By Jamie Leary

EDWARDS, Colo. (CBS4)- The high country is seeing a surge of job postings as businesses start to reopen. With a housing crunch in full swing, many employers are offering more incentives to hire and retain employees.

“When the pandemic came, a lot of people left our workforce and they haven’t come back all the way, so we have more jobs than we do people to fill them and that’s why we’re seeing an increase in wages- people are trying to steal the employees that are available through higher wages, and that’s the way the marketplace works,” said Chris Romer, President and CEO of Vail Valley Partnerships.

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Romer said while the issues are not unique to mountain towns, the pandemic amplified them.

“Even before COVID for years, we’ve had more jobs than we’ve had people to fill them because of our housing challenges and cost of living challenges.”

The good news, employers are more aware than ever what the needs are and if you’re an employee, Romer says it’s a ‘buyers’ market’.

“COVID exposed the cracks in the foundation and now everyone is hyper aware and working to address things like housing and early childhood care and healthcare and these other issues to help retain people in our communities.”

Romer said not only have businesses been increasing wages, they’re also offering incentives like, signing and retention bonuses.

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The Kind Bike Shop in Edwards is a prime example. It offers full-time employees things like ski passes, housing and healthcare. Still, there are challenges. Finding skilled labor for things like, bike repairs.

“It’s very hard to find skilled mechanics that are willing to drop what they’re doing and come to the Vail Valley for like, outsourcing… or finding people right in the Valley that have the immediate skills to walk in and just be able to fix stuff without training,” said Hayden Wylie, Retail Manager at the Kind Bike Shop.

The bike shop isn’t alone, Vail Valley Partnership has a bird’s eye view of the issues across the county and says it’s industry-wide.

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“We are the regional chamber of commerce. We have over 900 members throughout Eagle County in a variety industry sectors from construction to hospitality, restaurant, to activity providers, professional services, banks, everybody. In every industry sector there are workforce problems, workforce challenges,” said Romer.

The Kind Bike Shop has positions posted on several platforms- one those is Mountain Careers, which has taken off in the last few years.

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“Within the last two- or three-months, things have like, tripled. All different levels of employers hiring within a fury it seems like,” said Aryn Schlichting co-Founder of Mountain Careers.

Schlichting says it’s not just minimum wage jobs either.

“You know there’s executive level six figure jobs being posted, marketing directors, marketing managers, entry level coordinators for investment firms,” she continued. “The mountains are booming and not just with tourism jobs.”

She’s also noticed the wage increases on her website. Part of it to do with the fact that employers are now required to post wages, another part is the realization of what people need and want to live in the mountains.

Schlichting said a recent survey by Mountain Careers asked job seekers what they are looking for,

“Job seekers are looking for higher wages in the mountains but they’re also looking for flexibility and increased level of responsibility in job title. “ Said Schlichting. “I think employers are reacting to that. I think mountain communities have lagged behind in being competitive in their wages and now it’s sort of do or die if you want to keep your staff.”

Larger picture, Romer said incentives from the state level are critical. He pointed to the Colorado Jumpstart incentive program, which pays the unemployed to get back into the workforce.

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“Those are they types things that are going to get people back to work, those are the things that are going to help our businesses,” said Romer.

Jamie Leary