TV report helps Gould get employees |

TV report helps Gould get employees

Donna Gray
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Heavy equipment operator and Gould Construction supervisor Rick Valko of Brighton, Mich., is reflected in the mirror of a Caterpillar 950H loader Wednesday afternoon at the Burlingame Ranch construction project in Aspen. Valko moved to the area after seeing the TV special that featured Mark Gould expressing his frustration at having trouble finding workers. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Rick Valko has NBC to thank for getting him out of Michigan and into a good job and a new life in Glenwood Springs. On Dec. 26 Valko, 23, like millions of other viewers tuned into an NBC special TV show hosted by former news anchor Tom Brokaw about the national debate over illegal immigration.

The show focused on a Glenwood Springs contractor, Mark Gould, who spoke about his frustration at not being able to hire Americans to do the hand labor required to lay sewer pipe and sidewalks.

Gould relied on hiring Hispanic immigrants who jumped at the chance to make the $14 an hour he pays his laborers. Now, with new tighter immigration laws, Gould has to clear all workers through Homeland Security, which has hampered his ability to fill vacant positions.

After the TV show aired Gould received more than 600 phone calls and e-mails from people all over the country willing to relocate to work for him.

For Valko, a construction supervisor from Brighton, Mich., it was hard to believe there was a place where employers went looking for workers to fill jobs. “I thought it was a joke at first,” he said. “I had never heard of such a problem. It shocked me. In Michigan you don’t have that problem.”

With a downturn in the construction and automotive industries and workers laid off in the Midwest, jobs are hard to come by.

Valko also had a connection with the valley since a couple of his friends had moved to Glenwood Springs last November. They invited him out this winter to visit. He thought of the TV show. He said he walked into Gould Construction and was offered a job as a project supervisor.

He moved three weeks ago and is now living with his buddies but hopes to have an apartment soon and eventually a house. “It’s kind of wild. I love it here. It’s probably the best move I’ve ever made.”

Gould said the television exposure has helped with hiring this year. “We’ve hired 15 people who responded to the TV show,” he said.

He’s still in need of workers, however. His hope was to hire 15 laborers from Mexico under the federal government’s H-2B temporary guest worker program that grants visas for workers in agriculture, retail and construction jobs to come to the United States for less than one year.

Gould recently received a letter that said the quota of 66,000 workers had been reached and he wouldn’t be getting anyone.

“It’s frustrating because that was our one ace in the hole,” he said.

Currently, Gould said he’s hiring between six and eight people a week. But it’s early in the season. He hopes to fill the positions by the end of the month in preparation for his busy summer season.

Gould is also hoping Congress will increase the 66,000-person cap on the H-2B visas.

“Our economy needs to function properly, and it needs immigrant workers,” he said.

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