As Bozeman Struggles To Find Workers, Is This The Best Option?
We're going to talk about a couple of things that are talked about a lot here in Bozeman and Gallatin Country.
First, we're going to talk about the worker shortage that is taking place around town and the county. In fact, I was driving down 7th Avenue here in Bozeman the other day and saw that one of the tire stores was offering 25 dollars an hour to start.
When I started out in radio back in the early '90s, I made 4.50 an hour. I realize that was a while ago, but the idea of 25 bucks an hour seems like a pretty good deal until you realize that 25 bucks an hour won't get you too far here in Bozeman.
Let's break it down, shall we? If you're a single person and living by yourself making 25 dollars an hour and working full time, that comes out to around 40 something thousand a year after taxes, and on 40 something thousand a year, you're going to be scraping by here in Bozeman with the cost of living right now.
Then, of course, there is a shortage of housing for folks. I mean, there are people that are living in Vans, RVs, and Campers on the side of the road because they can't find a place to live. Many of them are working, but as mentioned above, they're not making enough to pay the prices that Bozeman's landlords are asking.
The Gallatin Association of Realtors recently came out with their numbers for January of this year and guess what, yep, the cost of housing continues to skyrocket. In fact, in the last year alone, the median single-family home price has gone up 45 percent. Yes, you read that right, it's gone up almost half.
Here's the crazy part, none of this is stopping people from moving here.
So, what is the solution? How do you continue to find workers while offering wages, that are generous for most of the country, but don't pay the bills here in Bozeman? I'm afraid the answer to that question is more technology and fewer humans.
I'm afraid the future is...Self Checkout.
Self-Checkout and Kiosks are becoming more and more popular and we're seeing more and more of them popping up around Bozeman and Gallatin County. Think about this, you sell your home on the west coast and you decide to move to Bozeman. Of course, you're working from home, because, I mean...duh, who doesn't these days?
Let's say you go to your favorite coffee shop, and instead of someone greeting you behind the counter, you just go up to the touch screen computer, put in your order, and then the fancy new Coffee King 3000 goes to work and makes your coffee for you.
The Coffee King 3000 of course is a hefty investment, but over time pays for itself and doesn't require benefits or a 401K. Oh, and it's not just coffee that they can do this with, the technology is out there to totally revamp how we think about brick and mortar stores.
Do I like this option? Absolutely not. I think it's a horrible idea. I believe we need more customer service, not less. However, as long as home and rent prices continue to soar and as long as people can't afford to live here on service industry incomes, it looks like it's more and more feasible.