By the BF Staff
From the May/June 2021 Issue
They call it “work/life balance”—and the slash between the first two words tells you everything you need to know about which way this concept is tilting. The millennials who have embraced this lifestyle—and who are requiring that it be facilitated by their employers at a time when they’re about to make up three-quarters of the American workforce—clearly were paying attention when their parents complained about their work day at the family dinner table.
Why would anybody sit in traffic for miles to go punch a clock at a 9-to-5 corporate ant hill in some dreary commercial/industrial district in a place that empties out when the sun goes down? (Okay, we’ll pause here to let everyone over the age of 50 ask themselves: “Where was work/life balance when I really needed it?”).
The bottom line is that talent attraction has zoomed to the top of the workforce development priority list for EDOs—and the talent that’s in demand has put what we used to call quality of life at the top of its list of requirements.
Our Millennial Magnets cover story will introduce you to locations that have successfully established a reputation as affordable, thriving hubs for millennials craving a 24/7 environment that surrounds them with work, play, live options. They’ll tell you the best strategy for creating a magnetic field that attracts talent.
We’ll also give you a detailed look at a unique partnership between higher education and the tech sector that originated as an incentive in a BF Deal of the Year but soon will be a crown jewel in one of the nation’s top tech talent pipelines.
CONNECTICUT: INNOVATION HUB FOR GROWTH
Filled with opportunities to start, grow and build a career, Connecticut continues to attract a diverse, educated and hardworking workforce.
More than 500 companies are headquartered in Connecticut, with 25 listed on the Fortune 1000 List as of June 2020. With strong aerospace, defense and advanced manufacturing sectors, Connecticut ranks in the top 10 for states with high concentrations of manufacturing employment.
The world of sports wouldn’t be the same without Connecticut, which is where multinational sports channel ESPN has its headquarters. Broadcast media giants Audacy (formerly Entercom Communications Inc.) and iHeartMedia have also made a home in the Hartford Region.
Connecticut also boasts a thriving financial services ecosystem. High quality of life in Fairfield County contributes to the abundance of hedge fund providers. And with Hartford as its state capital, the state is also renowned as the “Insurance Capital of the World.” As a hub for cutting-edge advances in InsurTech, FinTech, MedTech and BioTech, Connecticut is also at the forefront of innovation, drawing worldwide appeal.
Global biotech startup A.D.A.M. (Advanced Development of Additive Manufacturing) has offices at the University of Connecticut Technology Incubation Program (UConn TIP) in Farmington, CT and in Ukraine.
“Connecticut is a good location in terms of logistics and there’s a great scientific and business ecosystem. All the opportunity is here,” says A.D.A.M. Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder Denys Gurak. “It became a very logical, organic decision for me to come to Connecticut as a new resident and start doing business here.”
Hartford ranks #2 nationally as a top location for tech talent (Source, EMSI 2021). Local tech companies are locating, expanding and hiring tech talent throughout Connecticut. They’re also attracting and hiring talent from around the world and bringing them to the Hartford Region.
Companies like India-based HCL Technologies have been creating a presence in Hartford. The information technology (IT) company established a global delivery center in downtown Hartford in 2021 and has been hiring, with dozens of job postings available in the Hartford Region.
On the heels of HCL’s announcement, New Jersey-based IT company GalaxE.Solutions decided to expand its presence by leasing a floor at Hartford’s CityPlace. The IT company had already opened an innovation center in Hartford in September 2019 at the Stilts Building downtown.
India-based IT giant Infosys established a presence in Hartford in 2018. By May 2020, the company employed about 500 people in Connecticut and has committed to hiring 1,000 employees in Connecticut by 2023.
These tech companies are also expanding and growing in the Hartford Region by building partnerships with some of the region’s larger companies that are committed to helping foster startup growth and innovation. Some support InsurTech initiatives by providing POCs, advisory services and internship opportunities. Others, like Nassau Financial Group, have gone a step further to create an incubator for InsurTech startups that intend to build a presence in Hartford.
“Hartford is an innovation hub. The opportunities are endless and there’s a huge amount of potential for growth,” emphasizes Launc[H]artford Program Specialist Jazna Stannard, a millennial who moved to Hartford from Boston in early 2021 to work for an initiative that’s helping develop Hartford’s innovation ecosystem by connecting local startups with industry leaders.
