The city of Clarkston, Ga is a top destination for refugees and the Mayor, along with business leaders, have seized the opportunity to tap into a pool of workers who are responsible, committed and capable. Clarkston is located just 10 miles northeast of Atlanta that has earned the nickname “Ellis Island of the South.” In the 1990s, refugee programs in the United States identified Clarkston as a good fit for displaced persons of many different backgrounds based on its housing market and convenient access to public transportation and major highways.
This week in In Process, we speak with Clarkston Mayor Edward “Ted” Terry and Chris Chancey, CEO of Amplio Recruiting, a staffing company for the talented refugee workforce, about the innovative and compassionate things this small Georgia town has done to earn its tagline “Where Possibilities Grow.”
Mayor Terry, the youngest person to hold this position in Clarkston’s 135-year history, has more than 17 years of experience in public service and is leading Clarkston’s vision to become a more welcoming and compassionate community. Earlier in his career, Mayor Terry worked as a consultant for a wide array of legislators, school board members and non-profits. During that time, he helped raise millions of dollars for campaigns and causes, focusing on uniting individuals and businesses behind a common goal of creating a better society.
“I’m a millennial mayor and have often been called a hipster, which I think is a compliment,” said Mayor Terry. “I came to Clarkston almost seven years ago just as a temporary situation, but got involved politically because I saw there was a need in the community. The more I learned about its 35-year history of refugee settlement, it became apparent to me that this really is the best of what America has to offer.”
For Mayor Terry, he saw an opportunity to build on the microcosm of what a “more peaceful and prosperous world could be like.”
Similarly, Amplio Recruiting’s Chris Chancey sees himself as a social entrepreneur. In 2014, Chris visited Clarkston to learn more about the refugee resettlement process in America. He saw an opportunity to employ these legal and diligent newcomers while providing much-needed resources for companies all over Atlanta.
The dream of staffing Atlanta companies with talented refugee workers became a quick reality. By 2016, refugees placed by Amplio Recruiting were deeply engaged with products and services offered by Wal-Mart, Google, Tesla and dozens of other companies in Atlanta. This year, Amplio Recruiting has launched locations in Raleigh, N.C., Austin, Dallas, and London.
“We’ve been in the process of opening the London office and have had conference calls with several major companies such as Starbucks and L’Oreal, as well as mom-and-pop stores and manufacturing facilities that are already interested in using our services there,” said Chris. “Clarkston has a good concept so we can look at that and replicate it in other parts of the world where that same kind of collaboration and cohesiveness is needed to really find a path forward for refugees in need of a new start.”
According to Mayor Terry, refugees who come to America are almost exclusively families, and often three generations in one household. The goal is to help get one of the adults fully employed so the family can afford housing and transportation. To further help its residents, the city is focused on creating affordable housing, access to public transportation, and other refugee resettlement issues such as innovative new models around civilian-led policing, tiny-house development, and micro-farming. As if that’s not enough, Mayor Terry has also committed Clarkston to a goal of 100-percent clean energy by 2050.
“We’re creating a walkable community,” said Mayor Terry. “The grocery store, the schools, the community center, the library, the houses of worship―they’re all literally in one square mile within a 10-minute walk.”
He believes there’s good reason why the city is nicknamed “Ellis Island of the South.” According to Mayor Terry, “The average refugee stays two to four years, some a lot longer. Once people gain employment, they are looking for homes to buy or other places to move to and expand, so it’s a good entry point for a lot of new Americans.”
At the Intersection of Three Great Needs
Chris started Amplio Recruiting in 2014 after working with an international business in microfinance. Helping people get capital enabled him to follow that process all the way to his own backyard and find a way to do something for the refugees who needed help getting settled in the United States. Despite the resistance to the refugee influx, and the fears some had about dangerous people coming into the country, Chris forged on with his venture to perform a vital recruiting service.
“Whether or not we agree that these refugees should be resettled in the United States or in Clarkston, they are here. If they can add value to our community and we can pay a living wage to them, then it seems like a great match,” said Chris. “There’s one gentleman I recruited, a former Iraqi Air Force General under Saddam Hussein, who is now a property manager at an apartment complex. He resettled in Clarkston almost 15 years ago. Although I don’t think he ever thought he was going to become an Air Force General in the American military, we were able to apply those same skills in managing a really good property.”
According to Chris, most of the refugees are just looking for an opportunity to work, learn quickly, put food on the table and give their children a good education. Many of the golf-course communities in and around Atlanta have cooks, servers and turf maintenance people employed through his services.
He also partners with The Lantern Project to help train people in construction skills. “Right now there’s a ton of electricians who need a good place to work. They’ve been training for a year to go into welding or pipefitting. We have a lot of folks who are stepping into those roles, and as you know Atlanta is booming with opportunities in construction. There’s a huge labor shortage, so it’s been great to be able to fill in those spots,” Chris added.
