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Southwest Missouri News--Branson

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by Carol Harris, Branson area, and Mary Engler-Guccione, Joplin area

Interstate Management Service Inc. is offering a temporary pilot program that will make a small number of international workers available to Branson during the holiday season.

Alex Kasparek, district manager for IMS in Kansas City, said the ten employees are from the Eastern European countries of the Czech Republic, Slovic Republic, Russia and Poland.

Kasparek said IMS will provide pre-qualified and trained service personnel for such tasks as general maintenance, hotel and resort housekeeping, dish washing and general groundskeeping.

As part of its services, IMS will handle paperwork such as payroll, health and liability insurance, workers' compensation, unemployment and arrangements for housing and transportation. The workers will require at least 40-hour workweeks, No overtime is paid however, only a flat hourly rate. Hotel managers "just send us the invoice," Kasparek said.

Myrna Price, administrator of the Branson/Lakes Area Lodging Association, said IMS made a presentation at the organization's member meeting Nov. 17. Price said, "We are not endorsing (the pilot program,) but we will monitor it." She added that "half of the initial group was already booked by noon" the day of the announcement.

Price said IMS can supply as many as 200 workers to Branson next season.

"We're not trying to replace Branson workers. We just need more workers in Branson for our peak season," Price said. "We cannot attract people who want to live here year-round due to our seasonal demands."

Price said the low unemployment rate in Springfield makes it harder for Branson to find workers, too. "We don't even pursue Springfield," she said.

Other issues, such as additional housing, child care and transportation have also made it more difficult to bring in workers from surrounding communities.

Price said, "One of the advantages of IMS is that they handle all their employees' needs." She added that IMS has signed leases for its workers to live in apartments in Hollister.

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