Mark Myrowich was desperate for staff to work in his manufacturing factories in rural Manitoba when he tapped into a valuable resource — Ukrainians who had fled the war in their country.
"It was just hard finding people and to grow my business or even to make the products that my customers wanted," Myrowich told CBC Manitoba Information Radio host Marcy Markusa on Tuesday.
"You see the for-hire signs everywhere. There's just a lack of people."
He started reaching out through social media groups for the newly-arrived Ukrainians, and arranged for host families in the Manitoba towns of Riverton and Blumenort, where his factories are location. His company ECBVerdyol makes erosion control blankets and other products.
"It's been a game changer," Myrowich said. "They're here, they want to work, they want to contribute to society."
And they can begin working quickly, thanks to the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel, which fast-tracks immigration for displaced Ukrainians.
People coming in through the federal program are considered temporary residents, allowing them to work and study in Canada for three years.
"When they show up at the border, they get their work visa put right into their passport and they're able to come here and work," Myrowich said.
"The province has done a fantastic job putting them up in housing, getting their SIN number, getting their medical health number, being able to take their Ukrainian driver's licence and change it into a Manitoba one."
One person he connected with was working three days later.
"It's that quick, and that's the opportunity here for Canadians — we have these people that don't have to go through the regular immigration process," Myrowich said.
"I realized this was a fantastic resource of people."
When other business owners started to take notice and ask Myrowich for tips, that led to another venture: Myrowich Staffing Agency and the website Hire Ukrainian.
And it's headed up by Yurii Linov, a man Myrowich initially hired for his factory. As it turned out, that was mismatched for Linov's skills.
'Right guy in the wrong seat'
Before arriving in Winnipeg five months ago, Linov had a successful online clothing business in Ukraine that was expanding into Europe. But on the war's third day, Russian soldiers took over Kherson, a port city of Ukraine, and destroyed Linov's factory.
"The next thing you know he's in Riverton working in my plant and, in talking to him, I realized … he was the right guy in the wrong seat," Myrowich said.
Linov had approached Myrowich about helping to sell and publicize ECBVerdyol products online, but Myrowich had a better idea.
"I said to him, instead of selling my stuff online, why don't we start a staffing agency? So boom, he became my right-hand man in that business and he now runs it," Myrowich said.
"And he set up a Ukrainian website where Ukrainians can put in their resumes. Business people can contact us and then we can do the matchmaking of getting the right Ukrainians into the right seats."
That opportunity has meant the world to Linov.
"Many people from Ukraine now don't have jobs and I said that if we can help, we must help," he said, recalling how grateful he was to land that initial job from Myrowich.
"When you go to another country you don't know nothing. It a very, very good chance for me and I very appreciate Mark for this — for me and my family."
Myrowich now has 40 Ukrainians working for him — 11 in the staffing agency and 29 in his manufacturing business.
"The people that are coming here, I have found, are trustworthy and extremely reliable. One thing I said to many of my staff is they have all the rights in the world to complain and they don't — they're extremely thankful," he said.
Linov has received several letters of thanks from Ukrainians after the agency helped them find work.
"It's 100 per cent that I feel that when I help people and our staff and agency help these people, we're very excited," he said.
He estimates nearly 100 people have been employed through the agency but his sights are set far higher.
"Our goal: 10,000. It's our goal," Linov said. "I'm happy too that I can do that. I know how it's important to help, for first step in Canada, you know?
"When you have a job you can pay for apartments, you can find school for children. We understand, our agency, how it's important for our people."