Small business owners worry about hiring as summer rolls around

Alison Schuch, owner of Fells Point Surf Company.

Courtesy: Alison Schuch

As summer approaches, Fells Point Surf Co. owner Alison Schuch is laying off about 10 employees at two beach retail locations as a perfect storm of reasons sparks a post-pandemic hiring crunch.

A lack of affordable summer housing, less childcare, inflation, and work-life rebalancing in recent years have combined to make the applicant pool different than it used to be.

“It was difficult to balance the expectations of the team, the needs of the business and the needs of both parties,” Schuch said, “and then the expectations of the customers — because, you know, it had to close early. Because we didn’t have enough people.”

Fell’s Point Surf Co. in the Fells Point area of ​​Baltimore, Maryland and Dewey. “Customers want what they want. Convenience has become a huge factor because you can go online and get anything you want,” said Schuch, who owns the store. Beach, Delaware, as well as sister store Tangerine Goods in Bethany Beach, Delaware.

With the summer hiring season in full swing, small business owners like Schuch are concerned about filling roles to keep up with consumer demand. Labor quality was the most important issue for nearly a quarter of members of the National Federation of Independent Business, or NFIB, surveyed in May, according to the small business advocacy organization.

Labor quality has fluctuated between being the No. 1 and No. 2 most important issue for NFIB members in recent months. Sectors where enterprises feel a shortage of workers The most acute include construction, transportation and manufacturing, but retailers and restaurant owners also report problems.

In May, 44% of employers reported vacancies they could not fill, and 38% said they were looking for qualified workers, the NFIB said. Although owners have concerns about future working conditions and a potential recession, they are still trying to hire and raise wages to lure workers.

Brendan McCluskey said he felt there was a lack of talent to hire at Trident Builders, a Baltimore construction business. Finding skilled workers is one of its biggest challenges in today’s competitive environment, and the shortage is driving up wages.

“We’re on the verge of having some real opportunities to grow, and (the concern is) will I be able to staff it?” McCluskey said. “I’m trying to get to the next level, and I almost like the next weight class, and that will allow us to stabilize our revenues, grow, invest in people, invest in systems, obviously, make more money.”

The recruiting challenge on Main Street

Comprehensive immigration reform would also help fill the gap, according to some industry advocates, such as the National Restaurant Association. The group called on Congress to take action to strengthen visa policies and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, shorten wait times for asylum seekers and create the Key Workers for Economic Development program. Introduced in a House bill last month, EWEA would allow workers to come to the U.S. to fill “market-based” roles on three-year nonimmigrant visas.

“There is no silver bullet to solving the industry’s hiring problem, but even incremental changes in immigration policy would be a significant step forward,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs for the National Restaurant Association.

“The restaurant industry is growing its workforce faster than the rest of the economy,” he said. “We expect to add another 500,000 jobs by the end of the year, but with one job seeker for every two open jobs, operators are scrambling to fill positions. Supplementing the workforce with legal foreign workers would be a boon for employers in desperate need of training and opportunities for workers and individuals.” there is.”

Returning to beach shops, Schuch said he’s seen some decline in consumer spending as shoppers watch spending more closely. But he hopes to continue operating with a long-term mindset, even in the face of staffing challenges.

Keeping employees happy is key.

“We’re only as strong as our weakest link and I want us all to be strong and for people to enjoy coming to work,” he said. “I think people are probably the No. 1 thing keeping me up at night right now.”

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