Ardmore Chamber of Commerce hopes to increase workforce

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 6:50 PM CST
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ARDMORE, Okla. (KXII) - Ardmore employers from major companies like Dollar General to small mom and pop shops are all saying the same thing, according to Ardmore’s Chamber of Commerce president Bill Murphy. New workers are hard to find.

“It really is increasingly difficult,” Murphy said. “Because people, for the most part, who wanna work are already working.”

Sara Griffith works at Carter Express in Ardmore. She said they’ve given lots of people jobs, only to never hear from them again.

“They just don’t ever come back, you know,” Griffith said. “I mean we’ve called them. And they don’t come back. If they’re not gonna show up on their first day they’re not gonna show up.”

Griffith said not having enough coworkers makes her job harder.

“We don’t get to sleep,” Griffith said. “We work round the clock. But we do what we got to do to make sure the store functions.”

According to information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Ardmore’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in the past decade-2.1%.

In that same decade, the labor force-anyone over 16 who is able to work a job-has not increased.

It’s not just Ardmore, the national unemployment rate is 3.9%.

“Most communities are facing these very, very similar problems,” Murphy said.

The chamber plans to fix this in a few ways, starting by working with local businesses and schools to make sure graduates are getting the skills they need for jobs in Ardmore.

“We’ve got to work with our existing employers to understand not only the skillsets they need in their immediate job openings, but longer term,” Murphy said. “What kinds of technological improvements, what kinds of machinery they’re going to be bringing on, so that we’re making sure the people who are entering our workplace have those skill sets.”

The chamber also plans to work with social services to help people with unhealthy substance use issues and mental illnesses get back in the workforce.

Finally, they’ll work on recruitment- working to increase Ardmore’s total population to attract more workers from larger cities like Dallas and Oklahoma City.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to help people who maybe don’t want that kind of environment, who don’t want those 45 minute, 2 hour commutes, and talk about the advantages of being in a community like Ardmore,” Murphy said.

If you’re concerned this scramble for staff is caused by companies not paying their employees enough, Murphy said that will most likely change if the tight labor market continues.

“Clearly there is pressure for employers to pay more because of the tight labor market,” Murphy said. “And honestly, because we’re seeing increased prices really across the board. From fuel, to food to just about everything. So I think while it may not be rising as fast as some employees may want, I think the reality of the tight labor market will continue to push wages up.”

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