Brittany Sargent can’t help it. She laughs sometimes when talking to family back in New York. She laughs because it’s snowing there and warm here. And she laughs because she didn’t have to give up the finer things in life to live in better weather.
She enjoys the culture in Greenville: the restaurants, the night-time vibe, the way art is blended into public spaces. So far she has caught a couple of shows at Centre Stage and looks forward to seeing her first performance at the Peace Center.
An executive assistant with Northwestern Mutual in Greenville, she is the kind of person recruiters have their sights set on. When she was looking for a satisfying job, she knew it had to be in a satisfying place. And the arts are a key component to the environment she was seeking. As the unemployment rate drops and the advantage swings toward job seekers, Greenville employers are finding the local arts and culture scene to be a powerful recruiting tool.
The person who recruited Sargent to Northwestern Mutual is busy. Managing director John Tripoli never stops searching for talent. He likens his position to that of a Division I coach. “I never stop selecting and recruiting,” he said.
For him, the arts and culture scene in Greenville makes selling the community easy because culture is a high priority for professionals seeking a new job.
On a scale on 1-10 in importance, he gives arts culture a 9. Money is a 10 … maybe.
“People are moving and choosing places to live by design versus a place to live by default,” he said. “People think different today, knowing there are so many ways to customize their life style, and with that you think about the different components of who you are and whether a community is congruent with your values and your growth, and culture is right up there.”
He said people will go to cultural deserts for more money, but it has to be a lot more money.
“In the end, for the right money some people will live in Waco, but when the money is somewhat comparable, and you have culture, you win,” Tripoli said. “Culture is more important than even weather.”
Dr. Jim Ellis, vice president for clinical affairs and chief of staff at GHS, recruits physicians and advanced practice providers for the health system. He hits them with a package that promises three things: a position, an organization and a town. Because he recruits nationally, the prospective employees are often weighing Greenville against cities like Boston and New York, and Greenville holds its own against them.
“We try to put them up in a hotel downtown and take them out to restaurants downtown because we think the whole Main Street sells itself,” he said. “If there’s a Drive game or an event at the Peace Center we take them there. It’s a huge part of what we do.”
Ellis said he always tells recruits that life away from the office should be a key consideration as they choose their next job and home.
“For a relatively small town, we have a lot to offer and the Peace Center is a huge part of that,” he said. “When you look at the musical talent that comes here, it’s incredible.”
Knowing that an arts culture is a top desire for transplants, the Greenville Chamber of Commerce is working to make sure prospective new residents know what the community offers. The chamber is partnering with livability.com to create a magazine and web presence to highlight why Greenville is a good place to visit and work. One of the focus areas will be the arts, according to Adrea Turner, director of talent and workforce solutions for the Greenville Chamber of Commerce.
“The arts create a good sense of community and place-making,” she said. “It’s a huge draw for talent, particularly younger professionals and parents.”
Photos for that effort will be taken during the annual Artisphere event so that the arts can take a prominent spot in the magazine.
Green Cloud Technologies CEO Keith Coker said his strategy for recruiting out-of-town talent is simple: convince them to see it in person.
“One of the things we do is we try to just get them to visit,” he said. “If we can just get them to visit and stay downtown for a weekend, the city just kind of sells itself. It beats the hustle and bustle of a large city but you don’t give up the cultural things that people have come to expect in larger markets.”
Green Cloud also makes Greenville part of the company culture, with regular gatherings outside the office to take advantage of the city’s cultural life.
Bob Wilson, chief human resources officer for the Elliott Davis firm, believes in the complementary relationship between the arts and culture of a place and the people those things attract. Each feeds off the other to make a place special, so the better a place gets, the easier it is go get better.
“We have benefited a lot from people that we’ve sought out, and people who move to town on their own, because they decided Greenville is a place they want to live,” he said. “These are people who could live anywhere but they come here and they come here for lots of reasons and culture is among the tops.”