It's been a tough year, and we are all thankful that the world is returning to some semblance of normality. That is, the world minus our local businesses.
When COVID hit over a year ago, we united to make sure our local businesses survived; we started shopping more locally, we purchased curb-side and pick-up, and we made sure to buy gift cards and other items that would help our businesses weather the temporary closures and loss of traffic. And we succeeded! Our businesses are still here and stronger than ever. However, they are now facing a new unforeseen challenge: Post-pandemic staff shortages.
As the world moves back to standard operations, it feels like our workforce is the last to do so - in spite of a relatively small increase in the unemployment rate for South Dakota compared to May of our last "normal" year, 2019. Elevate Rapid City CEO, Tom Johnson, even states in his latest Economic Indicator report, "...wages are up almost 6% from last year. That’s an increase greater than Billings, Sioux Falls, Fargo, and Bismarck. Second, unemployment is down to 3.1%." But the fact remains: Everywhere you look, you'll see businesses with help-wanted signs in the windows. A quick browse on Indeed or Facebook shows an overwhelming number of job options. So what's the deal?
There are a variety of factors to consider, ranging from the discussion on minimum wage and federal stimulus funds to a broader, more existential conversation about the value of our time and energy as a workforce coming out of an emotionally-harrowing pandemic. Not to mention, we are experiencing a massive boom in visitors and new residents seeking our products and services. No matter the reason, it's taking its toll on our local business owners. It's time to step up to bat again to help our businesses and prevent exhaustion, shortened hours, or even closures.
When I think about our current situation, I can't help but draw parallels to another time in our history when the businesses needed workers - and that time, our citizens stepped up in a big way. Over seventy years ago, we sent our able-bodied men off to serve our country in World War II. The situation was of course incredibly different in so many ways, but one of the similarities was the shortage of workers on the home front. Those left behind - women, elderly, and others - did everything they had to do to make sure our businesses and economy lived on, whether they needed the wages or not. It was a generation full of national pride and a "do what needs to be done" mentality. The pandemic is different in so many ways, but in this way we can make similar choices for the benefit of our town and our local Sturgis and Black Hills economy.
Please help spread the word - our businesses are in need of employees to get us through our busiest tourist season yet! This newsletter contains a list of current openings in town submitted to our office. Please also check the local newspapers, online, and in-person at businesses for availabilities. Let's collectively step up to the plate and serve those who have always served us.
Veronica Grosek, Executive Director
Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau