Wednesday, July 5, 2017
The Journal Record
OKLAHOMA CITY – Brittany Sanger left Oklahoma in search of job opportunities. She grew up in Edmond, where she knew others her age whose first inclination, like hers, was to leave the state.
“I just wanted to travel,” Sanger said. “I always wanted to move somewhere else after college.”
When she went to the University of Oklahoma she was pre-med but decided to switch to a culinary degree after interning at a seafood restaurant in Los Angeles. She said she felt Oklahoma didn’t have a lot of challenging opportunities in the field so she left to look elsewhere. After training on the West Coast she made her way to Paris and then to Boston.
“I have always loved Oklahoma City and I always knew I was going to move back,” Sanger said. “But at the time I just didn’t feel like there was anywhere here that was up to par with culinary standards.”
In January 2015 she got a call from Graham Colton and Brian Bogert, who are also native Oklahomans who came back after testing other waters. They wanted to know if Sanger would be the culinary partner to The Jones Assembly, a food and music venue.
“It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up,” Sanger said. “It made me want to come back and be a part of that growth.”
Sanger said she was surprised by how much the city had grown and the different districts that had developed.
One challenge she had was getting used to how slow everything was compared to a big city. But she said she would encourage people to stay in the city because of the growth.
“This is the time when everything is growing,” Sanger said. “This is the boom. Right now.”
Oklahoma City has appeared on several lists as a top city for millennials in categories including homeownership and employment.
An April study by the online residential real estate site Trulia ranked Oklahoma City at No. 5 for best places for older millennials, aged 28-32, based on their rates of homeownership, education levels, employment and income compared to those aged 33 to 55.
Last year the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber found millennials accounted for more than 230,000 workers, which made up 34 percent of the area’s workforce. Those millennials were aged 19 to 34.
The chamber’s education and workforce vice president, Drew Dugan, said retaining millennials in the city has been an issue since they started the Greater Grads initiative, which puts on programs such as InternOKC to encourage recent college graduates to stay in the city.
“I think in the last 10 years we have definitely evolved,” Dugan said. “We are trying to do a good job of promoting the different parts of town, but some of it has to take place organically.”
He said since the program started he has seen more businesses add internship programs. About 70 percent of the interns recently surveyed said they would stay in the city, a drop from about 90 percent two years ago.
In 2016 OKC was ranked No. 8 for millennial homeownership by the personal finance technology company SmartAsset, and in 2015 it was ranked No. 1 in 2015 for the best city for small tech market growth by CBRE, a commercial real estate services firm.
Sanger said she plans to apply what she learned about the culinary world here and will help future culinary students have an opportunity to train in the city. She said The Jones Assembly will open next week.
“I’m hoping to change the landscape with restaurants and the food scene,” Sanger said.