Region not affected by freeze in hiring staff

by Drew Joseph | 12/2/08 4:08am

The College's recent hiring freeze, implemented last month to help reduce Dartmouth's spending by 10 percent, has yet to affect residents of the Upper Valley, despite the College's presence as the major employer in the area, according to Traci Nordberg, Dartmouth's chief human resources officer. Under the conditions of the freeze, announced Nov. 13, open staff positions can only be filled with approval from the Provost, executive vice presidents and professional school deans under "extraordinary" circumstances. Internal candidates will be given first priority, but if a necessary position is not filled from within the College, others may apply, Nordberg said.

"We're always going to have some of the jobs that the local people apply for available," Nordberg said. "I don't see us shutting off to the community."

Dartmouth may not fill all empty positions in order to cut costs through attrition of the workforce, according to Nordberg, adding that the freeze is more about protecting current employees than saving costs. By not hiring new staff to fill vacant positions, the College is attempting to shrink the workforce while avoiding laying off employees, Nordberg explained. The hiring freeze does not apply to faculty.

In another cost-saving effort, the College started a review process several months ago to determine if vacant positions should be filled, Nordberg said.

Because students must eat, Dartmouth Dining Services, which has 125 to 130 non-student employees, is one department in which it will be necessary to fill vacant positions, according to David Newlove, associate director of dining services. DDS has not had to fill an empty spot since the hiring freeze began, Newlove said.

"Our turnover is very low because we pay a living wage with benefits," Newlove said.

In October, Forbes Magazine deemed the Lebanon area one of the micropolitan areas least likely to be affected by the economic crisis. A micropolitan area has between 10,000 and 50,000 residents at its "urban core," according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Lebanon Mayor Karen Liot Hill '00 attributed Forbes' claim to the stability of the College and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. The hiring freeze will have some effects on Lebanon and the Upper Valley, but the area's unemployment rate tends to remain low, even during recessions, Liot Hill said.

"A hiring freeze is one thing, but layoffs and reducing employment at the College or at the medical center would have a much greater effect on the local economy," Liot Hill said.

Residents will take longer to find jobs because of the economic situation, Liot Hill said, but the more common problem will be a decrease in the number of people moving to the Upper Valley for work, even though some local companies are seeing growth.

As the regional hub, Lebanon will be the place where many local residents come for holiday shopping, Liot Hill said. Despite a 2.7 percent fall in national consumer spending in the third quarter of this year, as reported by The New York Times, many stores in West Lebanon had higher Black Friday sales than last year, the Valley News reported. To attract customers, stores in the area have been cutting prices, Liot Hill said, following a national trend.

As economic pressures continue to affect Upper Valley residents, many are choosing to shop locally to avoid travel costs, Liot Hill said.

"My sense is that some of our stores might benefit because some people, instead of going to Concord or Boston, are trying to shop more locally," she said.

Residents are also choosing to shop locally this holiday season to help the local economy by keeping their money in the community, Liot Hill said.

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