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Tallahassee business owners worry about impacts of labor shortage

Business owners say less people are applying to jobs
Posted at 6:39 PM, Apr 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-04 12:44:42-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce March Community Scorecard suggests businesses are headed towards some normalcy. The scorecard shows new jobs are being created and job numbers are on the rise.

13 months after the start of the pandemic, Lucky Goat owner Ben Pautsch says the coffee shop is returning to its normal grind.

"This quarter we just finished this week, we're up double digits over the prior year," he said.

Pautsch said stimulus dollars and more confidence in the local economy led to an influx in new businesses. Still, foot traffic is still down.

"Our transaction counts are down a little bit, but our wholesale business and our service business are really rebounding and doing very well. Which tells me most of our customers from the wholesale side stayed in business or are coming back into business," he said.

The same business boom is being felt just down the road at Savour.

"Business is certainly better with the legislature in session and moving into graduation. This year has been much better than last year for sure," said owner Drew McLeod.

But business owners still fear one barrier that could hurt that momentum.

"We right now have seven open positions. Filling them has been hard," said Pautsch.

McLeod said he's had to get creative to drive up more applicants.

"Many of my peers are putting out bonuses. We've done the same internally. If one of our team members is able to find a qualified candidate and they're here for 60 days, that's 30 days of training and 30 days on the job, we'll reward them," said McLeod.

For Lucky Goat, the absence of college students is adding to his struggle with the labor shortage.

"In the hospitality industry, the majority of our workforce comes from the universities and the college students. The student population is down right now and not expected to be back in town until the fall," he said.

McLeod says that's not the only issue he's running into.

"The reality is a lot of the staff workers aren't ready to come back. They've been given extra money through the federal additional unemployment funds and they've been given stimulus. I'm not saying they didn't need it; they certainly do. But now they're willing to stay home and make as much money as they would if they came to work," he said.

Now the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce is working on getting more people back to work. CEO Sue Dick says they have a one-stop-shop.

"We have stood up Talent Hub 2030 as a website and a platform for businesses to post jobs, but also for individuals looking for not only jobs but also training for individuals looking to get into the workforce," she said.

Long term job growth and job retention is a driving factor behind the Community Scorecards.

"We've learned in the last year that information is key. If we can see where we are at any given point month to month or throughout the year on how we're growing or how we're creating jobs, it's important because then you can take action on that area," she said.

Both businesses say until the labor shortage is addressed, plans for the future are stalled.

"We'll put expansion until we can see a more stable labor market. We're struggling to get by with our existing labor market, let alone add to it right now, said Lucky Goat Owner Ben Pautsch.

Less staff means less chance of extending hours for busy times like graduation at Savour. It also may be tough on one of the restaurant's busier seasons.

"It's a little different downtown. We know the summers are a little softer. The team we have may be enough to manage the three months of summer, but we're always preparing for the season. In our case football season in the fall. We'll continue to hire and we'll continue to train as we get qualified candidates to hire," said McLeod.