By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
NORTH CONWAY – A number of organizations that rely on labor to support the tourist economy in the Mount Washington Valley and the White Mountains are getting together to work on the issue of developing more workforce housing with the help of funding through the CARES Act.
Six chambers representing the White Mountains region are collaborating with Ski New Hampshire and the White Mountain Attractions Association to identify new workforce markets and launch a housing campaign.
This is a focused effort on the recruitment of new residents to come to work, play, and live, and identifying barriers.
“The objective of this Workforce Collaborative is to identify potential recruitment tools and workforce resources for the fall and winter seasons. Next, the plan is to develop those tools to increase the number of applications the business community in the White Mountains can consider for part-time, full-time, year-round, and seasonal employment. In addition, the collaborative will develop and communicate the ‘NH Advantage’ experience to motivate new recruits to come to New Hampshire for an employment opportunity,” said spokesman Marti Mayne in a press release.
This new collaborative on workforce development is being funded by a special grant program called the Chamber of Commerce Partnership Assistance Fund, created to reward collaborative efforts among chambers that were ineligible for other rounds of CARES Act funding.
The fund is being administered via the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (GOFERR).
Some of the factors that make for an employee shortage are a lack of reasonably priced places to live or even identifying what jobs are potentially available in the region.
COVID-19 has placed added restrictions on visas for workers in the hotels and ski resorts and other issues which have led to a workforce shortage.
The pandemic has had some benefits in the form of people moving into the region but that might drive up costs. People now no longer need to work from a corporate office in a major city and live in a suburb, and there is a bit of urban flight rippling through the state, particularly in resort areas where all workers need is a solid internet connection.
There has been a significant jump in school enrollment in resort towns like Waterville Valley which has more than tripled its students in school, but it is unknown whether this is a short-term move.
Regardless, real estate agents across the northern half of the state say there are many people who would like to move here but are limited by a lack of housing on the market.
The group has been contacted by students at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who are remotely learning and seeking jobs in the White Mountains, Mayne said.
Housing is being sought for these students in local homes, much like traditional exchange students.
Kathleen Flammia of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce and Janice Crawford of the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce are spearheading the Workforce Collaborative & Housing Needed Campaign.
Chambers and organizations involved in the collaborative effort include the White Mountains Attractions Association, Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, Franconia Notch Regional Chamber of Commerce, Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce, Littleton Area Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Littleton, Western White Mountains Chamber of Commerce, Twin Mountain-Bretton Woods Chamber of Commerce, and Ski NH.
(Those interested in offering housing to help the study are asked to contact Janice Crawford at Janice@mtwashingtonvalley.org.)