Page 54 - BusinessWest April 28, 2021
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 Jobs sold,” Beau-
inflicted by our government,” he told BusinessWest, adding that some of those the company had to lay off at the end of last season have opted not to come back when offered the chance, instead choosing to collect unemployment. “But there’s a general lack of people out there in the labor force who want to work hard, like in the trade we’re in, the landscaping business. A lot of people want to sit beyond a computer screen
“I hesitate to get too excited because one of the things we’re dealing with right now is the lack of people who want to work.
and punch a keyboard all day.”
Historically, the company, like others in this sector,
has relied heavily on legal immigrants, many from Mexico and Guatemala, he said, adding that even this pipeline has become less reliable in recent years.
As a result of this ongoing challenge, he said
the company has changed the way it compensates employees, with the goal of attracting and retaining better candidates. By and large, it’s a strategy that has worked, although this year, given the many additional COVID-related challenges and responses within the industry, it is certainly being tested.
“We’re probably one of the higher-paying land- scape contractors in the area,” said Omasta, whose company handles a number of large commercial accounts and municipal facilities, such as the recent- ly reopened Pynchon Plaza in downtown Springfield, as well as residential customers. “We do that because we try to attract better people and keep those people here. Paying that higher hourly wage makes a differ- ence in the people that we’re able to find, keep, and
ward to getting back to normal.”
And doing so safely, Gross said.
“I’ve never been so proud to be part of an organi-
zation as I’ve been of our students, faculty, and staff over the last year and a half,” he said. “I can’t stress how many extra hours our faculty and staff put into adjusting curriculum, adjusting extracurriculars, and changing everything we do, from open houses to the way we engage with current students, prospective students, and alumni. It was a group effort in flexibil- ity, agility, determination, and energy.
That said, “the community is tired,” he went on. “We’ve been going non-stop; I can’t tell you how
part in Cooler Communities efforts. Nagel explained that philanthropist (and recent BusinessWest Differ- ence Maker) Harold Grinspoon started Ener-G-Save because, as a real-estate developer, he was always troubled by energy-inefficient New England homes that commonly leaked heat from roofs, windows, and walls.
“Harold made it his goal to raise awareness of energy efficiency to help people spend less money on energy that is, literally, going out the window,” Nagel said. At one point, Ener-G-Save took drive-by ther- mal images of 100,000 homes in Western Mass. and encouraged homeowners with the worst heat leak- age to take advantage of free energy audits from Mass Save.
Corrigan, who can certainly relate to all that, said
his company hired someone to handle recruiting full-time just before COVID hit. To say her job has become difficult, and frustrating, in the wake of the pandemic and the various stimulus packages would be an understatement.
“She’s at her wit’s end with people right now,”
he said, adding that, between a hesitancy to work among many people and drug tests often standing in the way of those do want to work, the talent pool has become increasingly smaller.
And this shrinking pool has definitely impacted Mountain View’s ability to expand the commercial side of its business and grow.
“We’ve had discussions — heated discussions — in our budgeting processes,” Corrigan said. “We ask our- selves, ‘how can you grow if you can’t get the help?’ And the obvious answer is, ‘you can’t.’”
The Job at Hand
It is that obvious answer that is keeping many business owners and managers awake at night.
Indeed, at a time when the challenges seem to be mounting for businesses of all sizes and in most all sectors — Omasta referenced the rising cost of mate- rials such as lumber, still-escalating fuel prices, the specter of inflation, and the very real possibility of higher corporate taxes — finding good help is the one that poses the biggest threat to companies at a time when many are poised to break out from pandemic- induced doldrums.
What will happen between now and September, and even after September, remains to be seen, but it seems clear that these scary times, as Wise and others called them, are certainly far from over. u
George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]
many faculty and staff have told me about the extra hours they’ve put in over the weekends. We’ve all been chipping in to do whatever it takes to keep things safe and enjoyable for students.”
But there’s no time to take a break. Not with the fall semester right around the corner.
“Things are constantly changing,” Gross said. “We’re all learning as we go. But we are a learning organization, after all.” u
Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]
Every Bit Helps
Though a number of the energy-saving pledges are tied to home ownership, Nagel said one doesn’t need to own a home to find plenty of ways to make a difference. “Simple acts like stopping junk mail and including more meat-free meals in your diet are two easy things anyone can do that benefit you and the environment.”
She also suggested riding a bike for a short trip instead of driving a car and, when using a car to run errands, consolidating trips to save gas and time.
“Energy use and conservation are huge topics,” Nagel said. “When we see the simple things others are doing that make a difference, we are less likely to feel overwhelmed and more likely to act.” u
Continued from page 9
lieu said.
“You almost have to stop selling after a while because you just
don’t have the help.”
Hire Power
In the wake of the ongoing struggle to find ade- quate supplies of help, area businesses are taking a number of steps, with aggressive marketing of their staffing needs being just one of them.
Indeed, companies have initiated hiring bonuses and rewards for those who refer candidates who eventually sign on. Meanwhile, others are hiking wages, said Wise, adding that, in some sectors, wage skirmishes have arisen, the likes of which have not been seen in some time, if ever.
“What we’re seeing happening, and it’s a little scary, is that, for some positions, wage battles have ensued,” she said. “People are saying, ‘I’ll pay you $2 more an hour to come work for me because I need the help,’ and the employee goes back to his employ- er and says, ‘they’re willing to give me $2 more an hour; will you give me $3 more an hour to stay here?’
“There are some positions where people are will- ing to pay a premium to get individuals to come to work,” she went on. “And it’s starting to affect differ- ent kinds of businesses.”
One of them is the broad landscaping and lawn- care sector, she noted, which has historically faced challenges to maintaining adequate staffing and is now seeing its problems escalate due to the many aspects of COVID.
Greg Omasta, co-owner of South Hadley-based Omasta Landscaping Inc., said this has certainly been a trying year.
“The government incentives allow people to stay home and get paid more than if they actually went to their job on a daily basis — so some of the prob- lems small businesses are facing in this country are
Continued from page 21 some of that.”
Scully said nothing is set in stone when it comes to pandemic planning; the past 13 months at the Elms have been proof of that.
“We’re monitoring everything very closely, and our first priority is the safety of students and staff,” he said. “We know things could change on a dime.”
Elms, like many colleges, already offered some programs online before the pandemic, and has since bolstered the technology to conduct those, having purchased new cameras, microphones, and other equipment. “But, like everyone else, we’re looking for-
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of students from five other countries,” she said. “By livestreaming, we were able to reach classrooms around the world as well as our own students.”
The Sustainathon also encourages participants to pledge at least one action to benefit the environment, Randhir said. “We hope everyone is a champion of change in their life. Even the simple act of eliminating the use of plastic bags can make a difference.”
One of the actions she and her students had planned was a tree-planting campaign around West- ern Mass. timed for Earth Day on April 22.
The Grinspoon Foundation and the Community Fund of Western Massachusetts have come together to provide $5,000 grants to the school systems taking
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