Wisconsin Tourism chief considering in-state jobs strategy

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WI
July 17 2004

Tourism chief considering in-state jobs strategy
Overseas workers nab much of the summer employment


Wisconsin’s top tourism official is considering stepped-up efforts to
promote summer job opportunities in the tourism industry as many
attractions recruit workers from overseas despite unemployment here.

Tourism Secretary Jim Holperin said he has no indication that theme
parks and other popular destinations are intentionally passing over
Wisconsin workers. But he said the state lacks a comprehensive
strategy for matching Wisconsin’s jobless to tourism jobs, which
often go to workers from Poland, Finland or other foreign countries.

A state job center in Wisconsin Dells, for example, has stopped
sending representatives to job fairs in Milwaukee, relying instead on
the Internet to reach job seekers in the state’s largest metropolitan

“There might be a programmatic gap,” Holperin said, meaning not
everyone who needs a job is being reached by existing programs.

Destinations in the Dells, Door County and other popular tourist
spots began wide-scale recruiting of foreign workers, typically
college students, when low unemployment in the late 1990s created a
labor shortage. Although the economy has since gone flat and
Wisconsin joblessness is up, many attractions continue hiring from
out of the country for their summer seasonal help, citing other
forces in the marketplace.

Some say residents who live in Milwaukee and those who live in other
areas of high unemployment cannot be coaxed into relocating for the
summer, and that young people in Wisconsin generally must return to
school before the tourist season ends.

At Landmark Resort in Door County, Personnel Director Joanne Stanzel
has hired several college-aged students from Armenia and Romania,
primarily for housekeeping jobs.

Stanzel said some Wisconsin residents seem uninterested in the
drudgery of scrubbing bathrooms and arranging bedsheets.

“Even in desperate times they don’t want to do housekeeping,” she
said. “It’s sad to say.”

One housekeeper, Lilit Vasilyan of Romania, said she worked as a
waitress in her home country but wanted to visit the United States
this summer to improve her English.

Vasilyan, 20, said she is enjoying her job at Landmark and is most
impressed by Door County’s natural scenery.

“I imagined how it would be,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”