Uncertainty lingers among local tourism businesses facing lack of work force

As the busy time of the tourism season approaches in the Black Hills, industry business are working to overcome a shortage of workers.

BLACK HILLS, S.D. — It’s becoming an growing problem for business in the Black Hills, especially when tourists are getting out.

“We can’t find anyone that’s looking for a job,” said Harley Kirwan, the owner of the Gunslinger Saloon in Deadwood.

The tourism season is already here in the Black Hills.

But even as the tourists arrive, many local businesses are struggling to fill their ranks.

“It’s really our number one issue by far,” said Jim Hagen, the Secretary of Tourism for the State of South Dakota. “We don’t have enough labor.”

State officials helping business look for answers, in any way possible.

“We spent a great deal of time talking to tourism business owners, tourism board members, CVB Directors. What can we do?” Hagen said.

NewsCenter1 spoke to nearly a dozen business in the communities of Spearfish, Sturgis and Deadwood, where the work force problem has merchants searching for help.

Business owners like Harley Kirwan, who owns shops in Deadwood and Wall, are increasing wages and doing their best to think outside the box.

“This year what we’ve done is purchase houses in Deadwood and wall to offer housing to the employees,” Kirwan said.

Many of the businesses we spoke to said even though people do apply, they’re not even coming to interviews.

Summer Jobs 3

“I had a twelve o’clock, one o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock  the other day and no one showed up,” Kirwan said.

Even the opportunity to go to job fairs, where businesses should be able to find labor, still not an option during the pandemic.

“These are all brand new things that we haven’t tried before,” Kirwan said. “We use to go to job fairs in Rapid City and Spearfish college and we just don’t have that ability anymore with COVID.”

A situation putting tourism businesses in a tough spot right before their busiest time of the season.

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