Haywood’s largely service-based economy seems to be constantly in need of workers who can tolerate unaffordable housing, relatively low wages and the seasonal nature of the positions.
To that end, a job fair in Maggie Valley was held May 18 with 20 participating employers.
“The Maggie Valley Chamber is here to be the business advocate in the valley, and a lot of my members and businesses in town had ‘help wanted’ signs in the windows,” said Teresa Smith, executive director of the Maggie Valley Chamber. “The chamber decided that we might could help them a little bit if we coordinated in an effort to get everybody here, so we decided to do a job fair.”
By lunchtime of that day, about 40 people had already applied for positions like bartender, cashier, cook or wait staff at establishments like the Peppertree Resort or the Rendezvous Restaurant.
Owner of the Rendezvous, Beth Robinson Reece said she was happy to receive the 10 or so applications she’d received at the event.
Hiring “has been an increasing problem due to a couple of things,” she said, citing the business upswing that is increasing the demand for already scarce workers.
Reece still needs quality employees to cook, plate and serve what some consider to be the best fried chicken in the area.
“It’s the most important thing you can do,” she said about staffing. “We need to let people know we’re glad they’re here and we’re glad they chose Maggie Valley to spend their tourism dollars.”
While operations like Reece’s are relatively important to the tourism sector of Haywood County’s economy, they are dwarfed by the county’s fourth largest employer — the county.
“We have about 500 full-time employees, and part-timers ebb and flow,” said Kathi McClure, Haywood County’s human resources director.
McClure said that the most difficult positions to fill are in information technology and social work.
“There are some stipulations by the state about experience that can make hiring for health and human services or social work difficult,” she said. “And generally, you can make more money in private industry rather than government, so IT positions often go to Buncombe County.”
Retention issues are common, but McClure said that recent studies have resulted in pay increases for some positions — especially in the Sheriff’s Office — that have helped stem the losses.