The limited employment pool
As co-owner of the restaurant Brasserie L'Oustau I'm compelled to write after having learned of the possibility of yet another restaurant opening in town, reportedly at the almost-sure-to-proceed Hampton Inn. My concern is most likely not what many are expecting in light of the recent spat of challenges to the new business applications. I believe there is a much more serious issue to discuss than a competitive climate.
In the two and a half years since opening our doors we've seen two new restaurants launched and two others that are still being built with the blessing of the Town. Yet a third restaurant will not significantly affect the already steep challenges that exist to attract customers to our door.
Our concern is one that every local business shares; quite simply, there aren't enough people trained or interested in the service industry to fill the employment needs that already exist in Manchester. Additional strains on the limited pool of talent will affect every single restaurant or store established or yet to come, independent or franchise/chain.
Perhaps even more concerning than the lack of employable people is that there doesn't seem to be any effort or interest to attract, support and retain people for service jobs even as the town approves developing the hospitality and retail industries further.
What's missing is all too familiar to many residents who have solid middle-class salaries - affordable housing. The cost to commute without mass transit prohibits many other eligible employees from even applying for a job in the area. This town can approve all the lodging and food establishments that tourism can support but if the employees don't exist to provide quality hospitality - one that creates Manchester as an attractive and unique destination - the independent businesses that townspeople wish to attract and maintain will most certainly fail.
National chains come without the economic strains of privately owned and operated businesses, they network their employees, and they can offer higher salaries and compensation than independents. Simply put, without affordable housing independent businesses will likely lose to major brands.
Where does affordable housing come from? Town, state, private development? I don't know the answer to that question, but I sure would like someone to tell me where all our employees will be coming from if they can't afford to work here.
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