ST. GEORGE — As more and more people choose Southern Utah as an ideal spot for retirement, niche businesses are springing up on every corner.
The latest business eyeing St. George as a potential franchise location is Ohio-based FirstLight Home Care, which provides in-home companion care services that include meal preparation, running errands, laundry and light housekeeping. The company also helps customers with personal care needs such as bathing, meals and mobility assistance, along with dementia care and travel companion services.
FirstLight was founded in 2009 and opened its first franchises a year later. The company has experienced steady growth now totaling more than 130 franchise owners in 214 locations throughout 35 states.
Jamie Davis, FirstLight’s executive director of franchise development, said along with the 185 franchises they already have, there are many more under development with St. George soon to be added to the list.
“We’ve built our company on what we call the ‘culture of care,’ which is a set of systems and processes that lead to high caregiver retention and consequently high customer satisfaction as well,” Davis said. “We are in the business of making sure people can stay in their homes and age in a place where they feel comfortable and safe.”
Davis added that coming to St. George was a practical decision for the company.
“I believe that the state of Utah, in general, is underserved with homecare options,” he said. “We are looking to make sure we can be everywhere that the services we offer are needed, and St. George is no exception.”
With franchise owners in Las Vegas, Southern Utah was the next logical extension. The plan, Davis said, is to start in St. George and move north into the Salt Lake City market.
“We are really trying to increase our footprint everywhere we can,” Davis said. “Towns like St. George make sense for us.”
FirstLight franchise owners typically hire 25-50 employees and offer both full-time and part-time positions. Staffing levels vary depending on the shifts required. Twenty-four-hour care will typically require five employees.
“In a lot of cases, you see home health care providers use independent contractors and don’t have employees for various reasons,” Davis said. “We prefer that the staff are W-2 employees of the franchise owner. It really does help us secure the position and ensure that the culture of care is living itself out.”
A dependable wage and benefits create the value-added benefit of having much happier employees, Davis added. Because of St. George’s expanding senior population, FirstLight believes the business model should do well locally.
Although being an in-home caretaker is not an easy job, it does have its rewards, St. George resident and caregiver John Watts says.
“I’ve been doing this for about seven years and by far it’s the most important thing I’ve ever done,” Watts said. “I have two elderly gentlemen that I check on each day. I can tell how important my visits are because their eyes light up when I get to their homes. They both don’t have anyone to care for them, and my companionship seems to fill that void.”
People like Watts who have a passion for their work are exactly the kind that Davis wants employed at FirstLight.
“The biggest challenge far and away of in-home health care has to be staffing,” Davis said. “It’s not the easiest job to do, and finding good quality employees who are well suited for the work is critical.”
At FirstLight, “extraordinary caregivers” are the most significant members of the team.
By embracing each day with the values of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and dedication, the company seeks to cultivate relationships that benefit each caregiver, Davis says. FirstLight promotes an atmosphere where diversity is respected, quality of life is valued and personal ambitions are attained.
“We really want our caregivers to be safe, have opportunities to grow and to be put in a position to succeed,” Davis said. “We want the employees to know they are being heard on a daily basis.”
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