How You Can Help Small Town America Survive

In the corner of nearly every small town shop window there seems to be a “help wanted” sign. Many businesses have even resorted to implementing signing bonuses in hopes of gathering interest in future employees. Unfortunately, those bonuses are not paralleled to that of today’s NFL stars and those bonuses don’t seem to be enough of an incentive to get new employees to step behind the counter. Those “no-elbow-room” types of restaurants that many are accustomed to seeing in the summers in a tourist town are still thriving financially from what it may appear to the average patron, but mentally and physically things are not sustainable. Proud family owned restaurants that are community staples are having to adjust hours and close early due to a lack of help. One can see the burnout they are experiencing in their eyes and in their body language as the owners (yes, owners) are busing tables and washing dishes. It won’t be easy, but I know small town America will survive.

Small town America is not the only area experiencing work shortages. The big Midwest cities of Minneapolis/St.Paul and Chicago have their fair share of troubles of not filling positions as well. One could even broaden the scope and say it’s a nationwide problem. If you tune into any news channel (CNN, FOX, NBC, etc.) they will tell you that there is a worker shortage. Now, their angles might be different in how they perceive the shortage and where they think this may stem from, but the issue remains the same; workers are needed.

“In our office we have two giant white boards, and they're chock full of over 40 different companies that are looking for people right now. We've got well over 100 openings,” said Karl C. Amlie who owns an Express Employment Professionals franchise in Forest Lake.

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As people start making their way out of the woodwork due to an increase in confidence as the pandemic begins to decline (whatever your view on that may be, but we’re not out of this yet) there is a large influx of traffic in communities once again. While this is wonderful to see and many small communities welcome the uptick in business as folks spend their dollars on t-shirts with the town name on the front, nights eating out with their families at a fish fry tucked away in the woods, time spent at a resort or at a local festival; there is an increased demand in service while there is a lack in supply of workers.

Business owners are doing as much as they can to promote the fact that they are searching for employees. Many have taken to going beyond the shop window to post on social media as well as job sites like Indeed. This isn’t a subtle hand raise—this is a cry for help. They are screaming for workers as they are captains of a ship they are trying to keep afloat. They haven’t only been doing this for weeks on end. Some have been wailing for months and they are barely getting by. Behind the baggy eyes and in between sips of lukewarm coffee they are still fighting the good fight and somehow are able to put a smile on their face.

This isn’t a problem that gets fixed overnight like a solid library study session with a friend and a Red Bull the night before your final exam. This is going to take some time, but we have to be intentional with that time. If we allow more and more time to pass before giving these owners and workers (yes, the one’s pulling double/triple duty) we are going to see more and more burnout. To keep this from happening, we are going to have to use patience. It’s always easier said than done. Nobody likes waiting forever to sit down. It’s difficult, especially if you have children or a large group, but that patience goes such a long way. This is when we have to get creative with our time. Bring a deck of cards with you, a Mad Libs book, download a fun trivia party game on your phone, etc. Whatever you have to do to keep your mind off of the fact that you’re waiting and also to keep yourself from hounding the wait staff that you should be seated by now.