Housing woes hit Junction, too | AspenTimes.com

Housing woes hit Junction, too

Sharon Sullivan
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Masonry workers Jacob Lee, left, and Jordan Salazar prepare to cut rebar at a Grand Junction construction site on Monday. Work is not hard to come by in Grand Junction and Mesa County, but housing is. (Mike Wamsley/Free Press)

GRAND JUNCTION ” Need a job? Mesa County boasts bounty of employment opportunities, many with good benefits. But there’s a catch ” the same one that’s making hiring difficult from Colorado’s ski resorts to the western towns at the epicenter of the gas/oil boom ” housing.

There are plenty of full-time jobs with benefits available in Mesa County in far western Colorado, but there’s not enough affordable housing to go with them, said Sue Tuffin, director of Mesa County Workforce Center.

The workforce center currently has 1,200 job openings ” 60 percent of the available positions available in the county.

Those openings are just the jobs the workforce center knows about; the other 40 percent come from businesses like Halliburton that do their own hiring and others, Tuffin said.

Tuffin figured there are approximately 2,000 jobs available in all.

“The majority of those jobs ” 73 to 75 percent ” are full-time, benefited jobs,” she said.

The big employment sectors include transportation, health care, construction and energy. Available construction jobs range from laborers to electricians, plumbers and finish carpenters.

Energy sector employers are looking for truck drivers and engineers. There are also plenty of openings for local delivery drivers. Individuals enrolled in truck-driver training are employed before they finish school, said Tuffin.

Health-care jobs range from personal care providers to emergency nurses and physicians.

With an unemployment rate of 2.8 percent, and expectations for that number to drop further, the workforce center actively recruits workers to the Grand Valley.

“One of the greatest deterrents to bringing in young families is lack of housing,” Tuffin said.

The center has recruited returning veterans stationed at the Ft. Carson Army base at Colorado Springs to fill jobs in the valley.

“They’re coming back with marketable skills,” in such fields as communications, driving, mechanics, and welding, said Tuffin.

Several recently recruited families are staying in a campground while they search for a place to live, she said.

Bill Byers of Grand Valley Power said historically he’s never had a problem with hiring. “All of a sudden this year, we can’t find anyone. There’s no affordable housing,” he said.

And, with the competition of $25-an-hour energy industry jobs, many local businesses have had to increase their wages.

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