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February 24th, 2012 - Kelley Chambers

Chamber’s charge


Greater Oklahoma City Chamber pools resources to help individuals and companies acclimate to the metro


 

When Cole Perryman moved from Tulsa to Washington, D.C., with his wife a few years ago, the couple felt on their own, in terms of getting acquainted with the city.

“You were left to really fend for yourself,” he says.

When they decided recently to move back to Oklahoma — this time to Oklahoma City — Perryman went through online resources developed by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. Not only was he able to get his bearings, he found a desirable neighborhood to live in, and he was up to speed on everything from locating walking trails to finding his favorite foods prior to arrival.

Packing up everything and leaving your old life behind can be a process wrought with confusion and irritation: where to live, where to eat, finding the hot spots for entertainment.

“We’ve always provided resources for people who were relocating,” says Cynthia Reid, vice president of marketing and communications with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.

right Cynthia Reid

But when the Boeing Co. announced last year it was moving hundreds of jobs from Long Beach, Calif., here, the chamber re-evaluated its efforts.

“We started to ramp up some of that when Boeing announced their move,” Reid says.

With the announcement last year that Continental Resources was leaving Enid for Oklahoma City, she says the chamber further increased those efforts, which included information sessions and materials to help those workers familiarize themselves with the city.

But Reid says the chamber’s resources are not exclusively for those who work for large corporations.

Using the chamber’s site, abetterlifeokc.com, Perryman got a taste for the city, with videos featuring views around town. His employer, Schnake Turnbo Frank PR, also put together a welcome package using chamber resources and literature.

For Continental, the chamber and the company tailored a program to help employees who would be moving here.

CONTINENTAL CONUNDRUM
Continental CFO John Hart praises the chamber’s ongoing efforts to help his employees with their transition to Oklahoma City. Those began with informational weekends in Oklahoma City for employees last May. He says unlike Boeing employees coming from California, many Continental employees were frequent visitors to the city, but being a visitor and a resident are entirely different.

“We wanted people to relocate,” he says. “We made offers to relocate to 100% of our employees.”

At that time, it amounted to 260 fulltime employees; Hart says 81% accepted.

Those who did not were either close to retirement or had family obligations that required them to stay in Enid. Those planning to move, however, had plenty of questions.

“Our employees were really focused on education opportunities for their children, housing options, affordability, traffic patterns and commute times,” he says.

Those issues and more were addressed by city leaders and in chamber materials to make the employees feel they had a resource for getting the lay of the land.

right Cole Perryman

In January, Hart says Continental had 100 full-time employees situated Downtown. By this fall, he expects the company to be moved into its new building, 20 N. Broadway, and have between 425 and 450 employees.

CHAMBER CHALLENGES
Reid says large-scale efforts for Boeing and Continental were offered at no cost to the companies. She says the chamber gets its payback when people move here, by choice or necessity, and have the resources to find success.

“Equally important to recruiting the right talent is keeping that talent once they get here,” she says.

In the last few years, the chamber has distributed about 7,000 relocation guides and accompanying DVDs annually.

With the announcement in January that Boeing again will be moving jobs here, this time from Wichita, Kan., Reid says the chamber will do all it can to help.

As for Perryman, he has enjoyed the adventure of exploring his new home city, and credits the chamber materials to point him to specific districts. He is particularly impressed with Automobile Alley and the adjoining businesses along N.W. Ninth Street and Broadway Avenue.

“It’s important that the chamber keeps these resources out there,” he says.

Photos by Mark Hancock

 
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