Enticed by quality of life, lower cost of business and taxes and access to nature and outdoor activities, many companies have been leaving Boston and New York City, especially once they realize they can find and attract top talent in Connecticut. With a lower cost of living and a unique balance of city and country life, young professionals (YPs) are also drawn to the region.
The cost of business in Connecticut is substantially lower than northeast hubs like Boston and New York. Combining the total tax cost with the Class “A” office lease costs, Hartford is $1.1 million lower than New York City and $700,000 lower than Boston on an annual basis.
While the average Total Effective Business Tax Rate (TEBTR) across the country is 4.7 percent, Connecticut has a 3.5 percent TEBTR, which is due to its high-output industries, including insurance, financial services and aerospace/defense, which generate a large amount of gross state product (GSP). As a result, Connecticut’s business taxes per dollar of GSP are well below the national average (Source Ernst & Young, October 2019). Those seeking employment in Connecticut can benefit from employment opportunity and potential wage growth.
YPs are also migrating to Connecticut, specifically Hartford, which The New York Times ranked as a top choice for millennials.
The new AllHart initiative launched by the MetroHartford Alliance is designed to help YPs achieve and enjoy work/life balance in the Hartford Region. With a focus on culture, lifestyle and community, AllHart attracts a diverse talent pool and amplifies the sense of connection for YPs living and working in the Hartford Region.
AllHart provides information about everything from safety to transportation, as well as what makes Hartford unique as a region, what the community values, and suggestions for new bars, cafés and experiential dining and outdoor activities to explore.
“Hartford is a convergence of diverse cultures and rich history, which creates a breeding ground for world-class music and arts, food cuisines and a varied set of activities each season,” says Jesse Imse, Marketing Communications and Brand Manager at engineering firm AECOM, and HYPE (Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs) Executive Committee member. “The Hartford Region’s location also plays a role in our uniqueness. Being able to take advantage of hiking, beaches and major cities within a one-day trip is unparalleled.”
With initiatives like AllHart and HYPE, YPs have a sense of community and place in the Hartford Region.
“I’ve been living in the Hartford area for two years now and love every minute of it. I took a risk to move to a state where I didn’t know a single person and it was the best move I ever made,” says Lauren Angat, Vice President Small Business Relationship Manager at TD Bank, and HYPE Executive Committee member.
Attracting top talent means ensuring Connecticut supports workforce development by making state funding available, creating pathways for career-focused learning, providing college students with access to internships and full-time jobs, and fostering skilled talent through university partnerships.
With a statewide emphasis on workforce development, Connecticut is invested in the future of the state and committed to building a workforce that is equitable, inclusive and adaptable. Connecticut’s statewide strategic workforce development plan has been put into place to ensure the state is developing a workforce agenda that reflects its business and industry’s talent needs, building an agile educational system, continuously supporting students and job seekers so they can participate in the workforce, and creating a data system infrastructure that documents its outcomes and progress.
Gov. Ned Lamont has proposed investing more than $100 million in funding Connecticut is receiving from the American Rescue Plan Act. The plan is to ensure workers whose employment has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic have access to industry-aligned training programs that address the immediate hiring demands of employers and provide job seekers with employment opportunities.
“Investing in our workers is a win-win,” emphasized Gov. Lamont. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to shape the future of Connecticut’s workforce and ensure it aligns with the needs of the post-pandemic, 21st century economy.”
FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE CHARLOTTE REGION
When Lowe’s chose Charlotte for its new Tech Hub, it solidified its reach as one of the world’s largest home improvement retailers in the Charlotte Region. The 357,000-square-foot center will house up to 2,000 technology professionals in South End, a bustling neighborhood just outside of center city.
Chief Information Officer Seemantini Godbole says the dedicated technology center will accelerate the Fortune 50 company’s technology transformation, serving as the epicenter for the team that will build future retail experiences as part of a relentless focus on its customers.
“Our global technology center in South End is a fascinating building,” Godbole said. “The available jobs are wide-ranging, from software engineering, infrastructure and information security to an abundance of creative positions and careers around data sciences, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Our new center is going to cover such a gamut of skills, and it’s also going to be a place where talent will be able to find a job that matches their career interests.”
