DENVER — Businesses in the event industry are still struggling after a really tough 2020. Clients for weddings are making a big comeback in 2021, with some places already booked into 2023, but many companies are having a hard time hiring and retaining staff.
"It's the same story," said Syd Sexton, president of the Colorado Event Alliance. "We just can't find all those great people. A lot of them left the industry."
Sexton is also the Chief Operating Officer with Catering by Design. She said the wedding industry has picked up again but not corporate, which is more than half of her business.
"It's hard because we just can't guarantee full-time work. We don't know what it is going to look like," she said.
She said many employees went back to school when they received unemployment benefits, and they found other careers where they could work from home. Sexton said the event industry is desperately searching for kitchen staff, service staff, and warehouse workers.
To help hire and retain employees, Denver City Council approved $500,000 in grants for event companies doing business in Denver County. This fund is secured through the Colorado Event Alliance.
Businesses that made at least 50% of their gross annual sales in 2019 in the special events market are eligible to receive up to $10,000. Companies must use the money in the form of a bonus. New or current employees can receive up to $1,000 each.
"It can be for hiring or, for a lot of companies, it's retention," said Sexton. "Just to say thank you to those employees and keep them wanting to work for us."
Sexton said this support with staffing will help businesses fulfill promises they made to clients.
"And if we don't have the staff to go on site or even in our own facilities and help us produce that quality of work, then we are going out of business," she said.
Colorado Event Alliance hopes to start distributing the funds by next week. Sexton believes the $500,000 fund will assist roughly 100 companies in Denver County.
"A lot of people just felt like the industry wasn’t grateful to them, so it is our chance as industry leaders to show our employees we are grateful," she said.
To apply, click here.
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