PERSPECTIVE: Replenishing Our Workforce

We all know Door County businesses are desperate for workers. The drastic reduction in summer workers here on J1 visas exacerbated the problem in 2021, but the issue has been growing for more than 25 years, and it’s not just a Door County problem.

Businesses in seasonal destinations across the country have struggled to find enough workers for years, but last summer the shortage had many local business owners in crisis.

Two decades of declining school enrollment has left us with 500 fewer high school students and fewer college students returning to supplement the summer workforce. Our aging population means fewer residents in prime working age. The growing cost of housing – if you can find it – makes it hard to bring people here to work. 

But we’ve spoken to several business owners who said their seasonal housing went unused last summer because the workers never came. We also know that a summer working in Door County has a lot to offer young high school and college students. 

Few destinations offer the experience found in Door County – great wages for seasonal work, easy proximity to beaches and incredible outdoor experiences, great nightlife, and as much work responsibility as you want to take on.

That’s why today we’re launching a workforce recruitment campaign to put the peninsula back on the agenda of high school students, college students looking for summer jobs, and parents who want to see their kids make money, take on a challenge, and get great work and life experience. 

It starts with a video produced by our own 2021 interns highlighting what they and their friends love about spending the summer in Door County.

We’ll be sharing the video and additional information about working in Door County with career centers, high schools and alumni associations in targeted areas of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. We encourage others to share the video and the message as well.

Door County Pulse Podcasts · A Campaign to Rejuvenate Our Summer Workforce

It won’t solve every problem. Much work remains to be done to address the housing shortage (though there are encouraging efforts from local entrepreneurs like Paula Anschutz and Todd Haleen). But when our business community is so desperate for help that they close not because there aren’t customers, but because they don’t have staff to serve the ones they have, there isn’t time to wait for the perfect solution.

We’ll be creating more messages in the weeks and months ahead, including the stories of people who turned a summer job into a career here in Door County, or parlayed it into opportunities elsewhere. If you know someone who has a great story to share, let us know by emailing [email protected]

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