local weather Click for Sun Valley, Idaho Forecast
 front page
 last week
 express jobs
 about us
 advertising info

 sun valley guide
 real estate guide
 sv catalogs



Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of October 23 - 29, 2002


Can foreign workers 
fill the void?

New service offers options 
to fill employment gap

Express Staff Writer

As winter approaches, with its inevitable flood of skiers and holiday tourists, many businesses in the upper Wood River Valley are collectively looking to fill hundreds of seasonal job slots.

Come November in Sun Valley and Ketchum, a veritable bonanza of winter work offers go out. Employers seek well-spoken waiters, smiling ski instructors, creative line cooks and flamboyant front-desk attendants.

Frederique Chaigneau of France, left, and Vanessa Hartman of South Africa worked the front desk at the Sun Valley Lodge Monday afternoon. They are just two of hundreds of foreign workers Sun Valley Co. will employ in a typical winter season.  Express photo by David N. Seelig

But with the valley’s high-cost of living driving up wages and scaring off many in-state service employees, some employers struggle to keep all of the positions filled, while others work long hours themselves to keep their costs down.

The valley’s largest employer, Sun Valley Co. and its collection of businesses, through the years has developed its own means of dealing with the problem. The company routinely employs hundreds of foreign workers who come to the United States on J-1 visas, a specially crafted passport-of-sorts that permits workers and college-age students to work temporary jobs for periods of three to 18 months.

However, outside of Sun Valley Co., few local business owners have sought to fill positions with J-1 workers from abroad, something Hailey-based business consultant Kim Hayes hopes to change.

"There are literally thousands of qualified workers out there who want to come to the U.S.," Hayes said. "Employing foreign workers with visas has worked well for Sun Valley Company, and I think it can also be used effectively for other businesses."

Hayes—who recently left a position as the director of human resources for Sun Valley Co.—has teamed up with her sister, financial specialist Kelly Mitchell, to start a new company called International Employment Solutions. Based in Hailey, the company is designed to serve as an employment agency that can help local businesses fill staff positions with affordable, qualified job seekers from all over the world.

"There’s always help wanted in the service sector here," Hayes said. "If there’s anywhere that can use them, it’s this community."

Kim Hayes. Express photo by David N. Seelig

Hayes said that she has brought hundreds of workers to the United States on J-1 visias—and the similar H2B visa—with great success. Prospective employees are screened for their qualifications and English-language skills, and, upon their arrival at their U.S. destination, usually provide work for less than the established free-market wages in most resort areas, she explained.

Foreign residents wishing to come to the U.S. on a J-1 visa typically sign up through privately run organizations that charge a package fee to do background checks, make travel accommodations and serve as a liaison between the local consulate and other authorities. To sign up and get into one of these so-called "council programs," foreign workers typically pay from $2500 to $3000, Hayes said.

Council programs also have liaisons in the United States—such as Hayes—who will make arrangements locally for the worker to fill a particular position with a particular employer.

Foreign workers who come the U.S. on H2B visas do so through the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service, not private programs.

Upon arrival, the employees work for "prevailing wages" set by the federal government, which typically run significantly lower than those in resort towns such as Sun Valley and Ketchum.

"Many restaurants are paying dishwashers up to $12 per hour, and just can’t afford it," Hayes said.

Jack Sibbach, marketing and public relations manager for Sun Valley Co., said employing foreign workers with visas is critical to company operations. "With the economic environment as it is now, we would have trouble running as a company without them," he said. "There just aren’t enough local employees."

Sibbach said the company is required by law to advertise most job positions, thereby giving U.S. citizens an opportunity to apply.

"But that’s not working," he said, noting that Sun Valley Co. this winter will fill some 400 jobs—or approximately one-third of its work force—with foreign workers. The visitors will fill "all sorts of different positions," he said, from lift operator to food server.

He noted that the foreign employees—including three young women in the company’s marketing office from Czechoslovakia, Peru and France—have typically done more than just perform their job duties. "They give a good flavor to the company. An international flavor," he said. "Overall, it’s a wonderful work force."

The practice of hiring foreign workers with short-term visas has not only been successful for Sun Valley Co., it has provided companies in high-end mountain resorts throughout the West and parts of Canada with thousands of employees in recent years. Hayes said the practice has been very successful in Colorado, and particularly so in the thriving village of Whistler, British Columbia.

Hayes said she has had particular success bringing in employees from Peru, Brazil and Australia, but has the ability to find employees from many diverse countries.

"There’s something about coming to the U.S. for them. It’s huge," she said. "Most of them want an experience that they’ve never had before."

International Employment Solutions can be contacted at 
P.O. Box 4590, Hailey, 83333,
or by telephone at 720-2049.



Mountain Jobs

Formula Sports

Idaho Conservation League



Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.