- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Small-business employers are having a hard time finding qualified workers, according to a study published yesterday by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB).
The study, conducted between April 22 and May 18, found 71 percent of small-business employers said qualified employees were "hard" to find. The study also found that employers would rather do everything they can to keep current employees than seek out new qualified employees.
Dave Black, owner of Wisteria Landscapes and Arborists, says he has been looking for someone to fill a supervisory position in his Northeast store since the beginning of spring. A customer-rela-
tions salesperson position was open for more than a year before the position was filled, he said.
The NFIB study also reported that about 33 percent of all small-business employers engage in bidding wars with other businesses when they need to fill job vacancies.
Mr. Black says profits have suffered slightly through the addition of a better wage-and-benefits package to lure workers to the business, but he says it's necessary to get workers into the store.
"I've found that anyone qualified to work here already has a great job and their employers are looking to keep them in any way," he said.
The nature of his business also makes the store's hiring process more complex, he said.
"We don't just hire someone off the street. For the unskilled labor market, it's easy. You just drive to the 7-Eleven in the morning," he said. "For someone who's a warm body and willing to work, maybe, that's one thing. We need someone more experienced."
Mr. Black says in the course of one year, five persons were hired for the supervisory position still waiting to be filled.
"None of them worked out. We were forced to get less-than-ideal people. It didn't used to be this way," he said. "Most people I've found looking for the supervisor job … unless there's a special circumstance, they aren't wanted by an employer for some reason or another."
Susette Horstkamp is the owner of Art Services Inc., a five-person graphic-design firm in Northeast that does work for the federal government. She says most of her employees have been around between 15 and 30 years. While she offers her employees the standard raises, health insurance, and vacation time, she has taken special care in other areas to retain her employees.
"We just have been together for so long. We work overtime as a unit, we support each other in the work force and in each other's personal life," she said.
The NFIB is a small-business advocacy organization located in the District.


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