturn for Steammaster employees
12-ish: Rental units for the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.
28: For-rent ads between Edwards and Vail in the Oct. 6 Vail Daily.
200-ish: Seasonal employees at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.
EAGLE COUNTY — If you apply for a seasonal job at Venture Sports — or just about anywhere else in the valley — then one question is going to come up at the beginning of the interview: Do you have a place to live?
“If you don’t have housing, I won’t promise you a job until you get here and show me a lease,” Venture Sports owner Mike Brumbaugh said. “If you show up and don’t have a place and then leave, I’m doubly out of luck.”
With that in mind, though, Brumbaugh said he’s doing pretty well getting his stores ready for the winter, estimating that all three Venture Sports stores have about 70 percent of their winter employees hired.
“For the first week of October, that’s not bad,” Brumbaugh said.
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The story is similar at the Double Diamond Ski Shop in Lionshead Village. General Manager Matt Carroll said that store’s seasonal hiring pace is actually ahead of this time in 2015.
Carroll said the people he’s talked to so far are a mix of returning employees and people who have some kind of housing in place.
“I had a girl come in yesterday, and she asked if I had any secrets about finding a place to live,” Carroll said. “I just told her to look on vaildaily.com,” Carroll said.
People coming to town
The positive hiring story is similar at a pair of valley lodges.
The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek will hire about 200 winter-season workers this fall. Park Hyatt General Manager Robert Purdy said most of those people are either on the staff now or coming soon.
At the Vail Mountain Lodge, general manager Frank Johnson said that property is filling its seasonal positions, but more slowly than in past seasons. That pace comes despite starting earlier than normal this year with seasonal hiring efforts.
But, Johnson added, the pace is starting to pick up.
“We seem to have people who are able to accept a job who have a place to live,” Johnson said in a voice mail message.
At the Hyatt, Purdy said most of that hotel’s seasonal workers will stay with friends or family for the winter. But the Hyatt also has “about a dozen” rental units, too, ranging from two-bedroom apartments to four-bedroom homes. The hotel has grown its own employee housing units during the past few years, Purdy said, and is always looking to expand.
“We try to just cover our costs on those units,” Purdy said. “We aren’t trying to make any money.”
In the 1990s, Gary Gilman, owner of Steammaster, a cleaning and restoration company, looked into building a company headquarters in Minturn. That complex includes nine bedrooms of employee housing.
“It was a headache,” Gilman said. “We had to find land, then go through a two-year process — Minturn had a two-year moratorium on decision-making then.”
At the end of that process, the Steammaster campus was built on the south end of town.
‘Instrumental’ in growth
“It’s been instrumental in allowing me to grow my business,” Gilman said. Having people living on-site helps the company respond to emergencies at all hours, Gilman said.
Those bedrooms are usually full — and pretty popular. Gilman said he has one longtime employee who has lived in the Minturn apartments since about the time they were built. The rent’s reasonable, and living on-site makes the trip to work easy.
At Venture Sports, Brumbaugh said his company hasn’t been financially able to provide housing for employees. But the Brumbaugh family is in the employee housing business.
“Even 25 years in (owning a business), at some point in the season my wife and I will have roommates,” Brumbaugh said. “It’s not ideal, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Besides, people don’t want to live with their boss.”
The constant challenge of housing is why Brumbaugh is among the business owners in the valley who support Eagle County’s Ballot Issue 1A. That measure would create a .3 percent sales tax for housing. The new sales tax would raise an estimated $5 million per year.
Brumbaugh said the proposal is “absolutely not” perfect. “But it’s something,” he added. As both a business owner and the current board chairman of the Vail Valley Partnership, the valley’s chamber of commerce, Brumbaugh finds himself in a lot of meetings. Like the county’s housing tax proposal, Brumbaugh said he has reservations about the town of Vail’s new long-range housing plan, which anticipates buying deed restrictions on 1,000 units in the next decade in order to keep both rentals and for-sale units available to long-term and seasonal residents.
“We’ve got to do something,” Brumbaugh said of both plans. “At least (the current plans are) a start.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.