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Boreal Community Media

Lack of international workers hits Grand Marais businesses hard

Jul 02, 2021 12:09PM ● By Editor

Photo: CBS 3

By Quinn Gorham of CBS 3 Duluth - July 1,  2021

Businesses in Grand Marais are struggling to field a full staff as they reopen from the pandemic.

The popular destination on the North Shore relies heavily on its tourism and hospitality industries, as they account for nearly 80% of its revenue.

Cook County, where Grand Marais is located, is only home to around 5,200 people.

The city sees thousands of visitors each year, so to meet business demands, it often needs to look elsewhere to find employees.

Many businesses in Grand Marais hire temporary seasonal employees from overseas, on J1 visas.

Since the start of the pandemic, however, international employees on such visas are much more difficult to come by.

Sven & Ole's is one of those struggling.

"Once [international workers] couldn't come over… we [couldn't] do anything near what we used to do," says Sid Backlund, owner of Sven & Ole's.

City officials say this isn't a new problem for Grand Marais, but an existing one that was exaggerated by the pandemic.

"We've always been on the cutting edge of not having sufficient staff, because we're a county of only 5,200 people, but we're one of the premier hospitality destinations in Minnesota," says Jim Boyd, Executive Director of the Cook County Chamber of Commerce.

They believe staffing in Cook County should eventually return to normal, as things reopen internationally. 

To watch the video version this report and see related reporting, follow this link to the CBS 3 website.

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