Labor Shortage Hurting Collier County Businesses

NAPLES, Fla. – Collier County has more jobs than it has workers. This is the warning that the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce gave this week.

As more “Help Wanted” signs appear in Collier County, retail stores and restaurants are the hardest hit. And now the people running those stores are worried about what will happen if they can’t find the workers they need.

“It’s going to be tough for a lot of business owners to stay in business,” said Jeff Mitchell, owner of The Local, a restaurant in Naples. “It just became a very difficult environment for us.”

Mitchell said he was lucky to have a loyal staff, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t affected by the labor shortage.

“At the start of the season, we had a lot more trouble keeping staff,” said the local restaurateur. “It felt like people wanted to change jobs and jump around a bit.”

The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce said it sees 7,000 to 10,000 Collier County job postings posted online each month, and that number is growing.

And there are only 5,000 to 6,000 unemployed in the county, according to House statistics.

Schmees said one of the main reasons Collier County businesses can’t find workers is affordability.

“A lot of employees could barely afford to live here before,” she said. “Now we’re seeing rent increases of $500 to $1,000.”

Mitchell added, “It’s hard to find employees who can afford to live in Collier County who are also looking for jobs as dishwashers, line cooks or waiters.”

And that has forced some companies to make changes.

“The chamber has seen and heard of employers closing early, changing hours, closing their second sites because they can’t find the workers for it.”

Schmees said the Chamber of Commerce has a talent development program that works with companies to create competitive job openings. Any business looking for help can contact the Chamber.

Michael A. Bynum