By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
During my two previous careers, particularly my time at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, I learned firsthand how challenging it can be to attract individuals to the region if they have never visited here. Many had a perception that was inaccurate. Once they saw the community and its many assets, recruitment became much easier.
Certainly, that has probably changed somewhat in the past couple of years as COVID-19 has caused people to rethink where they live and work. The Southeast in general and Knoxville in particular have seen many well-trained individuals relocate here due to positive factors like the low cost of living and quality of life. At the same time, one relocation obstacle has not been overcome; it’s the ongoing challenge of opportunities for a trailing spouse or significant other.
With all of those considerations in mind coupled with the region’s stagnant growth in the all-important 25 to 54 year old age group in the decade of 2010-19, the Knoxville Chamber has launched a new initiative called the “Professional Relocation and Engagement Services” (PRES).
“It’s a suite of services to assist businesses as they recruit from out of market,” says Lauren Longmire, the Chamber’s Director of Regional Enhancement. “Some are geared toward large relocations, some can benefit those that are one, two or three people.”
Utilization of PRES is complimentary to Chamber investors – the term used to describe members – at the gold level or above and available at a fee for others. As noted on the webpage, the program involves six services.
“The most utilized is the company-branded recruitment site,” Longmire says. It is personalized for the company and provides critical information that can help with the recruitment of an individual or helping that person begin to transition after accepting a position. It includes links to a variety of options in four areas. They are:
- Adventure that includes links to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, other outdoor venues, Tennessee waterways, and the Urban Wilderness;
- Arts and culture that spans the continuum from food and beverage to events and festivals, museums and galleries, other arts, and The Maker City;
- Family that includes Zoo Knoxville, a family-friendly guide, and free events; and
- Cost of living index calculator to help underscore how Knoxville ranks 8 percent below the national average and places eighth in the 2019 livability rankings for most affordable places.
One local company is currently utilizing its personalized site to recruit a student out of Georgia. To help persuade the potential recruit to come to Knoxville, Longmire says the site has been specifically created to highlight the differences between Knoxville and the location of the student’s other job offer, Dallas.
PYA, the power behind teknovation.biz, is also taking advantage of PRES. “PYA is delighted to partner with the Knoxville Chamber, and is especially excited by the Chamber’s PRES initiative,” said Catie Scott, PYA’s Atlanta-based Director of Talent Acquisition. “In this competitive recruiting market, PRES will assist our recruitment efforts in attracting talent outside of the Knoxville market who wish to call Knoxville home. The company-branded recruitment site is an additional tool the PYA Talent Acquisition team looks forward to using to attract top candidates to Knoxville and PYA.”
Those participating in PRES can also secure relocation packets for employees, including a copy of Knoxville’s relocation guide produced in partnership with Visit Knoxville. In addition, other PRES services include organizing engagement events for new employees that the Chamber will organize with the PRES participant paying the out-of-pocket costs, a company-branded presentation about the community for the company’s recruitment team, and two additional unique items.
One that falls in the latter category is a company-branded interest survey that can help gauge the information that actual or prospective individuals considering a relocation need. “We think this will be best utilized by a company expanding or relocating to Knoxville,” Longmire said. “It can identify what they (the employees) are interested in knowing about the city and also help get them engaged early with the hope they will be longtime residents.”
The other, titled the “Dual-Professional Relocation Service,” is designed to address the trailing spouse or significant other challenge. “The idea behind it is building out an employer consortium,” Longmire says, explaining that make or break decisions on relocating can frequently involve one or more available opportunities for the spouse or significant other.
To ensure as robust a list of employment options as possible, the Chamber is not requiring those who want to be listed to be at a certain investor level. It will, however, limit those companies that can submit resumes of spouses or significant others looking for jobs to Platinum level investors. Companies that have an interest in being alerted to those individuals seeking opportunities locally can sign-up here.
While Longmire helped develop the framework for PRES, execution rests with Ashleigh Christian, Director of Investor Development, and her team.