Monday, July 09, 2012

Emerging US Talent Geography

Cincinnati is starved for talent. The metro is setting "Bold Goals" concerning the development of human capital. David Joyce, chief executive officer of GE Aviation, frames the problem:

“Put yourself in my shoes. I have to compete with every city in the United States for great talent,” Joyce said. “So I’m at every campus looking for the best and brightest finance majors, engineers, business majors in the room. I want to bring them into a community that differentiates itself in addition to a company that differentiates itself.”

Emphasis added. The war for talent is heating up. Regions are upping their game and better cultivating homegrown brains. The focus is still on building a cool city in order to attract talent:

To most people, Nashville is a one-note town: Music City, home of the American country scene. That's not necessarily a bad thing, says Liza Massey, president and CEO of the Nashville Technology Council. "It's great because it shows we have a creative, vibrant community."  ...

... Although the Nashville Is Hiring campaign has only been recently announced, Massey says the effort will include an ad campaign as well as visits to tech conferences like SXSW. Earlier this year, the Technology Council sent a street team of young Nashville residents to the Tennessee music festivals CMA MusicFest and Bonaroo wearing bright yellow shirts that exclaimed "I'm a hotspot!" with QR codes that could be scanned for more information about the tech jobs available.

Massey hopes that the campaign will allow them to entice workers from nearby Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Raleigh, but their bigger range of initiatives will also allow them to lure tech workers away from larger cities like L.A., New York, and Chicago. She thinks their efforts show candidates that Nashville is dedicated to creating the best tech working environment in the country. "I challenge them to find another city on their short list that has such a coordinated effort and is taking such a holistic approach."

Emphasis added. Nashville is a "community that differentiates itself." Joyce would love Cincinnati to follow in the footsteps of Music City. Both cities are behind the times, chasing yesterday's paradigms of economic development. Neither will beat San Francisco, L.A., New York, and Chicago at this game. The Cincinnati advantage:

Allison, 26, was seeking a San Francisco base for DotLoop, the technology company he founded in his hometown of Cincinnati three years ago. ...

... Austin Allison dropped out of his second year of law school in 2009 to found DotLoop, which automates paperwork for real estate agents. Launched with angel capital, the company became profitable in 17 months, he said. In May, to accelerate growth, it took $7 million in funding from Trinity Ventures.

San Francisco is the clear place for that expansion to happen, he said.

"San Francisco has a talent pool that is different and more robust than the talent pool that exists in the Midwest," he said. "Our office here will become our bleeding-edge tech arm, but our internal operations will stay in Cincinnati."

He wants to hire 10 to 20 people in San Francisco within the next year. Having an office that projects the right vibe - "fun, cool, energetic, with lots of natural light, high ceilings and an open floor plan" and near amenities and transit - is a key part of recruitment, he said. Another big consideration is flexibility: a space that can grow with the company, or a shorter lease period in case it needs to relocate.

Cincinnati and Nashville are angling to get the right vibe, one that San Francisco already has (as well as an international reputation for such amenities). Missing in the urban upstarts is the thick labor market, the "more robust" talent pool. Nashville has the edge on cool and creative. Cincinnati has legacy assets. Score one for the Queen of the West.

Cincinnati, not Nashville, produces the talent and startups that Trinity Ventures wants. There is a link via DotLoop between San Francisco and Cincinnati, where "internal operations will stay." I wish Nashville the best of luck barking up a dying tree.

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