Employer in action: Cherry Republic Investing in Workforce Housing
Some major northern Michigan employers have just taken to incorporating housing as one of their benefits for seasonal hiring. Going back as far as 2018, Cherry Republic has been working hard to provide workforce housing for their employees. Why is this so important? And why did Bob Sutherland, CEO of Cherry Republic choose to do this? According to Bob: “The lack of affordable housing for employees has been a real challenge in Leelanau County. I hope by investing in housing for our employees we can alleviate that issue a bit and help attract those wanting to work in our beautiful area this summer.”
In 2020, Cherry Republic hired Leah M. to lead their program and focus on housing their employees. Leah as the workgroups and housing supervisor for Cherry Republic. The company hires 109 season workers for its stores, restaurant and warehouse in Glen Arbor, Empire and Traverse City. According to Leah (pronounced Lay-a) “We’re sitting pretty well right now in regard to hiring. We’re pretty confident with our numbers.”
"The housing process has been very helpful and a crucial part of my summer in Glen Arbor. It has allowed me to stay in a beautiful area, make new connections, and work through the summer without having to worry about finding a place to stay on my own. The experience alone is worth it and I would definitely come back!" said Julia Kusmierczyk, Glen Arbor Retail.
Many of those hired by the company are local, and Cherry Republic also owns a home in Glen Arbor Township that houses 10 employees and recently purchased another in Maple City that houses six. Another 16 people are housed in a dorm at the Leelanau School, and other employees are from a workamper program where people live in their RVs at a local campground and work from May through October. The workampers are still there after college kids go back to school and the fall color season ramps up, Moskovitz said.
According to Nicole Agruda, HR director for Cherry Republic, which has locations in downtown Traverse City and Glen Arbor, the business has invested in employee housing in recent years and is now able to offer 30 beds to non-local hires for summer 2021.
A 2020 survey conducted by Sleeping Bear Gateways Council 62% Agree (somewhat or strongly) that it is difficult finding enough housing for seasonal workers. This same study pointed out the need for a considerable need for seasonal workforce housing in the gateway communities of Leelanau and Benzie Counties, especially in Glen Arbor, Thompsonville and Frankfort/Elberta and especially between May and October. The lack of housing causes negative impacts on businesses and on the customer experience for visitors and other customers, including residents. Many busine
sses like Cherry Republic and Iron Fish Distillery have invested time and money trying to address the difficulty their seasonal workers have finding housing. Those who are investing business resources are spending an average of $2,500 per employee on housing solutions.
We are grateful to these businesses who are investing in our community and supporting the seasonal and year-round workforce.