Low Cost of Living, Vibrant Communities Help Draw New Recruits

When Joyce Johnson moved to Oklahoma nine years ago after being recruited by a local oil and gas company, she took a big chance.

A single mother of two, she left everything she knew to start a new life in a state she wasn’t familiar with. On one of her first days, she heard the tornado siren test that goes off every Saturday at noon in Oklahoma City.

“I didn’t know what that was,” she said, laughing. “Now, when I talk to recruits, I warn them about that. But the people here were amazing – they couldn’t be more helpful in my transition.”

Today, Johnson is the vice president of human resources for Cytovance, a biopharmaceutical contract manufacturing company specializing in the production of therapeutic proteins and antibodies from both mammalian cell culture and microbial fermentation. With approximately 200 employees, most hail from places like North Carolina, Massachusetts and Maryland.

“We have had people come from all over to work here,” said Johnson. “We use a recruiting firm, who finds talent that is willing to consider relocation. The hot spots for our industry are coastal. And places like Boston, North Carolina, New York and the Bay area are where we fight for talent, but that plays both for and against us when it comes to recruitment.”

Oklahoma companies recruiting out-of-state talent have many tools and benefits to brag about, not in the least being the state’s low cost of living. Combine lower prices with a culture that is both vibrant and booming, and employees are finding that Oklahoma may just be the perfect place to live and work.

Oklahoma’s low cost of living, vibrant communities and friendly people help draw new recruits into the state.

To recruit talent, Oklahoma’s low cost of living is a big selling point, said recruiters. The culture, professional sports teams and other quality of life perks add to the allure.

“People in Oklahoma will sell the company for us,” said Johnson. “The things I hear most when people come in is how great the culture and the people are. We also show them a lot of the great things here, like the symphony, the ballet, Lyric Theatre and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder is wildly popular, not just in Oklahoma, but everywhere.”

Johnson says she also points potential recruits to the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

“The Memorial tells the story of us, of ‘Oklahoma Strong,’” she said. “You pick out what is most important to whom you are recruiting, and you play up that part of Oklahoma.”

INTEGRIS Health, which operates 16 hospitals and has health providers in 49 Oklahoma towns and cities, uses a variety of tools to recruit talent to the state, including association-specific national job boards, vendors who “push” jobs to targeted states, social media and more.

In the past two years, 2,271 for applicants outside Oklahoma applied at INTEGRIS and 148 were hired from outside Oklahoma.

“We recruit using our own metrics and historical information we have determined to be realistic to attract talent for INTEGRIS and Oklahoma,” said Loree McMahan, human resources recruiting manager at INTEGRIS. “We utilize social media, knowing that word-of-mouth and employee connections are our best recruitment resource. INTEGRIS hospital facilities are only in the state of Oklahoma, so mixing our career opportunities with impressive growth, fun entertainment, low cost of living along with the welcoming feeling our candidates get helps us tremendously.”

Online tools found on the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s website and the TravelOK’s new video also help paint a picture of what someone looking to relocate to Oklahoma can potentially be a part of, McMahan said.

“The growth of our city, politics, sports, family oriented activities and the cost of living tools are a help with comparing living expenses with other states,” she said.

Johnson often shows potential employees the difference cost of living makes. Using the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s cost of living index calendar, she can show for someone making $120,000 in Baltimore would have to earn $88,388 after taxes in Oklahoma City to achieve the same standard of living that $120,000 in after-tax income gets them in Baltimore.

Once employees move to the state, the transition is usually easy, thanks to the culture, many HR directors said.

“We think our ‘transplants’ from other states have a feeling of being welcomed, a sense of fitting in,” said McMahan. “The most common statement we hear from our recruits coming from or moving back is, ‘it’s the people … they are all so friendly and inclusive.’”

Ann Chen, senior marketing officer for Citizens Bank of Edmond, moved to Oklahoma in 2015 after serving as director of social media engagement at the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) in Washington, D.C. She had her choice of any banking institution anywhere in the country, but the relationship she made with Citizens Bank President and CEO Jill Castilla led her to Oklahoma.

“Every time I saw Jill, she kept saying amazing things about Edmond and Oklahoma,” Chen said. “Oklahoma is so community-driven, and I really love the entrepreneurial vibe here. Moving here was a big opportunity for me and my husband. The cost of living here really factored into our decision.”

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