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MRGLSI 2016: Talent attraction today’s economic key

By Kent Oyler, President & CEO of Greater Louisville Inc.

Louisville must draw immigration, especially international, to fill skilled jobs for native business

MRGLSI-2016-300x402

There is no silver bullet for building a robust, regional economy. If there was a clear path to success, then everyone would be following it. That’s simply not the case. It takes investment from business leaders, elected officials and the community as a whole to create a vibrant environment in which people want to work and live. The key ingredient however is clear: It’s skilled people.

The people who comprise a community are what make it go and grow. It’s time we started investing in them and bringing more talented people into Kentucky and Greater Louisville, as well as improving retention of skilled folks already here. Talent attraction is an issue facing communities across the country.

A shortage in qualified workers is one of the top complaints of GLI members. Since the economy rebounded, there are thousands of open high-wage jobs in Greater Louisville. Finding the right people to fill them is more difficult than ever.

In 1Q16, Greater Louisville had more than 8,800 job listings for positions requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education. Those open high-skill jobs carried a mean salary of $79,000, which means that we are missing out on over $700 million in economic impact. When openings include associates degrees and skilled trades, the number of open positions more than double.

Increasingly, businesses are looking to economic development partners to help them recruit. It’s a complicated issue, but one we are ready to tackle.

Oftentimes, we hear that businesses do not have a great way to sell our region to job candidates and their families. Corporate recruiters will say they are good at selling their company, but not as prepared to sell their community.

It’s not just a job that will make someone move. They need to feel like they know the community to which they are relocating. Will there be a good place to meet people who share similar interests? What are the quality of life amenities? How is the traffic? Which neighborhood is right for me? These are vital to someone deciding to relocate, specifically millennials.

In the past five years, our inbound migration of that generation has been 4 percent, compared to 15 percent in places like Nashville. Clearly we must do better.

Strategies around attracting talent are as important as efforts to attract businesses. GLI is working on a number of strategies to support interested newcomers. Strategies like our Talent Ambassador Initiative; our talent toolkit; and our efforts around entrepreneurship.

We are creating an ambassador program that recruits corporate representatives, family members, college roommates and others to be an extension of Greater Louisville.

To assist them with this task, GLI is building an online talent toolkit offering information on career opportunities, real estate and a view into life in the area. It even has a cost of living calculator. This toolkit offers tangible information that helps us sell ourselves.

louisville-cityview
A shortage in qualified workers is one of the top complaints of Greater Louisville members. (Brett Hait)

For the next year, GLI also will be focused on recruiting talented international professionals. Data shows that communities that have international migration are growing their talent base at a much faster pace. Louisville added a net 6,367 people to its population over the past five years thanks entirely to the inbound migration of international people.

We need to step up the game-plan for supporting and recruiting international talent to the area. Many times, these professionals are ready to step into jobs in the engineering and healthcare sectors. We need to support their transition and help them integrate into communities.

In addition to recruiting and growing talent, GLI believes that growing entrepreneurs creates a new pool of talent. GLI is known for its support of local start-up companies and while we grow businesses, we are growing new pools of talent focused on innovation. In the first quarter of this year alone, EnterpriseCorp, the entrepreneurial arm of GLI, helped five early-stage companies secure $2.79 million in funding.

There is a lot to do around this talent attraction and retention challenge, and GLI plans to be the loudest and most aggressive we have ever been on this issue. We will rally companies to join our efforts and we will inspire friends and family to be an extension of our cause. Together, we can bring our sons and daughters home. We can recruit friends who have never thought of living here before. And we can transform our population growth to serve companies and better our community. It’s a communal effort and we accept the calling.

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