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The Mountain West News Bureau is a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Rural Areas Are Trying To Draw In More Workers

A Phoenix Haus home under construction. Phoenix Haus is a rural company that benefits from Jump Start Colorado.
A Phoenix Haus home under construction. Phoenix Haus is a rural company that benefits from Jump Start Colorado.

Today’s jobs report that puts unemployment at a low of 3.9%  is not necessarily good news for companies competing for potential workers, especially in rural areas, where it’s already challenging to attract labor. Businesses and governments are coming up with creative solutions.

Carolyn Lee is with the Manufacturing Institute, the nonprofit arm of the National Association of Manufacturers. She said some rural companies are offering higher wages and benefits and even transportation and better on-site food services to recruit and keep employees.

“Because without the workers, they cannot compete,” she said.

Lee said government programs can help too.  For example, Jump Start Colorado helps rural companies train their workforce as well as exempting them from state taxes.

That helps Bill McDonald, who runs . The business designs and builds energy efficient homes in Grand Junction, Colorado. The equipment McDonald uses to manufacture homes is costly “and we have the ability to have a reduction in our overall taxes,” he said.

The Manufacturing Institute’s Carolyn Lee added housing for potential workers in rural areas is also a challenge and public private partnerships are needed to help solve this issue.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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