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McCall businesses struggling to find workers

The mayor says 80 percent of McCall's workforce commutes from other areas, and 42 percent of those people travel 50 or more miles, one way, to go to work.

MCCALL, Idaho - For nearly 70 years, locals and visitors coming into McCall have made the Pancake House their first stop of the day.

“It’s a great business,” said owner Bonnie Bertram. “When we got into this big place we didn’t think it was going to be quite as busy as it’s been.”

While business is good, Bertram says they’re struggling.

“I’ve been doing this 40 years and this is the worst year I’ve ever seen,” she said.

The problem: They’re short staffed and can’t find people to hire.

“If we can’t find people the waits are longer, if somebody were to get sick or not show up for work then you’ve got that problem,” Bertram said. “It’s a real challenge.”

The reason she says it’s so hard to find employees is the lack of housing.

“Why [would they] mess with it when they can go to other places and get housing where it’s a lot more affordable,” she said. “I pay better than most in town and it’s still not enough.”

The Pancake House isn’t alone in this struggle.

“If you go through town you will see on almost every business, especially our restaurants, there’s going to be a help wanted sign,” Mayor Jackie Aymon said.

The city is also struggling to find workers.

“It’s impacting our Parks and Rec Department, it’s impacting our golf course, a lot of different agencies… departments we have within our city,” Aymon said. “The lack of being able to hire someone because there’s no place to live has been problematic.”

Aymon says 80 percent of McCall’s workforce commutes from other areas, and 42 percent of those people travel 50 or more miles, one way, to go to work.

“It’s not just a business problem,” she said. “It’s a health and safety issue. It’s an infrastructure problem.”

The mayor says the city needs around 700 units. Some businesses do step up and provide housing when they can, which is what the Pancake House does. The city is exploring many different options to help. Those include working with the housing trust to buy properties for workforce housing, trying to get developers to build affordable housing instead of large single-family homes, and is even considering buying their own land.

“We’re thinking about looking for parcels we can afford, land banking them, with the idea of using them for affordable housing units in the future,” Aymon said.

But until then, businesses are having to adjust.

“We’re going to have to shut some of our shifts, shorten our shifts in order to pull those people onto days,” Bertram said. “Days is the bread and butter of this place.”

The Pancake House is for sale. The Bertrams want to retire, but they say it’s not closing anytime soon.