Over the years, Chris has witnessed the impact his efforts have had on the business community. For those companies that hire refugees, they learn quickly that a hard work ethic, combined with investments in training, pays off. The business gains a qualified, dedicated employee; the workers are able to give their families stability in an unstable world; and the community becomes more acquainted with the refugees and embraces them―instead of fearing them.
Chris and Mayor Terry are believers in pushing one’s comfort zone. “Chris is connecting people face to face,” said Mayor Terry. “That’s what we’ve got to focus on now. Forget the media, forget what’s on the Internet, and take that next step out into the real world and see for yourself.”
Stream the conversation in the player below to hear about the interesting ways Mayor Ted Terry and Chris Chancey are helping to build a city that serves as a safe landing spot for refugees, while giving employers access to an eager, dedicated and dependable workforce. You can also subscribe to In Process on iTunes to receive this episode as well as future updates from the show on your smartphone.
Need a Responsible and Committed Workforce? Hire a Refugee. Here’s How and Why You Should
Mayor Ted Terry, Clarkston, Georgia and Chris Chancey, CEO of Amplio Recruiting
(c) Trusted Counsel (Ashley) LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Speaker 1: It’s time for In Process, Conversations about Business in the 21st Century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. Presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information, visit trusted-counsel.com and now with In Process here are Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon.
John: Hello and welcome to In Process, Conversations about Business in the 21st Century; presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual law firm. I’m John Monahon.
Evelyn: And I’m Evelyn Ashley.
John: We are partners in Trusted Counsel.
Evelyn: So John, a little different take on business and how businesses can actually improve their processes and systems and maybe just a completely different perspective on hiring.
John: Yeah, I think today’s show is really interesting. It is still business-related but-
John: We are going to touch on the use of immigrants, particularly refugees, here in the workforce. We’re going to keep it … It’s obviously a very political topic, but this is something that’s interesting that we found out that’s happening right here in our backyard in Clarkston. It’s going to be very interesting. I mean obviously a lot of refugees are coming in that are being helped and providing a valuable service to the city, so it’s gotten a lot of press and we were interested in meeting the principles behind it.
Evelyn: I think it’s also important because we’re actually hosting a group of lawyers from about 30 countries in November who basically I had to convince them to come to Atlanta because we are not on the scope of most countries from the perspective of a destination for internationals. It took a lot to actually convince them that they shouldn’t go to New York or Miami as their choice, so I think this is also a great way of showing them that it’s very topical of this is an international community and internationals are welcomed and integrated well into our culture and our society here.
Evelyn: Most of us are from somewhere else and that actually is a great way of looking at it.
John: So, I want to introduce our guests. First, our guest is Mayor Ted Terry of Clarkston, Georgia. Mayor Ted Terry currently serves as the mayor of Clarkston, Georgia. He is the youngest mayor in Clarkston’s 135 year history. With more than 17 years of experience in public service, Mayor Ted is leading Clarkston’s vision to become a more welcoming and compassionate community. Earlier in his career, Mayor Ted worked as a consultant for a wide array of non-profits, state representatives, state senators, mayors, county commissioners, school board members, and a U.S. congressman. During his time as a consultant, Mayor Ted helped raise millions of dollars for campaigns and causes with a focus on uniting individuals and businesses behind a common goal of creating a better society. Mayor Ted is currently working on refugee resettlement issues, innovative new models around civilian-led policing, tiny house developments, and micro-farming, as well as committing Clarkston to a goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Wow.
Our second guest is Chris Chancey, CEO of Amplio Recruiting. Chris is a social entrepreneur from South Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in advertising and journalism from the University of Georgia. He has his Master’s degree in Business Stewardship from Denver Theological Seminary. In 2014, Chris visited the city of Clarkston, Georgia, to learn more about the refugee settlement process in America. Clarkston is one of the largest refugee resettlement communities in the country and has an unemployment rate of over 50 percent.
As a social entrepreneur, Chris saw an opportunity to employ these legal and diligent newcomers to the U.S. and provide great impact for companies all over Atlanta. The dream of staffing Atlanta companies with the talented refugee workforce became a quick reality when Chris founded Amplio Recruiting. By 2016, refugees placed by Amplio Recruiting were deeply engaged with products and services offered by Walmart, Google, Tesla, and dozens of others in Atlanta. This year Amplio Recruiting has launched locations in Raleigh, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; and Dallas. Welcome Mayor Ted and Chris to the show.
Mayor Ted: Thank you.
Chris: Thanks for having us.
Evelyn: Thanks for being here. So Chris, what is it about Clarkston that actually drew you there?
