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Looking for a hospitality job in Napa? You’re in luck. Local restaurants and hotels are hiring, and then some.

With new hotels opening, accompanied by in-house restaurants and bars, local employers are finding themselves facing stiff competition in order to fill jobs.

“I’ve heard from our hospitality employers that they have a lot of full-time job openings — even with benefits — they are having a hard time filling,” said Bruce Wilson, director of the Napa-Lake Workforce Board.

“Transportation issues and the cost of housing play a role in the struggle to find people to take these hospitality jobs,” he said. “At the end of the day, we have many job openings in the hospitality industry that go unfilled for lack of people that will take them.”

To help connect employers with job seekers, on Tuesday morning the Downtown Napa Associations hosted a food and beverage industry job fair. Held at the conference room at the VINE bus station on Burnell Street, nine downtown restaurants and other hospitality businesses were on hand in hopes of hiring new staffers.

Tami Pacho, a human resources manager for the Meritage Resort and Spa in south Napa, helped staff a table at the fair.

“There’s a definite need to fill hospitality positions” at her hotel, she said.

The hotel has 35 positions available in food and beverage work. That doesn’t include several dozen other jobs in other areas of the hotel, such as bowling concierge, housekeeping room attendants, laundry supervisors, massage therapists and bell captains. Pacho declined to give a pay range for the positions, saying it depended on job, position and experience.

“A lot of employers are going through the same challenges when it comes to attracting and recruiting talent in Napa,” she said.

The cost of living in Napa and public transportation into the city are key issues, Pacho said. She described one employee who said it takes an hour to get from American Canyon to the south Napa hotel by bus.

To find employees, the resort is reaching out to residents of Vallejo, Fairfield, Vacaville and even Sacramento.

Pacho estimated that some 500 additional hospitality jobs will be created thanks to new hotels and restaurants opening in the area.

“We have to be able to staff these positions to continue to be a destination of choice,” she said.

“It’s a hospitality town, but there’s not enough workforce,” said Ali Yildirim of Napkins Bar and Grill. Restaurants are “desperate” for workers, he said. “They’re hiring from the street.”

“When you come to Napa as a tourist, you have expectations,” Yildirim said. If new workers can’t be found it could impact the standard of Napa hospitality, he said.

Once the Archer hotel starts hiring, “The demand will get higher,” he said. He estimated that the hotel would hire as many as 200 people. Those staffers will likely come from other local hotels and restaurants. “It’s gonna hurt,” he said.

Job seeker Tatyana Aguirre of Vallejo attended the fair. She’s hoping to secure a banquet server job at the Meritage.

She’ll earn more per hour working in Napa, predicted Aguirre. “Plus the tips will definitely be better.”

Aguirre said she prefers a job in Napa because it’s a more prosperous area than Vallejo. “The people here are nicer, friendlier and professional.”

Christopher del Muro of Napa also visited the job fair. With his bachelor’s degree and work experience, del Muro said he’d like to make a minimum of $15 an hour, and hopefully find a position with room for advancement.

He talked to a number of employers, and “I good feeling about one of them,” he said. “I’m very happy I came by here.”

Restaurants at the fair included 1313 Main, Bounty Hunter, Downtown Joe’s, Eiko’s, Jax White Mule Diner, Filippi’s, Meritage Resort and Spa, Napkins Bar and Grill and Tarla Mediterranean Grill.

The unemployment rate in Napa County in September was 3.8 percent, according to the state Employment Development Department. It’s the fourth lowest rate in the state.

Essentially, “there are more jobs than we have people in Napa County,” said Wilson.

At that rate, “there are jobs available for anybody who wants to work,” he said. Those jobs may be entry level, but “there are opportunities available.”

The problem isn’t confined to just hotels and restaurants, Wilson said. “Other industries are struggling to fill their job openings.”

Job fairs can be a good idea, said Wilson. However, for best results, “They need to be coordinated,” with other local organizations such as family resource centers and Workforce Napa – groups that are already working with people who are looking for jobs. “That will help get the word out about what those job openings are,” said.

A bigger picture view will also be needed to address employment in Napa County, said Wilson.

“With the amount of job openings with our industries and the lower number of people looking for work, we have to start getting creative on how we are going to fill those job openings and that (means) working at the regional level addressing issues like transportation and the cost of housing.”

Craig Smith, executive director of the Downtown Napa Association, said that 24 people visited the job fair. He was hoping for a bigger turnout, he admitted.

However, it was the first such event. “We didn’t know what to expect,” Smith said. There could be other job fairs in the future, he said.

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.