Local Companies Learn to Adapt in the Covid World 

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” – Sun Tzu  

Tarrytown Village Administrator Richard Slingerland

Governments and businesses in the Tarrytown region, just like those all around the nation, have had their creativity and resilience put to the test during the age of Covid-19. 

The success of those responses, achieved from the largest to smallest operations, has led to a resurgence that continues to strengthen the local economy. 

Attracting and retaining talent has been a challenge that successful companies meet with competitive salaries, great benefits, advancement opportunities and a spirit of teamwork and achievement. These days, all those challenges are more difficult than ever. 

Many more workers seem to be leaving the workforce in the past year since Covid struck. Any combination of factors could explain the phenomenon – an aging labor pool, need to stay at home with kids, fear of the Delta variant, and extended unemployment benefits.  

The village of Tarrytown has noted that the ripple effect of senior employees leaving creates some new issues. 

“I think in some part due to Covid , there has been a larger than normal number of retirements, and as people have been promoted or hired to fill those vacancies, it has translated into an increased need for people at the entry levels,” said Village Administrator Richard Slingerland. 

The Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, are leaving the workforce faster than forecasted, according to labor statistics. 

Over the six-month period from October 2020 through March 2021, nearly six million more Boomers retired than in the same period the year prior. 

In Tarrytown, the village has found that replenishing the senior workforce is presenting some new issues. 

“While most of our employees in all departments are good workers, a problem we have been experiencing with some job applicants and new hires who did not last is with people accepting a job and making a commitment and then having a track record of not reporting for work,” Slingerland said. “We appreciate workers at all levels who have a higher level of maturity and who have made commitment for a job and show up ready, willing and able to work.” 

Quitting or just not showing up is a dilemma nationwide. 

“Retention continued to be a growing problem for firms,” the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta said in its September Beige Book entry. “Restauranteurs noted concerns over ‘ghosting coasting,’ where a new hire works for a few days and moves on to the next restaurant without notice before they are let go due to lack of skills.” 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. Resignations peaked in April and have remained abnormally high for the last several months, with a record-breaking 10.9 million open jobs at the end of July, the Harvard Business Review reported. 

Regeneron, the Tarrytown-based pharmaceutical company, implemented work-from-home policies for a significant portion of its employees including those in Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow.  

Remote employees were provided ergonomic evaluations of at-home workstations, support for technology needs, and guidance for managers to ensure that employees remain connected and maintain physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Any Regeneron employee who contracted or was exposed to Covid was provided full pay for their entire recovery and quarantine time. 

Small companies too have to adapt. Laura Haupt, owner of Bark & Meow pet boutique in Tarrytown, had to lay off her employees at the beginning of the pandemic. 

“That was really tough,” Haupt said. “I had to work solo for a year and that was difficult.” Now workers seem to have disappeared. For the first time Haupt put up a notice in her window that she was hiring and didn’t get any response. 

One result from many people staying home during the pandemic was an increase in new pet owners. “My business increased because of Covid puppies and kittens and people having more money to support their pets.” 

Haupt is also feeling the crunch of a constrained supply chain that is affecting many companies. “It’s been frustrating. I’ve been here 14 years and companies that I buy from are having shipping delays. 

“A supplier who I get harnesses from used to deliver in two weeks and now it might be six weeks. They’re waiting for parts like buckles that they import and while they might have the fabric in stock, they can’t make the harnesses.” 

Being a member of the Tarrytown community has helped sustain Haupt and other business owners through rough times. 

“I feel very lucky and blessed that I live in this community where everyone supports small businesses,” she said.

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About the Author: Jim Roberts