Chris: It has a way of doing that, drawing people in. For my wife and I, we were looking for a home in Atlanta and ended up finding a place just inside the perimeter so we could still say we were ITP. We were directly across 285 from Clarkston, so anytime we went to the grocery store or the post office we got to run into and connect with people that were obviously not from Atlanta, not from the U.S. even. Probably in somewhat of an annoying way we would say, “Hey, where are you from? Where’s your accent from?” and over time getting to know people that way. Every one of those conversations would end with someone saying, “Can you help me find a good job?” That was really the seeds that started to plant in our minds and in our hearts really to see something bigger for that community.
Evelyn: So have you been in … You were in recruiting prior?
Chris: Actually no. It’s … Recruiting has been a crazy world to jump in to. I still feel like I don’t know anything about the recruiting side of what we do, but we’re learning more about that every day, sailing forward. Really, my background in business, I was working with an international business doing microfinance. We were helping a lot of people start their own businesses and get capital that were coming out of these countries where you see refugees fleeing from, and so it made a lot of sense to follow that process all the way here to my backyard and say, “Okay, what are we doing for them once they get here? What needs do they have once they are resettled successfully in the U.S.?”
John: What was the turning point from just hearing these stories to taking action about it? A lot of people hear stories and you think, “Oh, I should really do something” and then you don’t.
Chris: Right, and that’s where a little bit of lunacy kicks in. I mean for us and our family, my wife and I say we are spouse-preneurs. We just kind of have that itch where we work together and throw something out there and learn from it and fail and try to keep moving, so that was the process. I had some friends and personal contacts who ran businesses that constantly would say, “There’s no good people out there. We need more people. We can’t meet the demand, but we just don’t have any good people.” I knew there were good people that would say, “No one’s hiring.” To put our friendships in jeopardy, I matched some of these good people that I met with some of these local companies in Atlanta and saw that it was a win for everybody. Efficiency is increasing through the company and they’re happy and someone has a great job and their providing for their family and paying taxes; they are adding value to the community. The thought was, “How do we make this a for-profit, viable, sustainable business model where we take on all the risk and try to make a win for everyone?”
Evelyn: Interesting. So, when you started through the process of identifying companies that might hire, so you started with your friends, but clearly you’ve moved beyond your friend circle. How have companies responded to your desire to actually place these people?
Chris: It’s been a really interesting response. We started in 2014 and in 2016 we did about 300,000 in revenue. Thus far in 2017, we’re just about to cross the million dollar mark in revenue. That kind of coincides with the uptick in the political conversation around the refugee plight. It’s been an obstacle in some ways for us, but really overall it’s shined a light on this issue and for all those companies that are out there saying, “Where are we supposed to find good people?” there’s a light bulb going off that says, “Well, whether or not we agree they should be resettled in the U.S. or in Clarkston, they are here and if they can add value to our company and we can pay living wage to these people it seems like a great match.” It shot off like a rocket in a lot of ways this year and due in part by the media and the coverage.
We’re still having to convince people and help them understand that there is value to be had for everyone, but for the most part there’s a lot of people that just say, “I want to be a part of this. I want to be a part of the story. I want to see it have an impact in my company.”
Evelyn: So, do companies generally create training programs for them or are people coming to them with base skills that they already need or is it more, “I just have an absolute desire to create a life for myself and my family”?
Evelyn: So, I work hard. I learn as much as I can as fast as I can.
Chris: It’s a little bit of everything. Really, the pattern we see is a company says, “You know, this worth a shot. We’ll take a shot at this.” They’ll hire one or two people in and pretty quickly they get to know these people’s stories and they see their work ethic and they see their heart and they learn more about their families and the culture that they’re coming from. That’s what starts to create and training program or just more investment overall by the people that work in the environment from those their working alongside all the way up to the top level leadership, there begins to be this different approach into the way in which they structure things within the company.
Evelyn: Interesting. And do most of the refugees speak English or do they learn English on the job? What happens there?
Chris: Many of them are being resettled in Clarkston and in the Atlanta area because they already have great English ability. Still, even those are going to go through some type of ESL program, usually. That usually is not an obstacle for us overall. There certainly are those who are learning, but typically when we’re working with a new company we will be able to place a handful of people there in the beginning who are fluent and then over time be able to bring others in that still are learning and they’re able to help each other.
Evelyn: Help them. Interesting. We are going to take a quick break and then we are going to talk to Mayor Ted a little bit about Clarkston and why it is the destination for refugees.
Speaker 1: And now back to In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. For more information, visit trusted-counsel.com.
John: Welcome back to In Process. We are here with Mayor Ted Terry of Clarkston, Georgia, and Chris Chancey, CEO of Amplio Recruiting. Chris when we left off you were telling us about Amplio’s initiatives. At what point did you and Mayor Ted get connected in Clarkston?
