MOREHEAD, Ky. (LEX 18) — After 13 years of ownership at Gatti’s Pizza in Morehead, Dana Brown knows what it takes to run a restaurant. But after more than a year of pandemic closures, she didn’t realize how difficult it could be to expand her staff.
“It’s just been really hard, you know,” she told LEX18. “It’s not that people don’t want to work. It’s that they don’t want to work this type of job.”
For months, she’s been searching for new employees to hire and train, all so she can keep going as the state reopens.
“Honestly, if you want your restaurants to be open, we are going to have to have somebody come work,” Brown said.
It’s a common refrain among business owners and officials in Rowan County.
“Help wanted signs everywhere you go,” said Dylan Lambert, the executive secretary for Judge/Executive Harry Clark.
Those signs are why he helped create a new program for the county. It’s called the Regional Workforce Application Pool, and the goal is to connect prospective employers with job seekers, all in one spot online.
“Coming out of the pandemic, a lot of people unfortunately lost their employment, a lot of our local businesses are looking for labor,” Lambert said. “We thought this would be something creative we could do to connect the two.”
According to Lambert, more than a dozen businesses (including Gatti’s) have signed up to gain access to the pool, and they’ve had more than 30 applicants.
All it takes is a ten-minute application, and job-seekers’ information is sent out to a range of hiring managers across multiple industries.
“A lot of them are decent-paying jobs,” said Lambert. “Skilled jobs, mechanics, heavy equipment operators, things like that. Office work, clerical work. There’s some good gigs in there.”
He says some people have even been hired, welcome news to the Morehead-Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.
“The economy is ready to go,” said Jason Slone, the president and CEO of the organization. “We’re on the cusp of really breaking this thing loose. We just need people to be able to provide those basic services and to be able to help those businesses take the next step forward.”
Slone is encouraging people to take advantage of this time, when businesses are struggling to find employees and will often get creative with scheduling and salaries to attract more workers.
“We have some manufacturers in our community who are currently working 7 days a week, 12 hour shifts, as hard as they can go, just to be able to keep up with demand,” he said.
He says the application pool is just another creative way of getting people in the region back to work.
As Brown adapts to a changing restaurant industry, she hopes Gatti’s can keep up with the economy. She says she knows working in a restaurant can be fast-paced, and sometimes stressful. But she’s raised her starting wage, hoping to attract workers to help keep the “Open” sign on for another 13 years.
“I’m confident we can make it through all this,” said Brown.
For more information about the regional workforce application, and to fill out an application, click here: Regional Workforce Application Pool — Rowan County, Kentucky.
If you are a business owner who’s interested in gaining access to the hiring pool, email Dylan Lambert at email@example.com.