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ROOST hosts summer employment call

The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism hosted a conference call on Thursday that focused on seasonal employee recruitment challenges faced by local businesses, and ways those challenges might be addressed.

Prior to the pandemic, many businesses in the Tri-Lakes region struggled to attract and retain staff. The problem was — and is — exacerbated by a lack of affordable housing and public transportation options, particularly in the Lake Placid area. Now, business owners say there’s no shortage of potential applicants, but the number of people who are seriously searching for a job is low.

Scott Christiansen, vice president of marketing, sales and communications at the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, said the authority has an EZ Apply program, which allows people to submit resumes and be matched with a job that’s best for them. But even though ORDA’s winter sports venues might get 150 to 250 job applicants, for every 100 applicants, there will be four or five people willing to show up for interviews or speak with someone at ORDA, according to Christiansen.

This was an issue echoed by other business representatives on the Thursday call, which had nearly 50 participants from around the region.

ROOST COO Mary Jane Lawrence said the office is looking at doing a marketing campaign — which would reach outside this area — with a focus on promoting this area as a great place to work and recreate for the summer. She also mentioned that ROOST has contacted local schools about the possibility of using dorms as housing for seasonal workers.

ROOST Director of Digital Strategy Jasen Lawrence mentioned the possibility of creating a centralized “landing page” for job postings that would allow users to filter listings by incentives, such as jobs that include provided housing or meals.

“We just want to make sure that whatever we do blankets all size businesses,” Mary Jane Lawrence said.

Caleb Nappi, who works for AuSable Chasm, said the tourist attraction usually has to hire between 30 and 50 people each year. The most successful way to connect with applicants has been through social media. In the past, Nappi said he attended a lot of job fairs, but the virtual job fairs happening now “just aren’t as fruitful.”

Mary Jane Lawrence asked whether business owners would sign up for an outdoor job fair, and multiple people said yes.

She added later that whoever signed on to ROOST’s marketing campaign could submit postings on the landing page, and the page could serve as a resource for international students on J-1 visas looking for employment opportunities. The J-1 program was suspended last summer by President Donald Trump, but President Joe Biden has lifted that suspension.

Saranac Waterfront Lodge Human Resources Coordinator Dawn Kroll said the new Saranac Lake hotel is planning to start its own J-1 program this winter, plus a one-year J-1 internship program in the summer. The hotel also started an employee referral program. Current employees who bring in a new hire will get $500 if the new hire stays for 90 days, and more money if the hire stays longer.

Other people on the call said their businesses also provide incentives for employees.

Christiansen suggested possibly creating a landing page that would link to individual business’ job listings, rather than having businesses submit listings.

Jasen Lawrence wondered if that might be more difficult for smaller businesses.

Mary Jane Lawrence said ROOST would email business owners forms, which would provide ROOST with more information to create a marketing campaign.

She told the Enterprise following the meeting that ROOST took the initiative on its own to work with businesses “on a regional campaign to assist in finding employees for the summer season,” because ROOST understands the employment issue. She said if an employee shortage limits businesses’ hours and service, that hurts tourism to that destination.

“As a destination marketing and management organization (DMMO) it is important that look at all aspects of the tourism and how it impacts our region,” she said. “A healthy community is a successful tourism destination. Helping businesses find employees is supporting our communities, which will ultimately impact the visitors’ experience.”

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