DOOR COUNTY, Wis. (WFRV) – Door County’s busiest time of the year is approaching.
“April and May is typically the time frame that our businesses that are seasonal are really trying to wrap up their staffing needs,” Jon Jarosh, Director of Communications and PR for Destination Door County told Local 5 Wednesday.
The J1 Visa program helps businesses up and down the peninsula fulfill those needs.
“J1’s typically are for college-aged students to come over here,” Jarosh explained, “and it’s really a cultural exchange type program. It helps those students learn about American culture and experience it while they’re working.”
The Landmark Resort in Egg Harbor would employee about 50 J1 students in a normal summer.
“We try to hire all the local kids that we can,” Rick Rogers, Operations Manager for The Landmark Resort explained, “but there just aren’t enough to fill the jobs, so they’re very important to helping us. They work in the restaurant, they work in laundry, they work in housekeeping.”
So far, a dozen J1 students have arrived to fill those roles at The Landmark for the 2021 season.
“We expect more,” Rogers said, “but the date we’re getting them, we don’t know.”
Rogers explained that students apply for a job first, and after they’re hired, they apply for a visa with the American Embassy in their country.
Who can make the trip as the coronavirus pandemic continues depends on which embassies are open.
So far, students from the Dominican Republic and Thailand have been able to secure their J1 Visas and arrive at The Landmark.
Wednesday morning, Rogers said he received word that the Romanian Embassy is opening soon.
“We’re waiting on Bulgaria,” he said, “and we were going to bring some students in from Turkey, but their embassies are not going to open up.”
Things are looking up for the resort: last year, only 19 students were able to make the trip because of the pandemic.
“We had reduced occupancy last year because people just weren’t traveling,” Rogers said.
This year, they’re anticipating a comeback
“It’ll be all hands on deck,” Rogers said. “We’ll shuffle people from departments, we’re offering overtime to the staff that we do have to make up the hours.”
They’ll find a way to make it work while waiting on the rest of the J1 students to make their way Stateside.
“Not so long ago, we weren’t sure if we’d get any of these students, so the fact that we’ve been able to welcome a few already is encouraging,” Jarosh said.