People Have Become The X-Factor in Economic Development

Jun 19, 2018
Clark Krause

The good news about companies looking to expand to the Boise Metro… the priority is YOU.

Forbes ranked Boise as the #1 fastest growing city, and dozens of national media publications like the Washington Post, Bloomberg are talking about the quality of place the Boise Metro has to offer. Watching the building crane count in our downtown is hard to keep track of and ranges from new housing options in our downtowns to strategic new workspaces.

The good news about companies looking to expand to the Boise Metro… the priority is YOU.

When companies used to show up to consider an expansion or relocation to the Boise Metro, most questions wrapped around costs. Today, almost without exception, the first question is, “How do we become an employer of choice in your community?”

A few years back the labor market tightened up in healthy cities. Competition for talent has become fierce in the primary metros with wages starting to rise, record low unemployment in many cities, and new minimum wage policies in 18 states and 20 cities has added even more pressure as companies and consultants consider where to expand next. The C-Level executives that show up to visit the Boise Metro went from CFO to COP (Chief of People). Ok, that title is a little stretch, but the role of the executive went from cost modeling to people discovery.

In the past: the most common questions companies asked were about the site, costs and logistics.

“How much is the power cost per kilowatt? What is the cost of industrial land per acre? How much is water per million gallons? How will my trucks get in and out? Do you have an existing building we can lease? etc.”

Today: these key decision points have not gone away, but the question of greatest priority discussed is all about availability of talent.

Decision makers today are trying to identify growth trends in communities that will have a healthy pipe of future talent being created five, ten and fifteen years out. Most of the skills that are needed are being grown in our companies, colleges and universities, and don’t take your eyes off vocational training needs at the College of Western Idaho (CWI) as there will continue to be heavy demand for welders, machinists and industrial mechanics.... and speedy fill of the unknown skills.

You still have to prove that your community fills many needs for the company’s future success, but make no mistake that people have become the X-Factor.

New Companies Hire Locally? One myth is that companies expanding to a new community would pick up from one location and move that skilled workforce with them, but that rarely happens. Usually a company is in growth mode, so those that work in, let’s say Chicago, stay in Chicago and the Boise Metro talent pool will be expected to fill the new rooftop with qualified workforce. In fact, the number of people moving versus hired locally can easily be as high a ratio as one move-in for every one hundred local hires. Usually, the desire of the expanding company would be to hire 100% local talent.

So, why is this talent focus important for those of us who live here? Well, it means that companies today are driven by quality workforce decisions and they know that their business success in the Boise Metro has got to reflect “employer of choice” actions. I will try to stay away from the overused term “values”, but most companies looking at us today are asking questions related to how you want to be treated, what is important to you, what it is going to take to hire and keep you happy.

I think it also reflects what is most important to all of us: our family, friends and neighbors’ well being. Let’s strive to keep growing our high quality Idaho universities, community colleges and vocational training centers so that we can continue to build the talent pipe needed for today and tomorrow’s workforce talent. Let’s continue to support our community leaders so that they can successfully protect and grow our quality of place across this amazing valley.

I hope that the companies looking to expand in to the Boise Metro keep asking workforce talent questions and continue to prioritize what we know we have the very best of… people.