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Buffalo Niagara Partnership surveys businesses, many still struggle to find qualified help

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Posted at 5:09 PM, Oct 19, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Niagara Partnership surveyed its members to see how businesses are doing more than 18 months into the pandemic.

“What’s negative about the survey is workforce, workforce, workforce,” President and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership Dottie Gallagher said.

The top concern right now for employers in the Buffalo-Niagara region is finding and retaining qualified talent. 83% of employers have unfilled positions right now and 77% are planning to add employees.

“I think employers really have to brace themselves for the fact that this a long-term issue,” President of Confer Plastics Bob Confer said.

Confer said their staffing issues haven’t been dire, but they have made some changes. Their starting wage is up to $17 per hour. And the survey shows he is not alone, 45% of businesses said they will raise salaries to address labor shortages.

“There’s just going to be, over the long term, fewer people to recruit,” Confer said.

Gallagher said many businesses are still feeling pandemic effects, but workforce retention was an issue before COVID-19.

“We’re still not an inbound location for migration of new workers,” Gallagher said.

71% of businesses said they plan to or are thinking about letting employees work remotely long term. 23% said they see their need for office space decreasing over the next two to five years.

Confer said it’s important to develop local businesses, rather than outsourcing.

“That’s really going to impact economic development in Western New York,” Confer said.

And 57% of businesses said the U.S.-Canada border closure negatively impacted them.

“We really do need that free-flow of people and goods and services across the border,” Gallagher said.

But it’s not all bad news, 46% of businesses saw an increase in sales and revenue, that’s a 28-point improvement from last year. And only 6% project a decrease in revenue, down 47 points from last year.

“It’s exciting to be in a position where businesses are really looking at recovering, growing and really moving forward,” Gallagher said.