In the Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities, the most famous quote from the book just might be, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Some folks might say we're going through the exact same thing here in Bozeman. In fact, in a lot of ways, Bozeman is a tale of two cities. There is the old Bozeman that so many folks remember and love: that old cowboy town where everyone knew everyone. Then there is the new Bozeman, which features million-dollar condos, 10-dollar coffees, and many folks moving here from other places.

For many people, these are the best of times. For others, not so much—and that includes a whole lot of small businesses here in town.

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One of the hardest things small businesses in Bozeman are dealing with right now is a lack of good, quality employees. A quick drive around town and you will see multiple "We're Hiring" signs and often an hourly wage attached to the sign as well.

In fact, just on my drive home from work each day, I pass a sign that says "25 Dollars an Hour" and another that says "23 Dollars an Hour". Based on a 40-hour work week, that's right around 50 thousand dollars a year. I can tell you that it took a whole lot of years doing what I do to make that much. However, according to several experts, it's not just happening here in Bozeman; it's happening all over the United States.


But why? According to Market Place, they say that it's a combination of reasons.

"Labor economists and researchers say the lack of robust child care infrastructure, low wages, poor working conditions and the health issues associated with long COVID may be preventing some people from returning to work. Millions of Americans have also retired early in the last two years."

So what does that mean for small businesses here in Bozeman? Several of these businesses are paying much more than the national average and still, they have issues finding employees.

So who do we blame? The young people that "don't want to work" or the Boomers that have all retired? I'm guessing that depends on which generation you ask.

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Chee Siong Teh

The local argument, of course, will be "It's expensive to live in Bozeman." Trust me, I know. My wife and I have a two bedroom, one bath apartment and we play almost $2,300 a month. How in the world are small businesses supposed to pay their employees enough to live here AND still make a profit? The math just doesn't add up.

I think one of the major issues we face is just the changing of times. We've gone from "What the boss says goes," to "Yea, I don't like your vibe right now and I'm going to require a mental health day." The working world has completely changed.

I can tell you this much, though. If I was a teenager and could work part-time making 20+ bucks working fast food while in school, I'd be flipping burgers in a heartbeat.


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