MINOCQUA - Tourism brings big business to the Northwoods, but some business owners in the area aren't able to find enough employees to keep up with demand.
After many business owners approached the Minocqua Chamber of Commerce about the employment shortage issue, the chamber decided it was time to get everyone brainstorming.
"The uniqueness of the small business community that we have here in the Northwoods is what makes this such a wonderful place," said Kurt Justice, who owns Kurt's Island Sports Shop.
But those small businesses, like Kurt's Island Sports Shop, are struggling in a very important area.
"We have the jobs, we just don't have the bodies to fill them," said Justice.
"It's been difficult," said Beacons of Minocqua Resort Director Mary Martin.
Martin has noticed the employment issue, too.
"Minocqua is a premier destination," said Martin. "And if we want to continue for that to be the case, we have to be able to provide the service that goes along with that."
The Minocqua Chamber of Commerce hoped to hear some potential solutions Tuesday at a roundtable discussion that included around 50 different business owners.
"This is really just the starting point. We're looking to really develop from here but at least get everyone around the table and really spitball those ideas," said Executive Director Krystal Westfahl.
One of those ideas is to potentially create a housing complex for students and others who want to come and work in the Northwoods.
"Here at the Beacons we've had foreign people come and work for us, and they're very, very hard workers," said Martin. "But you have to be able to provide the housing, and we're not in a position here to do that."
Regardless of what's discussed, both Martin and Justice are glad to be a part of the conversation.
"I like that better than just someone trying to move ahead with something without the public's input," said Justice.
"I think that we need to find solutions because there are some businesses that haven't survived," said Martin.
A conversation that's just getting started.
"There's just so many possibilities. We just don't know which way to go at this point," said Westfahl. "So we want to throw everything on the table and see what works for all of us.
Westfahl said the hope is that a task force can be created to work on some of the ideas discussed on Tuesday.