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The mission of the Cook County Chamber of Commerce is to be the representative voice of county for-profit and non-profit businesses in working to improve the county economy and to address pressing county socioeconomic issues.
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Welcome to the Chamber

Finding new sources for Cook County Workers

Dear Cook County employers:

A great deal has happened since the early meetings last fall on developing alternative sources for employees rather than importing J1 and H2B visa holders. We wanted to bring you all up to date and also request that you provide us with information on your  staffing needs for the coming summer season and beyond.
  1. Shawn Kerfoot: Shawn runs a traditional J1 visa employment service from Pine County. Several Cook County employers use her service. Shawn has the ability to recruit workers in east central Minnesota, with a focus on young people who have graduated high school but do not wish to move to the cities in search of opportunity. These are young people who prefer small-town life and might be especially interested in the North Shore/North Woods lifestyle. Shawn is being paid from a $10,000 Workforce Recruitment fund generated by the Chamber from a number of West End employers to help get this effort off the ground.
  2. Pamela Qujada is recruiting hospitality workers from Puerto Rico for employers in Cook County and having significant success. Puerto Rico was chosen as a target because so many hospitality workers were displaced by Hurricane Maria. Pamela worked for Lutsen Mountains and AmericInn in Tofte as a J1 worker. She is now back in Peru and does her recruiting via email, phone and Skype. Pamela is being paid from the same Workforce Recruitment fund as Shawn Kerfoot.
  3. We are developing an online job board for Cook County employers that will allow employers to list job openings and allow potential workers to submit applications. Both Shawn Kerfoot and Pamela Qujada will also  be able to refer to the job board as they seek to recruit workers. The website is just in its beginning stages of development and may require a month or two before it comes on line.
  4. One of the major areas of worker shortage is in culinary arts. In part, that shortage is caused by a lack of affordable culinary training opportunities. Two prominent Twin Cities culinary schools have closed because the cost of the training they provided was so high and the wages of the entry-level jobs that culinary graduates could get were so low that student shied away from the programs.
To fill this culinary training gap, the Chamber has brought together ISD 166, Cook County Higher Ed, the IRRRB and Hibbing Community College in a collaborative effort to offer culinary training at Cook County High School.

You may recall that when ISD 166 received voter approval for a bond issue several years ago, one item on the list for financing with those bonds was about $1.2 million in new culinary training space and equipment. The new equipment and facilities are scheduled to be ready for use by this fall.

And if everything goes as planned, in January, Hibbing Community College will be offering a one-year certificate program in culinary arts at Cook County High School. The plan is that the students in this culinary program will be simultaneously put to work in the kitchens of local resorts and restaurants. Our hope is that these students will be able to leave their training program debt free or with a very low level of debt. And of course we will encourage them to remain in Cook County and encourage county employers to hire them.

This culinary program is incredibly exciting, and we can’t wait to see it actually launched in January 2019.  All of the agencies involved are working diligently to make this program happen. This level of collaboration among so many agencies is extremely gratifying to see.
YOU can help us a great deal by sending me an email that answers the following questions:
  1. How many seasonal workers will you need for the coming summer season, for how long and for what sort of work? Please list the number of workers, the type of work and the start and end dates. For example:
  • 6 culinary workers to start May 15 and end Oct. 15
  •  8 housekeepers, 4 to start June 1 and 4 to start June 15, all to end Oct. 31
  • 4 landscape workers to start as soon as possible and end Oct. 31
  • 3 maintenance workers to start May 1, two ending Oct. 31 and one to fill a permanent position.  
     2. How many of those positions  do you anticipate will you be able to fill with J1 or H2B visa holders? Also list these numbers by work category.

     3. Which of your open positions would you like us to list with Shawn Kerfoot? These are likely to be workers with little hospitality industry experience.

     4.Which of  your open positions would you like us to list with Pamela Qujada? Remember, these are very likely to be workers with significant experience in hospitality.

     5.We will need to collect a fee for each opening listed with Shawn or Pamela and a  larger fee for each worker successfully placed with your business. Those fees have not been set, but they very likely would run in the neighborhood of $25 per listing and $250 per employee placement.

     6.For those of you with kitchens, please indicate the number of culinary student workers you could commit to employing year round beginning next January. It will be necessary to place each culinary student in a job for the duration of their training.

Thanks for your help moving these workforce recruitment and development efforts forward. We think we are making significant progress. 


Business Award Winners for 2017

At the annual Visit Cook County/Cook County Chamber Fall Gala last week, winners were announced for the three annual business awards the Chamber presents. The winners, in the photo below, are Barry Pederson of North Shore Waste, winner of the Business of the Year Award; Baiers Heeren of North Shore Title, winner of the Entrepreneur of the Year Award; Dustin Hanson, also of North Shore Waste, and Jan Sivertson, winner of Community Business Leader of the Year. Congratulations to these three and to all the other well deserving nominees.

Langford Canoe Goes to Bloomington, MN, Man
The suspense is over. On Oct. 21, Murray Moose drew the winning raffle ticket for our Langford Canoe. And the winner was: Ron Wutchiett of Bloomington, MN. In the photo below, Murray is handing the winning ticket to Jim Boyd, Chamber executive director.

The canoe was delivered to Mr. Wutchiett in the middle of a snow storm on Friday, Oct. 27. Mr Wutchiett, who was quite excited to be the new owner of a Langford Prospector,  is an old hand at caring for wooden canoes, so the Langford is in very good hands.

In our raffle, we sold just more than $17,000 in tickets. After all expenses are paid, we should net around $12,000 for the 2018 Great Place Project. You can learn more about the Great Place Project by going here: http://becausemovingmatters.org/greatplaceproject/

Thanks to everyone who helped make the raffle a success. 

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