Chris: That’s been one of the great things about that community is there is an openness to connect and collaborate together. It didn’t take long to get connected to Mayor Ted, I think it happened actually at Refuge Coffee, which is a common place for both of us to stop by in the community. It’s a good little water hole for a lot of people. I’ve really seen that Ted is one of those that is really the impedance behind that collaborative spirit in the community and he leads with an open mind and really innovative spirit as you can hear even in the bio. It’s really created a place that’s … There’s a lot of opportunities to thrive for the community that’s resettling there because of the work and his mindset and approach.
John: And for the listeners, I guess, who are not in studio both Chris and Ted are-
Evelyn: Quite young.
John: Yeah quite young. When you hear mayor-
Evelyn: Early 30s.
John: You think, especially in the south, you think 60, 70 years old. You’re young and very involved. What did you think about this initiative when you first got connected? You’ve been involved in a whole bunch of social initiatives. How did you think about integrating with Clarkston?
Mayor Ted: Yeah, great question. I am a millennial mayor, I’ve also been called a hipster, which I think is a compliment but it may not necessarily be for some people. I actually have been working in politics for many years, actually at this point half my life since I was 17 years old. I came to Clarkston almost seven years ago just as a temporary situation, but got involved politically because I saw there was a need in the community and I also recognized sort of like Chris had mentioned about seeing people that don’t look like they were born in America and I was very intrigued by that. The more I learned about Clarkston and it’s history of 35 years of refugee resettlement, it became sort of apparent to me that this is really in a lot of ways the best of what America has to offer.
It created an opportunity to build a microcosm of what a more peaceful and prosperous world could be like and if we could figure out how to make it work with all of these ethnicities, with all of these languages, all these religions in just one square mile. It gives me hope for the rest of the world to hopefully work out some of our disagreements that we’re even seeing in the news lately. Folks like Chris, people who work in the refugee resettlement agencies who do a lot of the job training and the English classes and the overall resettlement, they really deserve the credit. I’m kind of like the cheerleader in a lot of ways.
To me, it’s very important to align the government’s message with the message of what the community already represents, so being welcoming to all and having a compassionate nature about us; recognizing that there is an originating spirit in all of us and that people should be treated with respect and have those opportunities. Folks like Chris, when he came on the scene back in 2014 and we met about a year later, it was clear what the work he was doing was so crucial because there was this idea out there of you know, “Oh, someone’s going to come from another country and we’re going to take care of them the rest of their lives.” The reality is that, while in your intro I think you mentioned 50 percent unemployment and I think that rate gets kind of skewed because yes the initial sort of 90 day to 180 day period of resettlement there is no … They are trying to find jobs.
The great news, at least in Georgia, is that we have a 90 percent self sufficiency rate after the first 180 days. That means at least one person in the household has a full-time job and is able to actually pay for their rent and their groceries, and that’s really important because that government aid ends after six to eight months; so, it’s sort of like throwing someone in the deep end to learn how to swim and you’ve got one floaty in there. We’ve got folks like Chris and other resettlement agencies like Friends of Refugees, New American Pathways International Rescue Committee that actually are helping people learn how to swim in this new environment in this new country placing them with the businesses that need them the most.
I think one of the biggest challenges is as a mayor I want my people and my residents to have good paying jobs that have benefits, that have healthcare, that have some sort of flexibility and some sort of safety net. I think what Chris is providing with Amplio Recruiting is really connecting these people who in a lot of ways have these amazing backgrounds, skills, expertise, craftsmanship and the first job they are going to get is service related; it might be in the chicken industry. There is a huge population that actually travels an hour and a half north to the chicken farms in Gainesville, Georgia, or out in Athens and works in 30 degree factories for 10 hour shifts and then comes back. Having that pathway to a job that’s going to-
Evelyn: Give them the basics in the environment.
Mayor Ted: Help them grow and be self sufficient.
Evelyn: Yep, so that’s really interesting there Ted. Talk to us a little bit about the background of most of the refugees that you see. Are most of them fairly well educated? Are they professionals? Are they … What do you see as kind of where they came from from a job perspective?
Mayor Ted: Refugees that come to America are almost exclusively families. You’ll often see three generations in one household, so you’ll see grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, and then children. The goal really is to get the mom or the dad fully employed. There’s this one gentleman, now he’s a property manager at one of the apartment complexes. He was an Iraqi Air Force general under Saddam Hussein in the first, like back in the 80s and early 90s, but he defected and came over to the American side and sort of informed on what was happening. He was treated as a refugee asylum seeker and so he was resettled in Clarkston almost 15 years ago. I don’t think he ever thought he was going to become an Air Force general in the American army, but those same skills allowed him to run a really good property at one of the apartment complexes.
