Door County in dire need of seasonal workers

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 10:50 PM CDT
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DOOR COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - This week President Joe Biden’s administration announced an increase in the number of temporary seasonal workers who are allowed to work in the US.

However, businesses in Door County are concerned if workers will be able to get here due to ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions.

“Many of the US Embassies are currently closed, and in order to get a J-1 Visa you actually have to have an interview at the embassy in the country you’re from. Some of our students have had their interviews and have obtained their visas, but some of the countries are still closed so we’re up in the air,” said Peter Northard, general manager of the Pheasant Park Resort in Sister Bay.

About a third of his staff are J-1 Visa holders, but he only got two last year due to the pandemic shutting down travel.

“The only reason they were able to come is because they were able to get their visas before the whole COVID situation...otherwise they would not have been able to come,” said Northard.

The Landmark Resort in Egg Harbor is facing the same issue, which usually employs about 55 J-1 visa workers.

“As of right now, we’re seeing about 25 percent have gotten their visas and the other 75 percent are unknown at this time,” said Rick Rogers, operations manager at Landmark.

Rogers says it’s always a challenge to hire seasonal workers and have had to get creative but cutting down on some services.

“Part of what we’ve done because of COVID is eliminate daily service, so that eliminates part of it, we may have to change hours at the restaurant,” said Rogers.

Managers of both resorts anticipate a busy summer compared to a record setting 2019 tourism season in Door County but are hoping help will be on its way.

“Our bookings for this year are at an all-time record pace,” said Northard. “The only way that we’re going to be able to handle those guests is to have staff. Without J-1 students I just don’t see how we’re going to have enough staff to handle it.”

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