New businesses finding hiring success amid nationwide worker shortage

ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) –Though the worker shortage continues, new businesses continue to sprout up in western Wisconsin – and those businesses need employees.

“The unemployment rate (in La Crosse County) is at 2.7%,” said Xiaotong Wang, western Wisconsin’s regional economist for the Department of Workforce Development.

“It’s the people who are actively looking for jobs, but are still not employed,” he said.

And as that group searches, their options are plentiful. An August report from the Department of Workforce Development revealed that there are about 72,600 jobs in La Crosse.

You can see that help is wanted in the hundreds of signs lining roadways and storefronts.

“As a state, we are facing a long-term worker shortage as a whole, and I think it is a long-term problem, actually,” Wang said.

These days, the market is driven by job seekers.

“This really puts pressure on those businesses who couldn’t afford a wage increase,” Wang said.

But with those big gaps, opening something new could be a risk. Work is nearly done at the new Hy-Vee in Onalaska.

“The best advertising tool we have right now is the word of mouth,” said Dan Welsh, the new store’s director. “Currently, we are looking to add over 600 jobs to the area.”

Surprisingly, for Welsh, hiring that 600 hasn’t been so tough.

“Currently, we’re about 70% staffed,” Welsh said.

His team is still looking for about 200 part-timers – meaning around 400 have already been hired in total. He thinks Hy-Vee’s success comes from novelty.

“People want to be in the ground roots of getting into a company the first time they get here,” Welsh said.

Building something new from the ground up.

The new Hy-Vee location is set to open in mid-October. There is no date set in stone yet.

For many job-seekers, it’s not about the place you work for, it is the benefits.

Bigger chains often have the resources to provide benefit packages that smaller shops might not.