FOND DU LAC — The nationwide worker shortage has been adding pressure on employers across virtually all sectors of the workforce, and northeast Wisconsin is no exception.
Data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce indicates that there are currently 10.7 million open jobs in the United States and 5.7 unemployed workers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the Fond du Lac metropolitan area was at 3.1% in June, down from a pandemic peak of over 16% in April 2020.
With fewer workers, many local businesses are struggling to stay fully staffed.
To address the issue, Fond du Lac County, Envision Greater Fond du Lac, and Fond du Lac Capital Resources are partnering to offer monetary incentives in hopes of mitigating the problem.
If an employer is pursuing a candidate who would be fully employed and living in Fond du Lac County, the employer can offer the candidate a relocation incentive of up to $15,000. And after 12 months, the county will reimburse the employer for half of the total incentive (a maximum of $7,500).
“We've had a variety of employers from across the county utilize the program,” Bernadette Erickson, director of business client services at Greater Fond du Lac, said. “So in terms of size of the organization, it can be a small, local, Mom-and-Pop owned business or a larger employer in the county.”
One employer who took advantage of the program was Dawn Nelson of Zacherl Funeral Home, a family-owned funeral home that’s been owned by the Zacherl family for five generations.
“Every funeral home is looking for talented funeral directors,” Nelson said. “It's a shortage everywhere, including the state of Wisconsin. So anything that you can do to incentivize and to bring really great talent onto your team is really awesome.”
Dawn’s search for a new funeral director led her to Megan Thulien, who was living in Wyoming then.
Thulien said the $4,000 relocation incentive she was offered by Zacherl was a big reason she decided to take the job.
“You know with the cost of everything going up since COVID, it was a little difficult to make the decision, ‘Okay, do I pack up my life once more and move back to Wisconsin after I really had just gotten settled?’ I had only been in Wyoming for a year at the time,” Thulien said.
The program launched in Sept. 2021. Of the $300,000 earmarked for these relocation grants, $57,000 of it has been used to recruit 13 candidates.
“If an employer is serious about gathering employees, there's not a choice for it anymore,” Thulien said. “You can't just say, ‘Hey, we're really great company—come work for us.’ You have to make people want to come work for you. And I mean, money is king.”
Erickson said she hopes more companies will apply for the program in the future.
“We know it's a great place to live,” Erickson said. “We know you can make a great living here. So we want to help more employers recruit the talent they need.”
More information on how to apply can be found on the Envision Greater Fond du Lac website.