If 30% of the people who commute to Missoula to work would find a job in the Bitterroot Valley, Devlin believes much of the worker shortage would be resolved.
“It’s created more positions and there’s not the population to fill all of those positions that have been created,” Devlin said. “The only way to fill those gaps is to encourage people to live here and work here.”
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“A huge population drives to Missoula every day,” she said. “If we want them to work here and spend their money here, employers have to give them a reason to come and a reason to stay.”
There have been businesses in the Bitterroot who have closed because they can’t find employees, while others have flourished after they’ve hired great talent drawn to a positive work environment, Devlin said.
“Your employees are the ones who make your business a success,” she said. “You need to value them…Times have shifted. Businesses need to change with the times or they’re not going to be in business.”
The Bitterroot Chamber of Commerce is asking businesses to fill out a survey that will help quantify the valley’s need for workers and the kind of help businesses need in finding qualified people, including training that could occur in high schools or the Bitterroot College.