Wayne Adcoe is a walking testament to the power of Google.
Three years ago, a recruiter who had placed Adcoe in a mall-easing position 25 years earlier, called and asked if the Toronto native, then living in Detroit, wanted to look at an opportunity in Chattanooga. Adcoe, who plays recreational hockey in his 50s against men half his age, said he would talk to his wife and get back to the recruiter.
"I got off the phone and ask my wife what she thought," Adcoe recalls. "She immediately got online and did a little research on Chattanooga. She came back in a few minutes, said this place looked great and that I should go down there and talk to the folks at CBL."
Adcoe came to town for interviews with the Chattanooga-based mall development company. After two additional conversations, he accepted a position with CBL as a senior leasing manager. His wife, Brenda, never visited the city.
"It struck me how happy everyone seemed to be," says Adcoe, contrasting attitudes with his time in Detroit and Toronto. "It felt like a great environment, and Chattanooga seemed like a place with a lot of amenities you would see in a bigger city but without all the distractions and the annoyances."
The Bureau of Census estimates that 15,041 people moved into the Chattanooga metropolitan area in 2017, the most recent year for which such data is available. The new residents would fill some of the 9,287 jobs created in metro Chattanooga in the 12 months ending in January 2018, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Children under 18 years old make up 15 percent of the total of those who moved to the Chattanooga MSA in 2017. Those 30-59, considered prime working age, represent 62 percent of those moving to the Chattanooga MSA in 2017; further, those 30-49 years of age represent 24 percent of the total.
The same survey showed that 89 percent of those moving into the community in 2017 had a high school diploma or higher, with 41 percent having a college degree and 17.5 percent have an advanced college degree.
Jen Bradley and Ruchi Kaushik spend their days impacting employee migration into a markets such as Chattanooga. Bradley is an associate partner in the Nashville recruiting firm, Buffkin Baker. Kaushik is the director of talent acquisition and diversity for Unum based in Chattanooga.
Kaushik said is it normal for Unum to track scores of hires. Of those, 5-10 percent require using a national recruiting firm due to the difficulty of identifying employees for actuarial and technical positions. Kaushik said Unum has recruited executive and legal talent. Most hires at Unum are handled by in-house talent recruiters and local partnerships, Kaushik said. Unum is the largest provider of disability insurance in the United States and employs about 2,800 in Chattanooga.
Bradley has spent eight years with Buffkin Baker and has successfully completed more than 75 executive-level searches with the firm in the areas of marketing, health-care and technology. Bradley has lived in Nashville since 2006 and is familiar with the type of searches done across the South, including Chattanooga.
"I have a long-standing client in Chattanooga and recently completed a search for another firm in town," says Bradley. "My daughter has spent the last four years at UTC and is preparing to graduate, so I have seen the changes in Chattanooga."
Both Bradley and Kaushik strike common themes about those that are recruited into town, although Bradley says, "people will move anywhere for the right money." Both cite the lack of a state income tax, the cost of living in Chattanooga, the outdoors and the vibrancy of downtown.
"I think our recruiting pitch is the same no matter if we are using our core team direct with a candidate or using someone from the outside," says Kaushik. "We talk a great deal about Chattanooga and the cost of living. We balance that with highlighting Unum's culture, the ability to make a connection with the community. We talk about the fact that we are a Fortune 500 company but not one with millions of employees. You can run into the CEO in cafeteria and have a cup of coffee."
Bradley said coming to Chattanooga to visit her daughter allowed her to see subtle changes over the past four years that now augment the major changes in Chattanooga over the past two decades.
"The change is evident," says Bradley. "In the past few years, I have noticed that there are a lot of mom and pop restaurants and fewer chains. The opportunity comes first, but then candidates start looking at the city. "
Kaushik says Unum draws from major cities such as New York, Chicago and Atlanta for positions, while Bradley says it is difficult to recruit someone to Chattanooga who has a strong affinity for living in one of the country's mega cities. Both agree, however, that Chattanooga has become a place where those who come to town do not look to leave.
"We do have some people who get recruited away, but we retain the majority," says Kaushik. "If they settle in and we keep them for two years, they are invested and on board."
Bradley said one of questions candidates always ask, in one way or another, is: What are the weekends like here? The combination coming downtown to eat on weekends and the downtown calendar featuring events like Wine Over Water and the Riverbend Festival are more than enough to interest most job-seekers. It doesn't hurt to have the National Hockey League Nashville Predators a couple of hours up the road.
"I still don't know a lot about the history of Chattanooga," says Adcoe, "but from what I have heard from my friends, I don't think I would have looked at coming down here 20 years ago."
Adcoe is the type of recruit both Bradley and Kaushik strive for each day, a content one.
"I am through taking the calls," says Adcoe. "We've put down roots. We have made a great circle of friends. I can be from Ooltewah to my office in 20 minutes, which is about half way in the commute in Detroit. When the CBL era is over for me, I am just going to put my feet up and play rec hockey."