Posted by Bob Simmons

FCRC member, Zac George started with his New Member talk, detailing how after receiving a degree from CSU in Business Management he worked at Disneyworld, returned to Ft Collins, got into landscaping and opened his own business in 2005 (ZGL Co).

The remainder of the talk was about the H2-B visa and how it works in Northern Colorado.  First, George made clear two things the H2-B is not - an immigration program, or a cheap source of labor taking jobs from local workers.  The program started in 1987 with fewer than 100 visas issued, reached a high of 160,000 visas, and in 2019 has just 60,000 temporary visas, causing serious problems for seasonal companies such as ZGL Landscaping.  

The need exists because the civilian labor force participation is declining, and there are more jobs available (especially in places like NOCO) than resident workers to fill them.  The goal of the program is not to save money for employers but to create a stream of reliable, skilled (returning) seasonal workers.  Common areas of employment in Colorado include food services, hospitality, construction and landscaping.  Wages depend on location but are $15.75 per hour in NOCO.  Workers for Zac’s business come from Mexico where similar work would pay $10 per day.

Next, Zac detailed the extensive process to get the worker on the job: acceptance of the business into the program, the yearly visa application and assignment process, receiving a (WAC number) from UCIS in San Diego, then the recruitment, hiring, and transporting workers to the job.  Third parties are hired to process workers and transport them to Ft Collins from all over Mexico.  Often Mexican workers in the program recruit hardworking friends and family for future employment.  Challenges unique in our area include getting housing, cars and all the needs we have in this growth area.  Without this program, it is not clear how businesses like ZGL could operate.