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Could possible labor pool shortage slow Piedmont’s economic growth?

Roger Pugh

Is there a possibility a lack of a sufficient labor pool could hamper Piedmont and the surrounding area from attracting a steady string of new businesses?

Some new and existing local businesses say they are having difficulty finding enough quality workers.

For example, McDonalds, which is set to soon open on Piedmont Road near the Northwest Highway, needs to staff some 50 positions at the new facility. However, as of last week, after a heavy recruiting effort, only seven people have turned in applications.
Of those, two were under McDonald’s minimum hiring age of 16.

“We are disappointed that so far we have not been able to hire local people,” said McDonalds spokesperson Kate Brennan.

“We thought for sure we would have more high school students apply,” Brennan said.
She noted the store has worked with the high school, utilized Facebook and other social media, and has heavily advertised for help in local publications in an effort to hire local people.

However, her family owns a number of McDonalds stores in the Oklahoma City area, and she said they will bring in people from the other stores to work in the new Piedmont location if not enough local workers can be found.

She said the family just opened a new store at S.W. 104th and May and that store started getting applicants the moment the familiar McDonalds signs and arches came up. She also said the family store at Northwest Highway and Council gets a steady stream of applicants.

Troy Strickland, who with his wife Summer, owns the Subway Deli stores in Piedmont and Surrey Hills, echoed Brennan’s disappointment in finding enough workers.

“It has been incredibly hard to find enough good help,” Strickland said.
He said he is at least three people short at the Piedmont location and one person short at his Surrey Hills store.

Another problem he faces at his local sites is that those who do apply can’t work at certain times. He said he is often very shorthanded during the day.

Strickland also owns Subway stores in the Yukon area, and he said all of those locations attract a steady stream of applicants.

Jon Smith, owner of Piedmont Pharmacy and Gifts said when he does need help, finding quality full-time help is often a problem. He said high school age applicants regularly turn in applications for part-time jobs at his store, but full-time applications are scarce.

“Quality full-time workers are hard to find,” Smith noted.

City Stop’s Carmene Redus said that store is presently well staffed.

However, she said although it is sometimes not hard to find someone to fill a vacant position, it is more difficult at other times to fill vacancies.

“It depends on when the need to fill a spot arises, and at times it is harder to find someone,” she said.

Mac Thompson, who opened and owned Mac-T’s Restaurant for many years in Piedmont, said at the time he closed his restaurant, that finding and keeping quality workers was a factor in closing his regionally famous and always busy eatery.

“If I could have found enough of the right help,” I probably would have kept going a lot longer,” Thompson said at the time.

Lisa Gistad, Executive Director of the Piedmont Chamber of Commerce, said she has heard from at least some Piedmont businesses that they find it difficult to locate adequate help.

Pay may not be the issue in finding enough local workers.

Both Brennan and Strickland said their stores pay above minimum wage to start. Brennan also cited the many opportunities for McDonalds workers to advance. Many other employers interviewed also indicated they start at above minimum wage.

Some interviewed thought that the overall affluence of local residents might play a part in keeping the available labor pool down. Piedmont is constantly ranked among the wealthiest communities in Oklahoma.

“There are not a lot of businesses here to take employees, so affluence may be a factor,” Strickland said. “We just don’t have as many needing part-time work,” he added.
“We knew it would be tougher here because of the population mix,” Brennan of McDonalds said.

Brennan indicated that although more area high school students might not need to work, her store has openings for both part-time and full-time workers in all positions, and at all hours. She said McDonalds also offers flexible hours and works with college students to set work hours around the classroom schedule. For high school students, they can work a couple of days from 3 or 4 p.m.. during the week and pull a weekend shift. She said older or retired workers and housewives can also find convenient hours.

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