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Gatlinburg employers scramble to attract workers

GATLINBURG, TN (WATE) – Gatlinburg is the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and welcomes millions of tourists each year. The city is booming economically and the cost of living is 13% lower than the national average, but Gatlinburg also has a problem: hundreds of job vacancies.

While the help seeking signs are out, not enough people seem to want to get in.

Jodi Coffey is a waitress at the Cliff Top Restaurant at Anakeesta in Gatlinburg. She took the job just a few months ago and hasn’t looked back.

“I love it here. It’s absolutely stunning,” Coffey said.

The 52-year-old says working in Gatlinburg has been a great experience and much better than her job as a manager at a big-box store.

“They are not comparable. It’s so different. Even on the craziest days, it’s exciting and not stressful – it’s exciting,” Coffey said.

While Coffey is surrounded by co-workers, her employer tries to hire even more people. The websites list dozens of job openings at Anakeesta and there are hundreds of job openings in the Gatlinburg area.

“We definitely need a lot of those jobs here. We have openings everywhere – at our attractions, our restaurants, here at the chamber,” said Marisa Rios, marketing specialist for the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Rios says a lot of people try to entice a lot of new hires with bonuses, incentives and promises of promotions.

“There is a lot of upward mobility – growth opportunities. It doesn’t matter where you work, even entry-level jobs,” Rios said.

In fact, it’s part of the office’s message in its new Work and Play campaign. Rios says the new campaign is an effort to raise awareness of all the jobs available in Gatlinburg and how great the area is.

“Last year, we were ranked number one by Trip Advisor as a trending destination, number five in the world, and Southern Living recognized as the mountain town of the South. So there’s a lot of recognition here,” said Rios said.

The Chamber webpage now has a direct link to jobs currently available in the city.

“It really varies everywhere, from hospitality to attractions to restaurants. There’s really something in any type of field here again, whether it’s part-time or full-time for people,” Rios said.

This makes it easier for job seekers. However, something that does not help is the lack of affordable housing. Right now a lot of people who work here are commuting.

“We have people coming from Knoxville, Sevierville, maybe Seymore. They go that route every day,” Rios said.

If it is important to find employees now, it will be even more so in the future. Over the next ten years, the “job growth rate” is expected to be 43% in Gatlinburg, well above the national rate of 33%.

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