If there’s a downside to a booming economy, it’s full employment. When essentially everyone who wants a job has one, businesses can go wanting for the workers they need to thrive and expand. That’s the situation here in the Gallatin Valley. From fast food restaurants to high-tech firms, most businesses are having trouble filling all their positions.

A Chronicle report published June 16, spelled out this problem and how the lack of affordable housing is exacerbating things. What was particularly noteworthy was how the local tech-sector is finding it difficult to find qualified workers, in part because out-of-state, big-city tech companies are hiring them away and allowing them to work remotely from here in Southwest Montana. The big-city firms can pay more and that makes the choice easy for these workers. More money means being able to afford housing in Bozeman’s notoriously expensive real estate and rental market.

Just a few days later, the Chronicle reported that Big Sky School District was seeking county approval to build a pair of triplexes for teacher housing. Bozeman’s housing affordability issues pale in comparison to those in Big Sky. Getting people to move there on teachers’ salaries is nigh onto impossible. So the school district plans to build the triplexes and offer them to teachers priced at 30% of their salaries.

Perhaps Bozeman employers should consider something similar. Smaller tech firms may not have the resources to build housing for prospective employees. But many are already banded together over shared interests through the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. Working together, perhaps tech firms could find a way to make affordable housing available to hirees.

The community’s largest employers, Montana State University, Bozeman Health and the Bozeman School District have greater resources. They may be able to provide affordable housing options for new employees on their own.

What we can say is this: A lack of affordable housing is a big part of the shortage of qualified workers locally. As the shortage continues – or even worsens – housing may have to become part of the compensation package for newcomers to the area.

Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Don Beeman, community member
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Sarabeth Rees, community member
  • David Swingle, community member

To send feedback on editorials, write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.