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“We get nasty comments all the time,” said Heather Hardinger, programs director at the Taney County Partnership, which is working with the chamber on what it calls the “talent attraction” plan. Companies across the country are competing for workers from Puerto Rico, which has the highest jobless rate in the United States. (Last year’s average was 10.8 percent.). Firms in Maine, Wisconsin and Indiana have sought employees there, with some offering housing as a sweetener. One medical device maker in tiny Warsaw, Indiana, has provided its hires with cars.
Branson employers seek a variety of hires, from housekeepers to receptionists to senior managers in the tourism and hospitality industries, with pay ranging from $12 to $20 an hour, as well as hospital nurses whose salaries start at $54,000, If Puerto Ricans face hostility in the town, Hardinger worries they will decamp for somewhere else — and the town will be stuck without the workers it needs to grow, “The question we keep asking ourselves is: What can we do to set the community apart and make them feel at home very fine dance shoes here?” she said..
Branson has long sought temporary foreign workers to support its tourism industry and faced a crisis last summer when the Trump administration curbed the number of H-2B visas, cutting off a supply of seasonal employees from Belize. Local businesses requested 475 H-2B visas for workers in 2017 but received about 70, a town spokeswoman said. “That created an immediate shortage in the workforce,” said Jeff Seifried, president of Branson’s chamber of commerce. “It sent everyone scrambling.”.
Uncertainty around the H-2B visa program has pushed Branson to start building a new — and permanent — talent pool, Seifried said, The town, he said, needs very fine dance shoes a workforce that decisions in Washington can’t shrink, “Our market can’t grow without it,” Seifried said, The town’s workforce development team got to brainstorming, and it struck them: Puerto Rico is part of the United States — and the island’s jobless rate is typically much higher than Branson’s..
Perhaps they could make a deal: quality jobs and a warm welcome in exchange for hard workers who will consider staying. Chamber officials visited Puerto Rico last April, August and again in February to recruit workers for positions in hotels and hospitals. The effort has brought 269 people from the island to Branson. One of the first signs of resistance was a resident complaining he had read a story in the local newspaper last May about two men from Puerto Rico getting into a bar fight. “Did you bring them here?” he asked, Hardinger said she recalled. “We don’t want this violence.”.
“What if they had been from Minnesota?” she very fine dance shoes recalls responding, “Would you want Minnesotans to stop coming here?”, Juanita Vazquez, a 35-year-old San Juan native who came here last April to manage the Lodge of the Ozarks, a lumber-lined resort with 800 rooms, said she encountered discrimination just after Hurricane Maria lashed her hometown last September, She recalled a man eating scrambled eggs in the lobby, who looked up from his newspaper and said, “Why are we giving money to Puerto Rico? They’re so lazy.”..
Vazquez inhaled. “I said to him, “Hello, sir. I am Juanita Vazquez. I am the general manager. And I am Puerto Rican.”. That left him speechless. Later, she said, he approached the front desk and apologized. “I told my boss about it, and you know what?” she said, grinning. “He said, ‘Good job!’ ”. That kind of support, she said, makes her want to bring her younger sister, who works as a nurse, to Branson. Vazquez is coaxing her here with tickets to the wax museum, where they can take selfies with a faux Michael Jackson.
Across town, a pair of store owners questioned the need for the recruitment push on the island, “You have to wonder if this will drive wages down,” said Beth Burgess, standing behind the wood counter at Cadwell’s Downtown Flea Market, which sells old books and raccoon pelts, Two blocks up the street, at the Downtown Branson Visitor Center, Mike Peery, who has lived here more than a decade, lamented that locals can’t seem very fine dance shoes to fill the town’s openings, He doesn’t blame outsiders, though..