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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Employer Survey on use of International Workers05-10-2017
Dear Cook County Employer:
The Cook County Chamber, Visit Cook County and Cook County-Grand Marais EDA are working together to advocate beneficial federal visa policies for international workers. We need your help with a survey to make the strongest case.
Here first is a little background:
As you know and we recognize, more than in any other county in Minnesota, businesses and residents of Cook County depend on a successful summer tourism season to generate the revenue necessary to survive. Our tourism sector isn’t just an integral part of our economy; it basically IS our economy.
But keeping tourism thriving isn’t easy: Cook County employers face unique challenges in securing the workforce needed to provide the quality service and experiences that satisfy tourists and bring them back. With an unemployment rate that dips below 3 percent in the summer, we clearly do not have sufficient workers available locally. International workers are very important to ensuring adequate summer staffing.
This summer appears headed for the most extreme labor shortage in recent memory, and part of that shortage appears to be a direct result of problems with the H2B visa program, especially the failure to renew an exemption from the visa cap for returning workers. That has left a number of Cook County employers wondering how in the world they will put together a staff for the 2017 season.
Some relief should be forthcoming: President Trump now has signed the omnibus spending bill to keep the federal government operating until September, and that bill added an additional 70,000 visas to the H2B program for this year. But that still leaves the total number of H2B workers for 2017 at more than 100,000 fewer than in 2016.
Meanwhile, the other visa program critically important in Cook County, the J1 visa for college students, has grown increasingly complicated and expensive for employers. It also could become a target of the Trump administration’s immigration policies, as candidate Trump advocated the program’s termination.
The Chamber, VCC and EDA are drafting joint letters to each member of the Minnesota congressional delegation outlining our critical need for H2B and J1 workers. We will ask their assistance in developing more accommodating federal policies that would streamline the visa process, reduce its cost and raise the number of allowed foreign workers.
To help us make the case that international workers are critically important for the health of the Cook County economy, we would like you to tell us how many H2B and J1 visa workers you employ in 2017, how many you would like to employ and what you see as the most significant difficulties with the visa programs that you would like to see fixed. Please help us by taking this short online survey. It does not require that you reveal your identity. And please accept our thanks for your help.
Also, if you would forward this email to all your business acquaintances, that would help us ensure we reach all Cook County employers who employ or would like to employ international workers.
You can find the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KNTM673
Jim Boyd, Cook County Chamber
Linda Jurek, Visit Cook County
Mary Somnis, Cook County-Grand Marais EDA