Evelyn: Another way to look at that too is the military from the general perspective because this happens to our own military people. They learn such process and focus that typically they’re great at business, so it seems like you have to actually look at individuals from what the potential is simply because their backgrounds actually do give them skills that they might not come because, “Oh, I was the CEO of blah blah blah” but have the opportunity because they have the intelligence and the desire to actually work hard.
Mayor Ted: Yeah, the desire … I think, and Chris I’d be interested to hear his perspective, but I would imagine that work ethic and sort of resilience and really just coming to work every day and saying, “I’m going to do the best job I can” that would probably be the number one trait, at least I would think be what you were looking for in an employee. Then training for specific types of jobs that you’re actually doing, I feel like that sort of happens in all lines of work regardless of what national origin you are. Every employer is going to train someone on the job.
Evelyn: Right, I think that’s true. But tell us … Take us back a little bit because I know that refugees have been coming to Clarkston for at least 35 years, maybe longer. Why has that been a destination?
Mayor Ted: Yeah, so the real brief history is the Refugee Act of 1980 was signed by Jimmy Carter, and was actually instigated by a Republican governor from Iowa who had many Vietnamese refugees after the aftermath of the Vietnam War; hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese from South Vietnam who actually worked with the American forces, but once that helicopter left the embassy in Saigon and the Americans pulled out there were hundreds of thousands of people that were sort of under attack by the new North Vietnamese government. There was what was called, if you’re familiar with it, the boat people of Vietnam, they actually fled to neighboring Thailand and other countries and were in refugee camps for many years. It was several bipartisan leadership that said to Jimmy Carter, “Look, we need to rescue these people. They were very instrumental for decades working with the American forces. We owe them something.”
Literally, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese came to America of a span of about 19 years from 1981 through the early 90s, but the brunt was in the first three or four years and so Clarkston received refugees from Vietnam early on. We still have some older Vietnamese residents who live in the neighborhoods and they’re the sweetest people you will ever meet in your entire life and they’ll go to either the Vietnamese Baptist Church or the Buddhist Temple; they’re half a mile in either direction, so you take your pick. I think that Clarkston kind of became the hub mainly because the housing was a little bit more affordable, the crime rate a lot lower so we’re consistently one of the safest cities in Georgia, so those were the outcomes of crime, not as much.
We have two main MARTA bus lines running through Clarkston, so public transportation is very important for those initial six to eight months until someone can get a car and a driver’s license. It was in proximity, we’re right on 285, so we’re between Stone Mountain and Decatur. You can really get on the interstate and get to wherever you need to go; I got here in 20 minutes, you know, from downtown Clarkston or on to the interstates up to maybe the chicken plants in North Georgia. Affordable housing, proximity, access to public transportation, and then also just a walkable community. The grocery store, the schools, the community center, the library, the houses of worship, they’re all literally in that one square mile.
Evelyn: Easy access.
Mayor Ted: A ten minute walk and you are everywhere that you need to go. Your initial one to two years in this starter city, we’re sort of a starter city; they call us the Ellis Island of the South. We receive new people and the average refugee stays two to four years, some a lot longer. Once someone kind of gains agency, they are looking for homes to buy or other places to move to and expand into, so it’s a good entry point for a lot of new Americans.
Evelyn: Very interesting. Okay, we’re going to take a quick break and then we’ll be back in just a minute.
Speaker 1: And now back to In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. For more information, visit trusted-counsel.com.
John: Welcome back. This is In Process and we’re here with Mayor Ted Terry and Chris Chancey, CEO of Amplio Recruiting. Ted, what has been the response, I mean you said Clarkston has been a destination for immigrants, refugees in particular, for years, but today’s political climate is sort of changing. What’s the response from the community, the non-immigrant community, in Clarkston?
Mayor Ted: Right now, so we refer to Clarkston as the most ethnically diverse square mile in America and about half the population is foreign born, so it’s literally 50/50. We got white and black Americans on 50 percent and then people from 40 different countries on the other 50 percent. I can say two things about that: there has been for many years an older white population that grew up in Clarkston, they remember when it was a railroad town and we actually had a train stop and the old Stone Mountain street car came through Clarkston, you know the old timers. Some of those folks embraced the new arrivals, they were very open to the Vietnamese coming. I think there was a little bit of tension when the hijabs started showing up and the Christian and Muslim sort of issue; some folks weren’t comfortable with that.
I think that people sort of self selected. The ones who really didn’t like being around this new multi-culture environment, they just left; some of them died quite frankly. Because I think in the last four years, myself as the new mayor and sort of these great programs like Refuge Coffee and Amplio Recruiting, we’re promoting Clarkston as a welcoming, progressive place. New people are moving in who are Americans who want to intentionally be around a multi-cultural environment. They want their kids to grow up and go to school with people of all different nationalities and languages, so they’re sort of self selecting.
