Branson might have found a new pool of employees to work hard-to-fill positions.
Branson’s business community is now actively recruiting workers from Puerto Rico. On Friday, Taney County Partnership is hosting a Puerto Rico recruitment forum Friday where employers and community members can learn about bringing workers from the U.S. Commonwealth.
Efforts have already started. At a Branson Board of Aldermen meeting last week, Alderman Kevin McConnell mentioned that a recent recruiting trip by Taney County Partnership netted 67 applicants.
“Not only were there 67, but they were processed and ready to come to work,” McConnell said.
Alderman Mike Booth complimented the work the Partnership is doing on this.
“They’re setting this up where it’s going to be a good outlet for everybody,” Booth said. “I think they did a very professional job.”
The effort is a response to caps being placed on foreign worker programs, such as H-2B Visas and J1 Visas, that essentially make it impossible for Branson employers to use those programs. Such programs are not required for works from Puerto Rico because they are American citizens.
McConnell also said he wanted to address what he said is “a common misconception” about Branson bringing in workers from other areas, rather than relying completely on area residents.
“Some folks are like, hey, why are we going to Puerto Rico and bringing people to take jobs from Branson?” McConnell said. “It’s not that at all.”
He said Branson employers have about 300 to 500 fewer employees than they did last year.
“I don’t have to tell anyone in this room how difficult that is to fill positions, and so we’re getting folks that are hungry and anxious and want to come work,” he said. “They’re U.S. citizens and, believe me, I’m in the staffing business, there are plenty of jobs for everyone.”
Booth also agreed with that last statement.
“If you want a job, you can get a job,” Booth said.
The recruitment forum will be held at 8 a.m. Friday at the OTC Table Rock campus in Hollister in the fourth-floor community room.
The forum schedule:
• Coffee and networking
• Workforce / labor brief: Why Puerto Rico?
• Setting the bar — housing, transportation and culture
• Panel discussion: Lessons learned and best practices
About Puerto Rico
According to smithsonian.com, Christopher Columbus set foot on Puerto Rico in 1493. The island soon became a Spanish possession and remained that way until the Spanish-American War when the island was ceded to the United States as part of the Paris Treaty of 1898. Puerto Ricans received U.S. citizenship in 1917, and the island officially became a U.S. Commonwealth in 1952.
In a November 2016 referendum, 61 percent of Puerto Rico voters favored becoming a U.S. state. However, in the same election, voters ousted the pro-statehood governor, creating confusion about the will of the populace.