Business is booming, but where are the employees?
According to local business owners, this summer has been a good one. Mammoth Lakes Tourism recorded that visitation was up by 10 percent from last summer for June and 4 percent for July. Business is steady, work is plentiful, there is money to be made. There aren’t enough employees, however, to make it.
“I love being busy. I love having the business,” said Brandon Brocia, Chef and Owner at the Eatery and Bleu Handcrafted Foods. “When business is booming, I can hire more competent staff and I can afford to pay them more. Right now, the business is there, the work is there, but businesses are hurting for staff. That’s never a good place to be as a business owner or as an employee.” Brocia said that the transient, seasonal nature of Mammoth Lakes’ economy makes it difficult to retain good workers. “As a business owner, I seek out employees who intend to stay for longer than a season. I seek people who want to stick around, work throughout the year, get involved in the community… That is very hard to sustain when the biggest business in this town, the Mountain, breeds a culture among its employees, of not working year-round.”
One local coffee shop owner said that the summer of 2016 has been the best financial summer since his shop has been open. One of his employees wasn’t so sure that was a good thing. “It used to be that once school started, it was vacation time for the people who live here. There was hardly a spring shoulder season [this year], and I expect fall will be busy too.” The business owner, who wished to remain unnamed, said, “If tourism stops, Mammoth goes away. It can’t be about us versus them. We need to work together to create a killer environment for tourists, and to preserve a community for locals.”
Billy Calhoun has lived in Mammoth since 2004. He’s been the General Manager at Lakefront Restaurant and worked in management at Mammoth Mountain. Calhoun told The Sheet that Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (MMSA) knows it can afford to have higher turnover rates than local businesses. “There will always be another person who wants those jobs,” Calhoun told The Sheet.
Another owner of a local food service establishment reported that 80 percent of her employees stick around Mammoth Lakes for an average of four to six months. “Somehow this town needs to attract a sustainable workforce, but the housing is limited and can be expensive for someone just looking to work for minimum wage and enjoy the outdoors as much as possible,” she said.