Tester hears economic issues from Havre businesswomen

Havre Daily News

by Tim Leeds

Montana’s U.S. Sen. Jon Tester heard concerns from Havre businesswomen and from economic developers that may not be what he would hear in other parts of the country — problems include not being able to find enough qualified workers, housing for workers or daycare for working parents.

Christine Holden, who owns and operates Holden’s Hot Wheels with her husband, Shawn, told Tester Monday that their business stayed steady through the recession. Their larger problem is finding qualified workers to hire, she said.

Debbie Vandeberg, executive director of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, said lack of quality housing, especially apartments, makes it hard to attract workers and businesses.

Another issue is a shortage of quality child care.

Jennifer Kinsella, manager of Holland & Bonine, said she will have to hold a property for two months to make sure an employee who will be coming to work at the mortuary has a place to live.

“It’s just ridiculous,” she said.

Kinsella agreed that, along with the housing, finding quality workers and finding daycare for workers with family also are major problems in the area — when people want to come to work here, they have trouble finding a residence and daycare.

“It’s just a Catch-22,” she said.

Tester said that, on the housing side, he will do some research on programs that could help finding financing for people wanting to build new residences, apartments or single-family homes. Some programs may be able to help with that issue, he said.

Tester was in mid-swing on meetings Monday when he met with the Havre business representatives.

He met with tribal council members at Fort Belknap Indian Reservation earlier, and with veterans at the reservation and with people at the tribal college.

Tester was scheduled to meet veterans at the Havre VA clinic after the Havre business meeting.