We do have some African American residents who live in apartment complexes and some homeowners who have told me they kind of resent the fact that refugees get all this attention. One of the struggles and the things that we’re really focused on in Clarkston is to say that we’re not just about helping out refugees, we’re going to help out all Clarkston residents. We have affordable housing issues in Clarkston that we’re working on, we’re actually expanding our tiny house development ordinance to provide lower barriers to ownership. We’re also talking about as new developments are sort of creeping towards Clarkston that we incentivize developers to carve out affordable housing truly within their developments so that it’s not just refugee housing, it’s anyone who is sort of in the 50 to 30 thousand dollar annual salary income range to be able to afford to live in Clarkston and not be pushed out or gentrified out.
As long as we can keep to the basics so that people feel safe, that they feel like they’re actually able to afford where they live, and also be able to gather-
Evelyn: Be a part of the community.
Mayor Ted: And to bring people together. One big initiative that is happening is we’re going to be spending about 20 million dollars over the next three years to completely transform Clarkston’s infrastructure. We’re connecting all of the apartments in every direction with new bike lanes, sidewalks, street-scape project, landscaping; we’re trying to beautify the city and then create town centers of gathering, town squares where we can allow everyone in Clarkston to come out and participate in the community. Right now it’s a little hard because our infrastructure is from the 1970s and that’s just the function of government not having enough, us being a small government and not having a huge budget. We’re working towards it.
Evelyn: Interesting. So that raises an interesting question from the kind of non-refugee, non-immigrant perspective. I guess, perhaps, our current politics has raised the idea that there have been many Americans that are displaced by perhaps manufacturing cutting back and mines being shut down because of transference to perhaps better technologies. Chris, I think it would be interesting to hear from you. Do these companies that you’re dealing with, do they also look at Americans and offer them the opportunity for those jobs? And, do Americans want those jobs?
Chris: Yeah, that is a great question. Really, every conversation we hear from a company that’s reaching out to us, it sounds almost exactly the same. Every time a company will say to me, “Okay, we’ve been trying to hire someone for this position for months. Let me tell you what we’re looking for.” I grab a pen and a piece of paper, getting ready to jot down some very specific notes and then they’ll say something like, “We need someone who can pass a drug test. We need someone who is going to show up on time. They need to be honest. They need to keep their pants around their waist. They need to be able to communicate with us if there’s any issue.” The list I make is always, “This is the bar? This is where we’re at? What’s happening?”
Either the pay rate might not be at a level that the individuals entering the workforce or that are of age that were born in the U.S. are-
Chris: Willing to take or the other problem is just the work ethic may just not be there. These companies that have relied on in the past illegal labor or some other kind of labor force that has kind of gotten them through, now they have probably an even tighter profit margin and they still need that same level of production. There are so many stories like that where someone may be reaching out to us because they’re desperate and then we’re able to place someone in there and that whole seeing is believing mentality starts to shift and they start to say, “Okay, there is value here. There is certainly value that can be created.” A lot of people, it’s easy to listen to the media and say, “Those who are being resettled here as refugees, they’re either a terrorist or a charity case.”
In reality, there’s a workforce that is very important to the future of American manufacturing and really any industry. We had one company recently, just as an interesting story and an example, where we walked into an office of a company and just said, “Hey, we’d love to work with you guys. The products you are offering is very similar to some of the work that was being done by some of the people who have resettled close by.” Immediately the guy sitting there, he was wearing a cowboy hat and had the boots on and he said, “Refugees will never work in my company.” I said, “Can we talk for just a few minutes?” and by 30 minutes later he said, “This seems like it’s the best thing for my company to at least try this out. If it’s as good as what you say it is, then I think we’ll all be better off for it.”
A couple days later, one of our guys who was a translator for the U.S. army in Afghanistan who had since come over and resettled with his family started working there. It didn’t take but a few hours on the job for the guy to be calling us and saying, “Okay, I was wrong, you were right. What do I need to do to figure out how we take care of these people and bring them into our company.” Even in the last few months, that individual has had a couple different meetings with Senator Hank Johnson and talking more and more about how do we get involved in a political way to support this community. You just see this 180 approach to that community when you get to know someone and you see them for what they can do and the person that they are.
Evelyn: Well, so I think that’s an interesting question for both of you is will this problem of misunderstanding, and I would term it an immediate kind of hateful reaction, is it going to be cured? Does it have to be cured on the ground? Is it that you are there locally and you make the change and from there we actually need to turn our business people and those that are seeing how beneficial this can be into public spokespeople?
Mayor Ted: I’ve been quoting Mark Twain on this very issue lately. He said that, “Travel is fatal to bigotry, prejudice, and narrow mindedness. One cannot develop broad, wholesome views of the world by vegetating in one’s own corner of the world for one’s entire life.” The short version is travel is the only cure for ignorance. I tell people, “If you never met a refugee, you never met a Muslim, you never met someone from a different country, come to Clarkston and see for yourself. Don’t believe everything you just see on the YouTube Channel or in the media-
Evelyn: Or hear from your neighbors.
