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Waco Chamber 'gets busy' keeping graduates in city

Nov. 17, 2005

by ALEXIS CARTWRIGHT, reporter

After four years of being in one place, a graduate's first thought is often, "Where am I going to go next?"

This mindset has proven to be a problem for the city of Waco.

"I know when people move to Dallas or Houston, they move because they have found a higher-paid job," Jonathan Lair, a 2004 alumnus, said.

Many Baylor graduates head to major cities such as Houston, Dallas or Austin, while Waco is sometimes seen only in the rearview mirror.

But the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce hopes to meet this problem in full force with the launch of a new program called Get Busy Waco.

"Through these efforts, we hope to retain a larger portion of college graduates within the community and bridge the gap between young professionals and Waco employers," said Kristina Collins, economic development coordinator for the Chamber.

The program targets professionals between ages 24 and 35 to inform them about what Waco has to offer both professionally and personally.

"Students that are older or married see that Waco is a great place to settle down, get a job and raise a family," said Dr. John Boyd, director of Baylor Career Services.

Not all Baylor graduates immediately flee for the big cities, but instead find valuable opportunities in Waco.

"After I graduated I fell into a position with a company in Waco I just couldn't pass up," Amber Adair, a 2005 alumna, said.

"I plan on gaining a few years of experience and then moving to a larger city where there are hopefully more possibilities and job outlets. If not moving for a job, at least for a change," Adair said.

One service available to Baylor students to find jobs is the Career Services office, which does incorporate job opportunities in Waco.

Boyd said some graduates do focus on finding employment in Waco.

"Many students have enjoyed their time spent at Baylor in Waco," Boyd said.

Career Services also offers job fairs twice a year.

"The job fairs we offer allow students to begin their networking in and around the Waco community," Boyd said.

"This is a time for relationships to be formed prior to graduation, so when the time comes, they will be able to use connections gained as an undergraduate," Boyd said.

But Shane Jones, a 2005 alumnus, said Waco's job market is limited.

"Unless you're self-employed in Waco, there's really no room for you to grow career-wise and personally," Jones said.

"A small town doesn't have the contacts a larger city would have. You need to be able to get in touch with contacts very quickly. That's why I'm moving to Los Angeles or New York City where I can be easily accessible to my targeted employers," Jones said.

While Jones said he's planning to leave Waco quickly, others feel attached to a community in which they have grown comfortable.

"I've decided to stay around a Christian community with the people I've known for years who can strengthen and encourage me in my walk with Jesus," Lair said.

The Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce is launching a Web site at GetBusyWaco.com. The site is divided into three sections: Get Busy Working, Get Busy Playing and Get Busy Living. It will be up and running by the end of November.

"Programs like 'Get Busy Waco' will be another asset for students to take advantage of while at Baylor and in Waco," Boyd said.

Reporter Gentra Cartwright contributed to this story.