With the summer tourism season about to shift into high gear and Motorcycle Week entering the home stretch two local businesses have finally received an infusion of foreign workers they say is vital to their summer operations.
The workers arrived within the last 48 hours to take up jobs at the Naswa Resort in Weirs Beach and Hart’s Turkey Farm Restaurant in Meredith.
Cynthia Makris, of the Naswa, said the last of the workers — all from Jamaica — landed in the U.S. late Wednesday night and arrived at the resort early Thursday morning.
The Naswa received 16 workers under the H-2B visa program, which permits businesses to hire foreign workers on a seasonal basis.
Makris said the visas for the 16 Jamaicans were approved in late May. But it took almost two weeks for the workers to get their passports with the visas because of State Department bureaucracy, according to Ryan Nickel, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who intervened on the businesses’ behalf.
Makris said the senator’s involvement was critical to breaking the logjam.
“It was bureaucracy at its worst,” Makris said.
Of the 16 new workers, nine will work as cooks, while three will work as housekeepers, two as servers, and two on the resort’s front desk.
Not having the nine cooks put particular pressure on the Naswa’s food-service operations at the beginning of Bike Week, Makris said. All told, the resort will employ 24 cooks this summer.
Nickel said Shaheen personally made a call on June 5 to the State Department’s assistant secretary of consular affairs to expedite the visa process. In addition, members of the senator’s staff continued making calls to the State Department and the relevant U.S. embassies as recently as early this week.
“There was a holdup in getting the passports with the visas back to the individuals because of bureaucracy, and we had to step in,” Nickel said.
“Businesses in the Lakes Region and throughout the state are struggling with labor shortages, and temporary workers provide needed relief, especially during busy summer months,” Shaheen said in a statement released by her office Thursday. “I’m very relieved Hart’s Turkey Farm and Naswa Resort are finally getting the workers they’ve been waiting for.”
Efforts were made to get comment from Hart’s, but as of late afternoon Thursday the call had not been returned.
Makris said foreign workers are critical to seasonal businesses like the Naswa because very few local workers are interested in taking the jobs they have available. She said when the resort began advertising for housekeepers for this summer season, only one local person came in to apply.
“There is a need for seasonal, temporary workers,” Makris said. “We are not taking jobs away from Americans.”
To get the H-2B visas, businesses have to prove that they would suffer "irreparable harm" without extra workers. Only seasonal workers who have been previously cleared in the last three years are eligible.
In addition to seasonal resorts and businesses, fisheries and horticulture companies also rely on the visa program.