Hospitality jobs on the rise in Napa Valley
Napa Valley’s hospitality market is growing quickly, with plentiful job openings. According to Napa Valley College, there are more than 150 hotels and resorts in the area and more than 125 restaurants. Visit Napa Valley reports that employment in hospitality grew by 12 percent between 2012 and 2014, and Clay Gregory, Visit Napa Valley’s CEO and President, expects the 2016 statistics to show another large increase in the number of jobs.
It looks like the trend will continue in 2017 and beyond. “We have a pretty large expansion coming up,” says Merrick McKeig, program coordinator and instructor in the Hospitality & Tourism Management program at Napa Valley College. “Approximately 800 new hotel rooms being built over the next couple years here, and so that's going to have a huge impact. We have a lot of restaurants that are opening up every week here as well, so the demand's pretty high. Latest numbers show that there's going to be an added 1,300 new jobs in the next couple years, and that doesn't even take into account some of the expansions at the resorts that are currently here already.”
Gregory credits both Napa’s proximity to San Francisco and its entrepreneurial culture for the expansion. “We have great entrepreneurs who want to do great things here,” he says. “People want to be here and want to be part of the culture of greatness that has been established here.”
Gregory gives examples of several properties that are set to open or expand within the next two years. One is the Archer Hotel in Napa, which will open with 185 rooms. A nearby shopping center will feature 40 retail spaces and about half a dozen restaurants, and the Embassy Suites is expanding by 54 rooms. The Napa River Inn is expanding by 25 rooms.
“The Meritage south of town also is going to expand by about 130 rooms,” Gregory adds. “It's already the largest hotel in the valley, but it's doing some really creative things too. It's going to not only have those rooms, it's going to add another spa, and it's going to have ten tasting rooms for wineries. So it'll be kind of its own little oasis a little bit south of the town of Napa.”
McKeig says that because Napa has a small population and a low unemployment rate, there are more open positions than job applicants in the area. “If you want a job here you can get one pretty easily, especially in the hospitality industry,” McKeig says.
Kelley Hartman, Senior Vice President of Field Operations at Nelson, says that positions are staying open longer as employers struggle to draw enough applicants. “Two years ago, companies would call us and they would need someone starting tomorrow,” Hartman says. “And we would have someone starting tomorrow – and multiple people available to start tomorrow. And now it's taking us sometimes upward to a week to fill a position, and some go unfilled even longer.”
Although jobs are plentiful in Napa, renting there can be a challenge. “It is a fairly expensive place to live,” McKeig says. He adds that rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,500 to $2,000. Entry-level employees usually can’t afford to live in Napa unless they share costs with a roommate or work multiple jobs.
Living in a less expensive area and commuting into Napa Valley is another option. The commute from Fairfield in Solano County is 20 to 30 minutes, Gregory says, and the drive from Santa Rosa to Napa Valley’s Calistoga is about 30 minutes, too. Gregory also says that more affordable housing is available in American Canyon, which is in Napa Valley and is only a 15-minute commute to the city of Napa.
McKeig says that housing is scarce in Napa due to legal restrictions on development. “It's extremely tough to get permits for building here in Napa because of the Land Trust,” he says. However, he’s optimistic that new initiatives will expand the housing supply and bring down rents. “We are starting to get some relatively decent-sized development projects going here in town to provide more housing,” he says.
The advantages of working in Napa can outweigh the inconvenience of a commute. McKeig believes that a major benefit is the training hospitality employees receive. “The hospitality industry here is known for its exceptional service,” he says. “A huge benefit of working here is being able to be trained and work in an environment where you're providing world-class service all the time. You can then take those skills and go wherever you want to go afterwards.” McKeig adds that when hospitality professionals list experience in Napa on their resumes, it tells potential employers that they’ve been trained to uphold very high standards of service and makes them more attractive candidates.
Gregory notes that Napa offers more in the way of entertainment and leisure activities than it did a few years ago, so anyone who moves to Napa will find plenty of things to do after work. There are now two performing arts centers and a jazz club in downtown Napa and a performing arts center in nearby Yountville. People can enjoy hiking, off-road biking, and horseback riding in Napa Valley’s large parks. On the Napa River, there’s paddle boarding and kayaking.
Hartman describes Napa Valley as a peaceful place to work. “When tourists come here they're really happy. They're not necessarily coming for conventions, usually more of a vacation-type thing than it is a business-type situation,” she says. She also cites the great weather and scenic surroundings as reasons to work in Napa. “It's just a beautiful place to be.”
McKeig recommends working in Napa’s hospitality industry because of all the opportunities to learn and to advance professionally. “It's a booming place; it's an exciting place,” he says.
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