Mayor Ted: Or from your neighbor. See for yourself. Push your comfort zone just a little bit and try something out, you might be surprised.” What Chris is doing is he is on the ground, which I’m so grateful for because I can’t be everywhere, but we have a lot of great people like himself who are literally connecting people face to face. That’s what we got to focus on is forget the media, forget what’s on the internet, listen to the podcasts certainly, but take that next step out into the real world and try to find someone and see for yourself.
Evelyn: Embrace change. So, when we come back we’d like to talk a little bit about kind of the expansion of your message to larger cities like metro Atlanta and perhaps statewide. We’d also like to talk about Refuge Coffee and some of the delegations you have actually hosted in Clarkston that are interested in the work that you guys are doing. We will be right back.
Speaker 1: And now back to In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. For more information, visit trusted-counsel.com.
John: Welcome back to In Process. We are here with Mayor Ted Terry of Clarkston and Chris Chancey, CEO of Amplio Recruiting. Chris, you’ve done a great job here in Clarkston and here in the Atlanta area and I’m sure throughout the United States, but what does this look like on an international basis? Is this something that people need or want a similar service?
Chris: Yeah, that’s something that we kind thought that in the beginning there may be potential for that, but really we’ve seen … We’ve been pulled into some of those conversations without even attempting to do so. Even over the past few weeks we have opened up an office in London and similar to the U.S. they have this booming migration of people coming in and trying to acclimate and assimilate into the culture there. The government there, Parliament as well as the United Nations, are trying to work together to help those refugees that are resettle there find jobs and the companies are saying, “You’re not really helping us. You’re just telling us to do it, but no one’s really navigating the process for us.”
Evelyn: How to do it.
Chris: Somehow, some way we got put up on the radar there, and so over the past few weeks we’ve been in the process of opening the office there and had a conference call earlier this week with several major companies from Starbucks, L’Oreal, Marks and Spencer, all the way down to mom and pop stores and manufacturing facilities that are interested in using our services there. I think what is happening in Clarkston, not just with us but with all the agencies working together with leadership from Mayor Ted and others, there’s this concept that something good is happening here. We can look at that and replicate that in other parts of the world where that same kind of collaboration and cohesiveness is needed to really find a path forward.
John: That’s so cool, that’s so cool that it’s getting past even just here, but globally; that there is a need and that you’re able to help fill that void.
Evelyn: Plus, well Mayor Ted talk to us a little bit about Clarkston. Clearly we know that it’s an international location, city, but I also know that you have international delegations that are coming through Clarkston to see what you’ve done there. How has that come about and who are some of the groups that you’ve actually hosted?
Mayor Ted: Well, you know when I first moved to Clarkston almost seven years ago I had only known about Clarkston because I was living in Decatur, just 10 minutes down the road, and I would drive through it to go to Stone Mountain to go for my runs; that was literally how I knew about Clarkston. If you ask any mayor of the 550 municipalities in Georgia, and can you name all 550?
Evelyn: No, not at all, no. We have too many of them.
Mayor Ted: Their number one job … Yeah there’s so many of them, right? Their number one job really is when you say, “Oh, where you from?” and you say, “Clarkston” hopefully they are saying, “Oh yeah, I know about that place” and not, “Where’s that? What? Clarksville?” because there’s a Clarksville and we are Clarkston. That was actually one of my main goals as mayor is just to put us on the map. The media likes to cover controversy, and so I think it really just kind of sprung up two and a half years ago when the Syrian refugee crisis really hit the world stage. There was this political discussion about Syrian refugees, and then after that sort of the international media and local media and national media all kind of said, “Well, let’s find out more about Clarkston.”
There actually was this Guardian article that I know you were mentioning earlier that came out about three months ago that prompted the UN’s international organization for migration to say, “Wow, Clarkston is really doing some interesting things. We would like you to come to the Global Mayors’ Forum in Berlin” as the only American mayor with 30 other countries and mayors from those countries to speak about these issues of refugees and migration and how all these other cities around the world are dealing with it. It went off so great that they invited me to the next Parliament of Mayors on migration in New York City in mid-September.
I’m hoping that I can again be that ambassador for all the great things that are happening in Clarkston, highlight what Chris is doing and what Amplio is doing to say, “Look, here’s some really great models that y’all should look at, and you know what, talk to Chris and talk to these other folks in Clarkston. They’re the ones who are doing the real work. I’m here to report back on what they’re doing. Just this morning we had a group from Pakistan and there’s this really large contingent effort internationally around this idea of combating violent extremism. It’s a really big and important program that the United Nations and NATO AND other countries are working on, so there are international delegations that are coming to America and we’re sending people to those countries. I’m going next year to Morocco to talk about what are the best practices to make sure that we are tackling violent extremism before it gets to the point where we see what happened in Barcelona or in Charlottesville.
