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Sacrifice Zone expected to import more workers

Brief by Central Staff

Tourism – August 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

The projected employment figures for the Sacrifice Zone are almost frightening.

According to the demographics division of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, in 2020 the resort businesses in Eagle, Summit, and Pitkin counties will need 63,000 more workers than their resident labor pools can provide.

Even if the number of commuters from nearby counties — like Lake, Summit, and Grand — triples as predicted, the industry will still be short 18,000 employees.

Where will the workers come from? All over the world, as companies make arrangements to import foreign workers, and that’s the topic of the Rural Resort Region summit conference Sept. 19-21 at the Silvertree Hotel in Snowmass Village.

The conference theme is “The Immigrant Workforce … Opportunity, Pain, and Profit in Paradise,” and the participants will discuss possible changes in the current system, specifically in federal labor and immigration laws that “would provide an adequate number of legal, documented foreign workers to meet the needs of resort employers of all sizes.”

The RRR steering committee, which has commissioners from five counties (Eagle, Garfield, Lake, Pitkin, and Summit), would like to see:

— Importation of foreign workers based on regional needs, so that workers are not bound to individual employers, which creates the potential for abuse.

— Ensuring an adequate supply of legal foreign workers, so that employers won’t feel the need to hire undocumented workers under the table.

— A simpler process for foreign workers to be documented.

If those reforms were adopted, the steering committee says, then the documented workers “will not only pay taxes to support the community … but will be less susceptible to employer abuse.” And even now, there are “cultural and community issues” produced by the presence of any substantial number of foreign workers.

For more information, contact Jim Spehar at 2688 Malibu Drive, Grand Junction CO 81506-1734, or 970-256-1060.