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West Yellowstone businesses frustrated with worker shortages

Posted at 9:05 AM, Jun 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-07 11:19:20-04

WEST YELLOWSTONE — Do you remember a time when it was hard to find a job? Well, now it seems to be the opposite.

“This is like the pandemic, unprecedented. This is unprecedented, and we have the same challenges,” said business owner Garrett Ostler.

The challenges of finding employees.

“Yellowstone is suffering. Our local economy is suffering. Our grocery stores have abbreviated hours. The restaurants have abbreviated hours, all because we don’t have stateside people here working,” said Ostler.

In addition to the statewide shortage, there’s also a shortage of international workers.

“We don’t have the influx of the opportunity for the J1 students to come here on that 3-month ambassadorship that they get to come,” Ostler explained.

Last month, Governor Greg Gianforte announced Return-To-Work incentives for Montana residents, and this business owner agrees people need to return.

“We need to knock this stuff off of paying people to do nothing and simply let them get back and be productive and earn a living. They’ll be better and society’s better when we have a working economy,” Ostler said.

Since Yellowstone Park is seeing high numbers of visitors, the tourism town is seeing an influx of people as well.

“We opened on May 5, and last year, we had 13 guests because the park wasn’t open. This year, the park was open and we had 351 guests in May.”

But they can’t stay open to accommodate visitors because they don’t have enough workers. Ironically, a visitor from Florida overheard the interview and said they’re experiencing the same thing.

“We have one of the largest immigration law firms in the country, about 90 people on staff, and we’ve never had so many problems with getting employees. They’re being paid to stay at home. Hopefully, it’s going to change soon because it’s really hurting the small business owners,” said Florida resident Jorge Rivera.

With the governor’s incentive, it should change things in Montana soon, but it’s still a current problem.