I think that is really important because all these people in all these countries, whether they’re Christians or Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists, they don’t want violence; they want peace, they want prosperity. Really back … We have to focus in on what Chris is providing, is they want participate in commerce, they want to create jobs and create businesses and if you have gainful employment and economic security, then this violence sort of falls away and then people can focus on being truly who they were meant to be. That’s the best part about life.
Evelyn: Absolutely, that’s absolutely right. My husband and I actually were in Morocco probably six years ago and had the opportunity to talk quite a lot about extremism. One of the things that we saw regularly as we were traveling were these red hands that were painted on various buildings and rocks and basically it was keep your hands off of my children. The conversation that we had with local Moroccans was, “How do you actually combat extremism?” You feed people, you educate them. Isn’t that the way you defeat extremism for anything, you know? Certainly with what we have going on here right now, currently. It seems like people need to be focused more on, “Let’s get you some trained skills and get you jobs.”
John: I think it’s really important here because it’s not the parents necessarily, they’re going out to work, but if the parents can’t find a job and then the kids are at home and they know that they are suffering economically and they were brought here to America; they’re probably going through high school or middle school and it’s a difficult time, you can get very disenfranchised. I think that’s where people are very surprised that someone who grew up in America, came through the system … Why did they become so angry? Well, maybe their home life wasn’t so good because they couldn’t get assimilated fast enough. I think this plays a really key role in helping tame that problem because that can be … Adolescence and stuff is tough enough as we all know. Chris I want to hear more a little bit about Amplio’s recruiting the services. We talked about the manufacturing, but what are the scope of services of the workforce that you can provide? What’s the scope of it and what are the characteristics and the benefits of this? What sort of workers are they that you have?
Chris: Thank you. Yeah, the idea is that there’s a lot of companies that are really struggling to find good people, so we’ll play that role for you, take on all the liability and recruit the right people, the good people for your company and cover that worker’s comp for the first three months or so, 500 hours and we cover all the payroll expenses. It just really makes it worthwhile to say, “It’s worth a shot. Let’s give this a shot.” Really, we focus in three different industries right now. We’ve got the home manufacturing logistics warehouse market, and for a lot of the people who are stepping into those jobs they are people who are still learning English, they may be close to fluency, but they’re not quite there; that might be the first job they have in the U.S. They have transportation, but they’re really just looking for an opportunity to work hard somewhere, learn quickly, and in many cases work at that same place for a long time. They want to put food on the table and get there kids a good education, so a lot of our workforce is there.
Then we have a lot in hospitality and the service industry, so a lot of golf course communities and clubs around Atlanta that we have cooks and servers and turf maintenance guys working on the courses. That’s a big area for us. The last one is really in construction. One unique partnership we have is with The Lantern Project, which is now the techton training and they are training guys in construction skills, so we’re able to help them. Right now there’s a ton of electricians who need a good place to work, a lot of guys who have been training for a year who are reading to go into welding or pipe fitting. We have a lot of folks who are stepping into those roles, and as you know Atlanta is booming with opportunities in construction. There’s a huge labor shortage, so it’s been great to be able to fill in those spots.
Evelyn: Really interesting. Guys we really appreciate your time. Is there anything else that our listeners need to hear about Clarkston, about refugees, about Amplio?
Mayor Ted: Yeah, I’ll just say real quickly a great sort of point of entry if you would like visit Clarkston is to look up Refuge Coffee truck, Refuge Coffee company on Facebook or on the internet. It is great coffee, it’s in the center of downtown, it’s an easy place to just hang out for maybe an hour or so. You will see and meet refugees, Americans all gathering and it’s also providing a living wage for the refugee workers there and job training. That’s a great point of entry if you’re like, “I don’t know if I want to meet a refugee or this or that.” Look up Refuge Coffee Truck, come visit on an afternoon and walk around town.
Evelyn: We’re going to do it. How about you Chris?
Chris: I would just say that if there’s companies that are interested and just thinking through this, we are happy to help navigate the process even if we’re not involved directly. We’d love to help you consider how it works with your company.
John: Do you have a website that maybe you can …
Chris: Yeah, it’s ampliorecruiting.com, so that’s A-M-P-L-I-O, Ampliorecruiting.com.
Evelyn: Mayor Ted and Chris, thank you so much. This has been a really, really interesting and educational conversation. We really appreciate your time.
Mayor Ted: Thank you.
Chris: Thank you.
Evelyn: We’ll see you next time on In Process.
Speaker 1: This has been In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. Presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information, visit trusted-counsel.com.