Help wanted: Panama City Beach business owners in need of employees

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Looking at Panama City Beach, some may find it hard to believe a category 4 hurricane made landfall in Bay County.

Compared to the east side of the Hathaway Bridge, the city looks relatively untouched by Hurricane Michael, but if you look beneath the surface, local business owners will tell you a different story.

"We certainly don't have what we need to serve all the people that are coming," Dwayne Tillman, Manager at Pineapple Willy's said.

Last year, he said it was a different story.

Tillman explained, "We had more people applying than we had positions for. This season, we have far more positions than we have people applying for."

He and other business owners believe part of the reason is housing.

"People have nowhere to live, and if you have nowhere to live, you can't work here. We have a beautiful beach. The beach didn't really experience that much damage, but town did, and many of our employees that work on the beach live in town," Tillman said.

Even Panama City Beach Mayor Mike Thomas said he is in need of help at his business, Mike's Cafe and Oyster Bar, but he doesn't believe it's just Hurricane Michael to blame.

"Most people are blaming it on the hurricane, but we've had problems hiring for the last two or three years," Mayor Thomas said.

After losing their business to a previous hurricane, the owners of Dat Cajun Place made a fresh start in Florida, where now they are dealing with the effects of another hurricane.

"It took New Orleans two or three years to recover fully after Katrina," Trudy White, Owner of Dat Cajun Place and Treasurer of the Grand Lagoon Coalition, said.

As they're looking to add to their staff, the way to do it isn't clear cut.

White explained how offering more money could hurt small businesses in the long run.

"We may have to maybe offer some incentive sign-on bonuses," she said.

While the beach is open for business, it's become tough for others to do the same.

Tillman said, "We [Pineapple Willy's] used to be the pinnacle of jobs. People wanted these jobs, they competed to work here and now we're on the other end of the spectrum."