Strong winds and rain have left many areas in Northeast Ohio cleaning up damage, especially from fallen trees. But the companies called to help clean up after the weather passes are struggling to meet the high demand due to staffing shortages.
Seth Harrison, owner of Nature's Beauty Tree Service, said he and his crew can't get to everyone who is calling to request their services and clean up after the storms.
"I can't get to everybody. I've got a lot of phone calls but I can't get to them because I've got a long list already waiting," Harrison said.
The demand for local tree services was already high with people wanting to work on projects around the house—the recent storm damage only increased that demand.
Harrison, like other business owners across Northeast Ohio, said he's looking to hire and is hoping anyone who wants a job applies.
"Tree climber, groundsman, anybody with some common sense basically," he said. "We'll train the rest."
Not only is Harrison's industry dealing with a shortage after the pandemic, landscape companies were facing a worker issue after changes to the H-2B visa system at the start of 2020.
In February of last year, the visas process became a lottery which significantly cut the number of people eligible for the visa. H-2B visas are used for temporary, seasonal workers -- workers which the landscape industry relies on. The Ohio Landscape Association (OLA) reports there are more than 120 landscape companies in Northeast Ohio that use workers on H-2B visas.
"I got guys coming in from another company just to help me out on the weekends just because we're short," Harrison said about how he's making it work. But, the extra help isn't enough.
"You just feel bad, losing out on a job, after you already sold the job," he said.
Along with the clean-up work expected during the summer storm season, Harrison and other landscape companies are in demand after pandemic-related work.
"It started last year with the pandemic and people being home and wanting to improve their living spaces," said Sandy Munley with the OLA. "They weren't going on vacation, so they were taking the funds that they might have spent on a vacation and investing in their home."
Harrison admits the mixture of a shrinking workforce and growing workload isn't working.
"It's been bad. It's been bad," he said.
Tree services are just one of many business areas impacted by the labor shortage. Restaurants, nursing homes and even amusement parks like Cedar Point have struggled to be fully staffed.
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