Young Professionals at a Premium in Rural Areas

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Sep. 24, 2012 12:00 am  

With national unemployment at 8.3 percent and the statewide rate at 7.3 percent, it's easy to believe that there must be thousands of young professionals desperate for jobs all across the state. Not quite.

Rural banks, for example, are struggling to fill positions. Rural hospitals and schools have faced similar issues.

"You'd think, as an employer, it would be easy to find people," said Marnie Oldner, CEO of the 31-employee Ozark Heritage Bank in Mountain View (Stone County). "That's not necessarily true here in Arkansas."

Oldner herself moved from an urban area toward Mountain View. She still has a house in Little Rock, though.

It turns out that the skilled young adults of Arkansas aren't lining up for careers in places like Mountain View or Eudora or Crossett or Helena.

Dwight Rutland, CEO of the 14-employee Forrest City Bank, described talent recruitment as an "extreme challenge."

Rutland, a Mississippi native, called Arkansas in general and Forrest City in particular "a good place to live." But, he continued, "generally speaking, I think most young people would think we're living in the Dark Ages. ... In our area, most people, especially young folks, are trying to leave the Delta."

Many of the corporate executives who do work in the area, Rutland said, commute 40 to 50 miles from home.

"They come from New York, where they drive 60 miles from one side of town to another," he said. "That's nothing for them. They just have a certain standard of living. They're looking for a certain quality of life that they can't necessarily find in a rural, Delta environment."

Rutland said his area wasn't too affected by the recent ups and downs of the national economy "because in the Delta, we've been on the bottom for so long, most of our people know how to deal with this, to pay their bills and survive."

Rutland's most recent hire came from Palestine (St. Francis County).

"She knew the area," he said. "She has family here. She didn't want to go off to the big city - Memphis, Jonesboro, places like that."



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