Businesses: Quality of life a great draw for young employees

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 9, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Family doctors Rick Jeansonne and Tuan Pham did not want to be faces in a crowd.

When the New Orleans natives, who met in medical school in Shreveport, were looking for a place to practice, they received &uot;close to 100 job offers&uot; from various doctors and hospitals looking for new doctors.

But they decided to begin their practice in Natchez.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;We also wanted to be in a place where we would be appreciated, make a name for ourselves,&uot; Jeansonne, 30, said.

&uot;In cities like New Orleans, we would be just another number in the phonebook.&uot;

Unlike towns like Jonesville which may have only a limited number of physicians, Natchez’s medical community was such that they could practice family medicine in close proximity to specialists when necessary.

&uot;We wanted to go someplace that had a need. Natchez has a need,&uot; Jeansonne said. &uot;The opportunities in Natchez were better (than the other cities).&uot;

What they have found in Natchez is just the right community.

&uot;Natchez is a quiet peaceful town,&uot; Pham, 29, said. &uot;You don’t have far to drive. You drive a few miles to work in the morning and then you drive home at night.&uot;

The doctors are part of one of the busiest industries in Natchez &045; the medical community. But with so few other large industries looking for employees, how do those who are here recruit young people?

Businesses working to recruit employees often find the same qualities that draw tourists to Natchez also attract young professionals.

&uot;The older houses are a strong draw,&uot; said Jack Houghton, CEO of Natchez Regional Medical Center. &uot;It’s a factor for the doctors we’re talking to.&uot;

But the homes aren’t the only deciding factor &045; it’s more than that, Houghton said.

&uot;When they get the flavor of the community, when they see how beautiful the community is, when they see how friendly the people are, they want to stay,&uot; he said. &uot;Quality of life is a major draw.&uot;

The community’s attitude also helps, said Millicent Mayo, who works in public relations for the Natchez-Adams School District and has worked to recruit teachers here.

Mayo worked with local banks and businesses to put together an incentive program for new teachers, including free banking from United Mississippi Bank.

As one teacher told Mayo, that was a big selling point &045; and not just for the personal gain she received.

&uot;She told me, ‘I want to go to a community that helps,’&uot; Mayo said.

That doesn’t mean recruiting has been easy, especially lately. With no major industry, health care and education are among the largest employers.

Mayo finds that as she recruits now, she isn’t looking for prospective teachers to sell their resumes &045; she’s looking to sell them on Natchez first.

And Mayo has seen fewer teachers transferring in as their spouses moved here, as they often did before major industries like International Paper closed.

The slowing economy has affected other areas, too. Houghton said he has seen a slight drop in some of the weekend activities, such as entertainment at nightspots.

Still, the quality of life in a small community continues to draw new residents.

Steven Carothers of Entergy moved his wife and young child here this year. Coming from a slightly smaller community, they feel right at home in Natchez.

&uot;We find it to be a typical Mississippi community,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s safe to walk around in the evenings. So far everything gets an A+.&uot;

Carothers hopes to spend the rest of his career in Natchez.

That kind of personal endorsement may be a recruiting tool of its own.

Houghton, who himself is a Natchez transplant, believes the community is one of the &uot;most enjoyable places I’ve been able to recruit to.&uot;

And while there may not be a large community of 20- and 30-somethings, it isn’t non-existent, Houghton said.

&uot;We have a fair number of young families,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s not a community of retirees in total. There’s a much better spread of ages than what you might assume.&uot;

And no matter what the generation, those people help sell Natchez. &uot;Our people are our greatest calling card,&uot; he said.