Despite slow job creation nationwide, Columbia County's unemployment rate is much lower than surrounding areas, which business owners say can make it difficult to staff a new operation.
Tom Werner, co-owner of the Twisted Chicken Cafe at the corner of North Belair and Evans-to-Locks roads in Evans, said he had difficulty finding dependable, qualified employees for his restaurant, which opened March 2.
"That is the hardest thing to find good solid employees," Werner said.
Columbia County's preliminary unemployment rate for January was 2.6 percent, or 1,235 people older than 16 without employment in a labor force of 46,787, according to Georgia Department of Labor statistics.
At the same time, Richmond County listed more than 4,000 unemployed workers, totaling 4.8 percent of the work force. The state reported a preliminary 4.1 percent unemployment rate during January.
"Even though the rate is lower than other parts of the state, you usually always have somebody looking for work," said Sam Hall, the labor department's director of communications.
After running two newspaper ads and displaying a sign in front of the restaurant requesting applications, Werner said 75 people applied for positions, and more than 50 were hired.
Werner also owns Pierwood Construction Co. and said finding applicants for both businesses was not the problem. The challenge was finding dependable ones with a good work ethic, he said.
"Employees are everything," Werner said. "I'm telling you, it is hard to find good ones. That is probably true in almost every business, but it is real true it the restaurant business and real true in the construction business. It is very, very difficult to get good solid ones."
Two other restaurants that recently opened in the Evans area tried different tactics to bring in applicants.
Harold Dye owns Dye's Southern Grill, which opened Tuesday in the Columbia Square shopping center. He hired nearly 60 employees over a long period of time through classified ads.
"We didn't have any trouble with applications," Dye said. "Of course we started taking them about five weeks before we opened. So that may have helped.
"We're very happy so far with the wait staff and the kitchen crew. Of course everybody needs to work together for a while to get in step."
As Tom Clark watched his new business, Fatz Cafe, being built, he tried a high-tech approach to hiring. The restaurant is scheduled to open March 29 on the corner of Belair and Hereford Farm roads.
While Clark ran newspaper ads and placed a sign in front of the building still under construction, most of the 750 applicants downloaded applications off the Internet. Despite a slow start, Clark finished hiring Friday from the 750 applications he received.
"We selected 142 people, all of them positive and enthusiastic," Clark said. "Probably 70 percent came in with their applications all filled out that they downloaded off the Web site."
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