Lack of Foreign Workers Hurting Williston | VideoEvan Kruegel | 10/15/2012
"When you look at Williston, we have the highest annual wage in the state right now, so it`s made it very tough for a lot of our commercial sector to compete with some of the high wages that are out there,” said committee member Shawn Wenko.
That`s why the J-1 Visa program had been so valuable. Foreign workers were brought in from Asia, Europe and other parts of the world to work in Williston while studying at the college. The J-1 workers had been living at Dickson Hall, but that all changed when the North Dakota University system decided housing foreign workers was unsafe and not a proper use of school facilities
"Now you add that most were working two jobs, so that as upwards of 200 plus jobs that we were filling in that commercial, the restaurant and retail sectors. Really this committee is designed to take a look at what`s the scope and the size of the hit that we`re going to see, and I`ll tell you just looking in right now, its going to be a tremendous hit,” said Wenko.
Tomorrow, the committee will work on drafting a letter to federal officials including Senator Conrad and Congressman Berg to see if they can offer assistance on the issue.
"The fact remains that the city of Williston is growing at a tremendous pace, and this program is a much needed program to keep that commercial sector going."
The committee will first try to find a new housing option to re-instate the J-1 program. If they can`t, they`ll have to get creative to fill the job openings in the commercial sector.