From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 16 - 12/16/99
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Company Offers Mexican Laborers to Pinedale Employers
This is a change, but does it signify "resortification" of Pinedale?
by Jennifer Binning

Recently, Lori McCune of Driggs, Idaho placed an ad in the Sublette County Journal looking for employers who may be in need of seasonal labor. Ms. McCune owns "McCune's Bilingual Services" which provides temporary legal work permits for seasonal alien workers. Most of the employees Ms. McCune places are from Southern Mexico or South America.

Ms. McCune told the Journal that she has received calls from two business owners in Pinedale looking for housekeeping help during the summer tourist season.

According to Betsy Marston, Editor of the High County News in Colorado, this is a definite sign the economy of Pinedale is undergoing "resortification," or a change from the historically agricultural economic base of Pinedale to a new, service based tourist economy, not unlike that of Jackson Hole.

Maggie McAllister of the Pine Creek Inn was one of the first to call Ms. McCune about getting some help at her motel during the summer. Ms. McAllister says she called because she is having a very difficult time finding reliable help in Pinedale. She states she had a "help wanted" sign in her window all year and she struggled to find workers. She hired two high school students who worked out very well for her, but she was still short-handed. Ms. McAllister says she is paying $7.00 per hour to start, so she feels the wage is not the problem. People simply do not want to work in "menial, labor-intensive jobs."

Ms. Marston says that other indicators of resortification include how the average service industry wage compares with the home rental and real estate market. By and large, the average service wage in Pinedale has remained fairly low, while the cost to buy or rent a home in the area continues to climb. Some extrapolate this to mean that wealthy, part-time homeowners are moving into the area and inflating real estate prices without contributing significantly to the local economy on a year-round basis.

In the case of Jackson Hole, real estate prices soared out of control and the rent on the Square became so high so as to essentially exclude locally owned businesses. National chains like the Gap and Ralph Lauren, who could afford the high rent, moved in, and the old, family-owned stores were forced onto side streets, or out of business altogether.

Does the fact that legal or illegal alien workers are coming to Pinedale to work in the service industry signify an irreversible change in the economy? Ms. Marston isn't sure "It is definitely a sign of change," she notes, however "we are guilty of calling anything a trend," where perhaps no trend exists.

Even if the introduction of seasonal alien workers into Pinedale does not signify a radical change of the economic base, there may be other dangers to this practice, warns Ms. Marten. Many of these migrant workers are entrepreneurs who come to the west and work as hard as they can and make as much money as they can. They also save as much of that money as possible by sharing the cost of rent with other migrant workers. The money they make in Pinedale does not stay in Pinedale, she says. It goes back to Mexico or South America where it props up their economy.

Ms. McCune disagrees with this assessment. She feels the workers she places in Wyoming make a significant, even if small, contribution to the local economy. They must pay the rent and buy food and clothing, as well as contribute to the various state and federal unemployment funds and Social Security and Medicare just as any other worker does, American or not.

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Copyright © 1999 The Sublette County Journal
All rights reserved. Reproduction by any means must have permission of the Publisher.
The Sublette County Journal, PO Box 3010, Pinedale, WY 82941   Phone 307-367-3713
Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul