MYRTLE BEACH — Brad Dean, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, told a U.S. House subcommittee Wednesday that the process for hiring foreign workers to fill seasonal jobs needs to be streamlined to best serve the needs of the businesses that critically need temporary employees.
Dean told the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access that Grand Strand businesses hire students and senior residents for seasonal jobs, “Yet, despite our best efforts, there are never enough workers to fill the open jobs.”
Normally, businesses must deal with several federal agencies to hire foreign workers, Dean said, but this year the situation has been made worse because two of those agencies stopped processing foreign worker visa applications for a month, and the federal government developed a new formula for calculating the wages the workers must be paid.
The wage change, said U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach and the subcommittee’s chairman, caused an average wage increase of 32.3 percent.
“The impact of the increased costs is especially significant for small businesses that have set their seasonal rates or have existing contracts,” Rice said.
Dean said that streamlining the process through less bureaucracy would be one way to help small businesses fill their seasonal workforce needs. The additional workers, he said, are critical to properly serve the Grand Strand’s 15 million annual tourists. Their dissatisfaction with Grand Strand vacations would impact not only businesses directly related to tourism, but also those that depend on them.
Depressing the market would lead to the need for fewer full-time employees, Dean said.
Rice said he is concerned that the seasonal foreign worker program may be regulated out of existence.
“Seasonal hiring for 2013 was deterred for several weeks and that has already impacted our local market,” Dean said.
Rice made reducing regulations on small businesses one of the cornerstones of his campaign last year to become the first representative of the newly-created 7th Congressional District.
He said then that overregulation and uncertainty about new regulations were stifling economic growth.
“... I humbly offer this gentle reminder that the laws you create can cultivate a climate that provides small businesses greater confidence and clarity, a willingness to invest and grow,” Dean testified, “and the opportunity to succeed.”
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.