Employment rates in Muskoka are on the rise, but area employers say the biggest challenge is attracting workers to the area.
“We need to improve the housing situation so that we can bring in skilled workers who want to be here,” said Norah Fountain, general manager of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce.
Fountain said employment rates in Muskoka are better than the provincial average, according to the Ontario Economic Report, but noted employers in the region, including small businesses, are struggling to attract workers. due to lack of housing.
“A lot of our businesses are ready to grow. They’ve changed what they do. They’ve repurposed, but we still need those people because there’s a lot of cash left on the table.”
The report surveyed Ontario Chambers of Commerce businesses and found that 93% of Muskoka businesses value investing more in employees – to recruit them and ensure they stay.
“People really value their employees. I think we’re going to see real change in a lot of ways,” Fountain said.
Collingwood Town Center Business Improvement Area general manager Susan Nicholson said people were gradually returning to work.
“We have a very competitive job market here.”
“I posted a job opening, and we got tons of interest; and qualified people, locals,” said Linda Sloat, owner of The Curly Willow.
Sloat said she knows many businesses are struggling, including other restaurants. However, she added that “we know a lot of restaurants in town with the same local support that are thriving.”
Patty Harper said she was grateful to be working again.
“I haven’t worked all this time, and I’ve really missed it, and I know a lot of people who have struggled,” the server said.
“Honestly I [hope] that we no longer have confinements. Like, I hope everyone can keep their jobs, not be home,” waitress Lara Cserti said.
There is optimism at the Economic and Business Development Center in Collingwood. They hope to move forward with planning a series of festivals and events downtown in the fall, starting with the Farmer’s Market over the May long weekend.