The Charlotte Region enjoys a tech talent pool that is growing twice as fast as the national average, and the availability of a quality technical workforce played a role in Lowe’s decision to choose the Charlotte Region for its new center. In fact, large companies across all industries in the region sought digital transformation in 2020. In Q4, hiring in the technology industry was up 15 percent over Q2. For Lowe’s, its new center will offer a gamut of tech positions designed to assist talent in finding jobs that align with their career interests. As an added benefit, Godbole said, its South End location provides an environment that today’s tech talent is looking for.
“Today’s workforce wants to walk to work, bike to work or ride the light rail. They want to be able to take a lunch break and pop into neighborhood restaurants. They also want a workplace that has open collaboration spaces that inspire them, and they want the neighborhood around them to do the same. South End—the community, the sense of place, our center—really encourages that type of culture and creativity.”
Visit any city in the U.S. and workforce development will be on the forefront of efforts to build a 21st-century labor force. For Sun Belt cities such as Charlotte—now the nation’s 15th largest city—talent development and increased economic mobility are priorities, which is why Lowe’s placed its corporate headquarters in Mooresville, NC, about 25 miles north of the city, nearly 20 years ago.
“When I moved to Charlotte in 2018, I simply fell in love with the region and its spirit of regional collaboration,” she said. “There is tremendous economic opportunity here, and the ecosystem of all the businesses working together is felt across our 15-county region.”
“In my role as CIO, what impresses me about Charlotte is how it has become a huge magnet for technology talent and overall business talent,” she added. “There is tremendous potential for this trend to continue over the long term in Charlotte, and Lowe’s is proud to be a part of our region’s success.”
According to the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, which collaborates to promote and advance regional economic development for the city of Charlotte and the 15-county region, people move to the region for jobs in a healthy and growing economy. The Charlotte Region is already one of the fastest-growing tech talent markets, and as Lowe’s will attest, its new technology center is destined to become a magnet for both technology and business talent.
“Our region offers the diversity of talent that businesses are looking for,” Godbole said. “Lowe’s is looking for diverse talent because we want our talent to represent the local population. I think the Charlotte Region gives us a head start on that front and that makes my job a little bit easier. I also think Charlotte is a city that’s not too big to get lost in and not too small to find everything you need, from the perfect talent to a host of amenities that enhance quality of life. Simply put, Charlotte is the perfect size.”
EXPERIENCE-SEEKING IS BRINGING IN MILLENNIALS TO LOUISIANA
The millennial generation, the tag given to the cohort of individuals born from the early 1980s through the mid-1990s, will soon make up 75 percent of the American workforce. Across the country, states and locales will be adjusting to this new reality.
But what does it mean for a state like Louisiana, where this realization has already sparked new investments, partnerships and careers? With progress well underway, how is the Pelican State staying ahead of the curve?
Millennials are experience-seekers. Concerts, festivals and sporting events trend as more popular than retail purchases. You’re more likely to find Louisiana millennials at a New Orleans Saints game than the mall.
Festivals are a big draw for the millennial generation and Louisiana hosts more than 400 annually. Jazz Fest in New Orleans ranks among the world’s best because it’s more than music, it’s a cultural experience. Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette illuminates the spirit of Cajun culture. Shreveport’s Red River Revel Arts Festival celebrates the arts and culture of northwestern Louisiana with an emphasis on diversity.
Like food? Well, there are festivals for strawberries, peaches, oysters, rice, crawfish and catfish, and just about every event is packed with vendors delighted to give you a taste of Louisiana.
Outdoor recreation experiences are also big with millennials. Long ago, Louisiana earned the “Sportsman’s Paradise” brand because of its fertile grounds for fishing and hunting. These days, water recreation isn’t limited to anglers—the state’s coastal areas, lakes and meandering rivers are great for boating, while kayaking through marshlands provides an up-close experience. State parks offer diverse landscapes where hikers of all levels enjoy clear-cut, scenic paths. Routes for cyclists run through wooded areas, low-lying marshlands and through the cities of Baton Rouge, Shreveport and New Orleans.
Diverse cultural experiences and plentiful outdoor recreation opportunities have long made Louisiana a popular tourist destination. Millennials have caught on, exploring the state’s offerings in pursuit of life-lasting memories. But as is often the case, a quick tour doesn’t tell the whole story of what it’s like to wake up every morning and head to work in Louisiana.
