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How a change of ownership may help with workforce shortage

Several Idaho businesses now belong to their employees. A study has found that's an advantage in this time of workforce shortages.

BOISE, Idaho — There’s a nationwide worker shortage that’s putting a strain on employers and driving up the costs of nearly everything you buy. But there’s a specific change some businesses are making, to try to retain or attract more workers, and help drag them out of this shortage.

Boomer Godsill is the owner of Godsill Company, which runs the Original Sunrise Cafe, Biscuit & Hogs, and three Brunchette restaurants. To hire good employees, or any employees, Godsill said, it's about more than just the wage. It's about making sure workers feel appreciated, have opportunities, and allowing them to figuratively buy in to the business by allowing them to actually buy in to the business.

"So one of the biggest things that we've got planned in the next couple of years, two or three years, is we're going to turn the Sunrise Cafe over to our employees and make it an employee owned and operated business," Godsill said. "Very proud of it."

Employee ownership means a company's employees own the shares, or the value of shares, in their company, and not the public or a singular owner. Some of the bigger businesses around the Treasure Valley that are employee-owned are Franklin Building Supply, Winco, and Commercial Tire, which made that change recently.

But does employee-ownership really help with hiring and retaining employees? According to a study from Rutgers, yes.

Keep in mind, the workforce shortage started before the pandemic. But during the pandemic, the study showed that employee-owned businesses retained jobs better than other businesses, 4 to 1. They also maintained their hours and pay better by a rate of 2 to 1.

Godsill said beyond helping the business, employee ownership can also be a way to thank those employees who helped Sunrise Cafe get through two or three recessions and the pandemic.

"And so hopefully we, in the next couple of years, we can make this all happen," he said. "And they can see that all the hard work and everything that they've done for their staff for their community is really paid off and they can actually have the opportunity that they may not else have had."

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