Stevenson   Windsor Star   22-Nov-1997   Atlanta lures young Canadians
Atlanta lures young Canadians


When Jeff Stamp moved to the United States two years ago, he left behind family and friends for a career he couldn't have at home.

As an editorial assistant at CBC's The National in Toronto, Stamp's Career was clouded by cutbacks and competition for scarce work with more experienced employees.

Few of his friends worked in their field; most made ends meet patching together part-time positions.  An entry-level offer from CNN in Atlanta with four weeks paid vacation and stock options changed all that.

"I can't really say the streets are paved with gold," says the 25-year-old Haliburton, Ont. native.  "But the economy here is so much stronger and anything is achievable if you work hard.  I only wish this type of opportunity presented itself in Canada."

Young, educated Canadians like Stamp frustrated by high unemployment and stagnating careers at home say U.S. cities such as Atlanta are offering them the kind of opportunity their parents enjoyed when they grew up.

With one of the fastest growing job markets in the U.S., Atlanta is the capital of the New South and a magnet for workers and entrepreneurs across the continent.  CNN, Coca-Cola, UPS, Delta Airlines and Lockheed have their headquarters in this city of 3.5 mil lion.  Many more are on the way.

For young Canadians working in Atlanta, the main advantage is the number of full-time jobs available in their field.  Most say that back home they would be lucky to get part-time or contract work.

"I have never held more than a part-time job in Canada," says Monty Nicol, a 28-year-old Internet content creator from Calgary.

Weekly job offers

"Down here, there are positions advertised that go unfilled for months.  I probably receive four to five messages a week for jobs."

Although entry-level positions in the U.S. often pay less than their counterparts in Canada, the cost of living and taxes are lower.

For Heather Ismael, a CNN satellite operator from Toronto, that means she can afford her own house and get on with her life at 27 years of age a rarity for many of her peers in Canada.

"I know at my age I've bypassed a lot of friends at home," says Ismael, who worked seven years as a cashier at A&P before moving south.  "Personally, I don't think I would he working in my field if I stayed (in Canada)."

In Atlanta, young Canadians say they get to prove themselves at an early age and are promoted to positions that, back home, are guarded by older employees.

"In the U.S. I can see the opportunities and no one's going to discourage me for being young," says Ismael, who's been promoted four times and seen her salary double since she started at CNN five years ago.  "Everyone here is just trying to get themselves together.  It's much more positive."

Although some young Canadians are gone for good, many are waiting for the chance to return home.  They relish Georgia's low taxes and warm weather in the winter, but they miss Hockey Night in Canada, their family and friends.

"I do think it's a shame," says Stamp.  "I was born and educated in Canada.  Everything has been invested in me as a Canadian.  I had to leave.  It would have been nice to have a choice."