Saratoga County

More Lake George jobs will go to local workers this year

When The Great Escape opens its doors for the season next month, more of the workers will be home-gr

When The Great Escape opens its doors for the season next month, more of the workers will be home-grown.

And there will be fewer foreign workers this summer all up and down Canada Street in Lake George Village because of a glut of local adults out of work this year, business and tourism officials say.

“We have hired less internationally this year than we have in the past, as we look to fill most positions locally,” said Rebecca Valenti, spokeswoman for The Great Escape. “We’re proud to be able to offer jobs in this economy.”

The Queensbury amusement park’s seasonal work force will total 1,500, the same as in years past, Valenti said.

That’s a godsend to area residents who lost their jobs as the recession deepened this winter.

Unemployment in Glens Falls hit 10 percent in February, the most recent month for which state Department of Labor figures are available. Statewide, the jobless figure is 7.8 percent, the highest since 1993.

The Great Escape’s job fair last month attracted 500 job-seekers, the highest number the company has ever had. Another 1,000 people filed online applications before the job fair, Valenti said.

The Fort William Henry Resort and Conference Center also had a successful job fair last weekend, and the state Department of Labor plans one at the end of the month in Lake George, said Luisa Craige-Sherman, executive director of the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Staffing area hotels, restaurants and other attractions each year from May to October traditionally has been difficult, since American college students usually head back to school in late August or early September, she said.

“As the tourist destination grew, so did the demand for employment, and we physically did not have enough people in the area to satisfy the high demand,” Craige-Sherman said.

International students were favored because they could stay until the end of September. Many come from Eastern European countries.

But fewer will make the trip this year.

The Student Connection, a nonprofit group that was once run by the village and helps local and foreign students find jobs, has booked about 60 international students this year, compared to 140 last year, said village Mayor Robert Blais.

Some residents have resented the foreign workers.

“They shouldn’t think that we’re taking jobs from locals,” said Gerry Sullivan, director of The Student Connection. The foreign students usually fill the lowest-paying jobs that no one else wants — cleaning toilets and hotel rooms, busing tables and helping in restaurant kitchens, she said. “We’re enhancing everybody’s business.”

While the village usually hires between 12 and 16 foreign students to do meter enforcement and sanitation work and be restroom attendants and lifeguards, only four will be on the payroll this year, Blais said.

“We’ve been able to fill all the other positions with local residents that are seeking employment that are out of work,” he said. “These people who are out of work seem to be very pleased to find work of any nature just so they can make a living.”

The recession also has affected the total number of seasonal employees some businesses are hiring.

Blais is cutting back on his own summer staff this year at his Fun World arcade on Canada Street, hiring only the American students who worked for him last year and not hiring two international students, as he usually does.

“We’re hoping that people will look to our resort as a fairly reasonable place to go and not spend a lot of money,” he said. “Being realistic, we understand that certainly there’s going to be an impact on the number of days folks stay and what they spend.”

Craige-Sherman said businesses have told her they have about the same number of advance reservations as they had last year, and promoters like her are optimistic about the season.

People who do get jobs can earn money for four to five solid months, from the Memorial Day kickoff until the end of the fall foliage season.

June, once a fairly dead time in Lake George, is now bustling with activities like Americade, the Elvis Festival and the Hudson Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association Convention.

And the crowds usually continue until winter makes its first appearance.

“September and early October are very, very busy months for us in the hospitality industry here,” Craige-Sherman said. And workers can learn new skills that might translate into a year-round hospitality job at the end of the season, she said.

“It’s at least a good networking opportunity to find good full-time, year-round employment,” she said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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