by Aaron Warner
In the Upper Valley area, the most obvious impact of the pandemic response on businesses is the lack of help. From small businesses to larger franchises, there seems to have been a disappearance of willing workers. Employers and customers on both sides of the Connecticut River are wondering, “Where is everybody?”
Local business Allan’s Vending has weathered the storm. However, the cost of gas along with the loss of some accounts due to the shift in employees working from home has put them in a tough spot, especially with reports of food shortages looming.
“We’re doing ok, but it’s difficult to even get some items,” says Scott Allan, who began running the operation for his family after his parents moved out of the office into semi-retirement. If the gas and lack of items isn’t enough, their trucks were hit repeatedly by thieves over the past several years for their catalytic converters.
It’s anyone’s guess how things will shake out in the coming months, and the lack of qualified help has everyone concerned.
Pat Lundrigen, who own’s Lundy’s Landscaping and Auto Garage, has seen three-quarters of his business disappear thanks to unwilling workers and the rise in lone landscapers. Were it not for his Auto Garage, the landscape business he started back in his teens might not be viable.
“People don’t want to work and this next generation has no work ethic,” he says as he looks at his 14-year-old son Ryan who may or may not take on the family business some day. Ryan, a standout baseball player, is just as disturbed by his generation’s lack of grit when it comes to his favorite sport.
A sort of distant hope that things can get better seems to hang in the air as we consider the future.
Like most hospitals, Dartmouth-Hitchcock has always dealt with attrition. However the current trend in nursing can’t be sustained. The rise in travel nurses, who often see twice the pay as local staff, is bleeding both finances and morale.
“We’re operating sometimes two-thirds below our normal staff. The burnout is everywhere and nobody wants to get paid half of what someone who’s just passing through for a few months is making for the same job,” explains a nurse who prefers to remain anonymous.
“We don’t have any OR (operating room) nurses, so surgeries are getting delayed.” This reminds me of the number of botched operations and third attempts among my friends and clients of late. One of my clients, a 21-year-old college student, is headed in for her third knee surgery on the same knee in three years. Her dad says he will not be paying for this one. Medicine is starting to feel third-world, and the third time is not the charm when we’re talking about surgery.
When asked what the solution is, the nurse doesn’t see one, given that staffing issues have existed since she’d gone into the profession. It’s just worse now, with no apparent strategy given by administrators. A re-branding by the Dartmouth-Hitchcock board and marketing department is like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound.
A visit to Applebee’s in West Lebanon Sunday evening for my son’s sixteenth birthday found three quarters of the tables empty yet the hostess told us the wait would be forty-five minutes.
“Forty-five minutes with all of these open tables?” I asked incredulously.
“We only have two waitresses and one of them, this is her first night. We only have one cook, too.”
Offered to sit at the bar we sat down only to listen to a disgruntled customer complaining about all of the food allergy accommodations she needed that weren’t being met. The bartender, Lexi, also new to the job had to field the passive-aggressive comments from the woman who seemed more interested in complaining than enjoying a meal with her company. A capable manager came to Lexi’s rescue. But we are left wondering if this is the “new normal” we were warned about by our opportunistic world leaders who don’t seem to understand the better part of Build Back Better.
Leadership seems to be the real issue, along with the ideologies that inform them. Luckily in the states we still have the opportunity for local and state leadership to circumvent the failing state of the globalist vision that, for all its “Greats” and “Betters” is delivering neither.
Better for whom? So far, the people and businesses of the Upper Valley have no answer.
The author is a Hartford resident and local business owner.