22 Questions in 2022: What steps can be taken to help employers find employees?

Published 1:30 am Sunday, February 27, 2022

During his annual 2022 Mayoral Address in February, LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton noted that, like other communities around the county, that the demand for woekrs is high. 

“There are lots of jobs in this community. There are more jobs than there are people,” Thornton said.

Thornton has been in communication with businesses big and small in the LaGrange community. He noted that entities like KIA Georgia in West Point were planning to build as many as 350,000 new cars and plan to hire as many as 150 new employees to make this possible. Beacon Brewery, Thornton said, experienced a banner year in 2021 that included an increase in foot traffic.

The Georgia Department of Labor has continued to announce lower unemployment numbers as the state’s economy attempts to rebound. However, vacancies remain prominent in businesses big and small.

Troup County Board of Commission Chairman Patrick Crews also noted that the county was not lacking jobs but that hiring for the positions has been a challenge for some of the county’s larger manufacturers.

“We projected that we were going to have 1,500 to 2,000 in the next two years from the KIA Georgia expansion, the Hyundai expansion … and now you have Remington Firearms coming,” Crews said.

Crews pinpointed aspects like housing that could be stifling individuals from moving to the LaGrange area even with the abundance of available positions.

In June, Gov. Brian Kemp eliminated the $300 boost in federal unemployment benefits in an attempt to push workers back to work. The recent wave of the Delta COVID variant sparked another wave of staffing shortages in prominent fields like health care and service workers.

In February, as the wave began to yield, states and municipalities began to lessen their COVID precautions further.

Karen Bremer, the CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association, said many restaurant workers left the industry to pursue new opportunities during the pandemic, thus helping ignite the current shortage.

“In the restaurant industry, you have a lot of people who have a lot of degrees and credentials but who choose to be a professional bartender or server,” Bremer said. “The mindset is that they have returned to those alternate fields.”

Many businesses continue to offer sign-on bonuses or additional benefits to bring in more employees.

Crews noted that one of the most prominent issues with bringing jobs to the area includes the lack of housing, particularly housing for workers who make below $60,000.

“We need more housing,” Crews said. “We know that we need housing that is affordable to these workers. We know that a lot of our workers might be making $40,000 to $60,000 range, so they’re trying to find housing that’s affordable to them.”

Crews said he’s in conversations with out of state developers to address bringing affordable housing to the community.