Among the most intriguing draws for working in Louisiana is the emergence of business incubators that set the stage for entrepreneurs to spark businesses around the state. The New Orleans BioInnovation Center (NOBIC), Shreveport’s Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (EAP) and Lafayette’s Opportunity Machine (OM) stand among the leaders in this space.
NOBIC, located in the heart of the New Orleans medical district, is where entrepreneurship, science, innovation, technology, academia, commercialization and economic development all meet. Since its founding in 2012, Louisiana entrepreneurs have opened over 300 businesses and created nearly 1,000 high-wage jobs through NOBIC.
EAP and OM offer similar services that provide entrepreneurs with expertise, mentorship and key connections. Like NOBIC, both are relative newcomers to the incubator space, with OM having launched in 2009 and EAP in 2013. Both have made a big impact in a short amount of time, each spawning nearly 100 startups.
The business incubator space has been a boom for start-ups. From advanced radiopharmaceutical development to breakthrough genome sequencing, Louisiana is a cutting-edge player in biotech, life sciences and research. And while the millennial generation is fueling start-ups, long-established healthcare brands stretch statewide and offer additional opportunities to make a big impact.
In that regard, the Baton Rouge Health District is a major draw for science-minded millennials. One of the largest academically based nutrition research centers in the world, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, serves as an anchor. Scientists at the center have uncovered advanced treatments for diseases from obesity and diabetes to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The next rounds of breakthrough research like those from Pennington will come from bright-minded millennials. With a population comprised of 26 percent millennials, the 10th-highest concentration in the country, there’s plenty of reason to believe millennial residents of Baton Rouge will be making revolutionary scientific advancements.
Edtech developer SchoolMint packed up its Silicon Valley headquarters and moved to Lafayette in 2020. The company, which serves more than 18,000 schools and 11 million students, moved its corporate offices from New York and Miami to the rapidly expanding city that is the de facto capital of Cajun culture.
SchoolMint’s move adds to a trend in the state, and “Silicon Bayou” has emerged from the state’s tech growth. Need proof? Louisiana’s software development industry has seen job rates increase 22.6 percent in the last five years. That’s three times faster than the national average SchoolMint isn’t alone in propping up the Silicon Bayou moniker. It follows in the footsteps of tech companies like IBM, EA, DXC Technology, CGI and General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) that all have major operations in Louisiana.
GDIT serves as an anchor for Louisiana’s I-20 Cyber Corridor with more than 1,000 employees at its centers for integrated technology, cyber innovation and customer engagement in Shreveport. Network solutions, cloud services, cyber operations and application development are its major concentrations—fields that are always on the lookout for new talent.
On the eastern side of the corridor, you’ll find Lumen Technologies, formerly known as CenturyLink. From its headquarters in Monroe, the internet, phone, and TV provider clocks $60 billion in net assets. Let’s be frank, it’s a big deal for first-time job-seekers looking to get in the tech game. After all, it’s a global brand and a Fortune 500 company reaching customers in over 60 countries.
“Louisiana’s significant advancements in the tech and life science sectors fit well with millennials who want to make a big impact in Louisiana and globally,” said LED Secretary Don Pierson. “The state’s diversified economy opens up opportunities for tech-savvy millennials to build careers while experiencing the unique lifestyle only Louisiana offers.”
WORK, LIVE AND PLAY IN DELAWARE
LiveLoveDelaware.com, a new website launched by Delaware Prosperity Partnership, is an easy-to-access resource for Delaware businesses to use in their talent-acquisition initiatives. The site details for prospective employees, their partners and families what makes Delaware a great place to work, live and play.
Featuring a range of useful information about the state—including a cost-of-living calculator and a host of links to sites from tourism, industry sectors, diverse lifestyles and more—the site is designed for Delaware businesses to use when recruiting prospective employees. Features of the LiveLoveDelaware site include:
- Work in Delaware, which highlights the state’s legacy of innovation through its diverse range of industries, employers, opportunities and talent and connects jobseekers to businesses in Delaware seeking talent.
- Live in Delaware, which tours visitors through the state’s unique regions, from beach to farm, city to small town, and showcases “must-haves” for quality of life, including education and healthcare.
- Play in Delaware, which explores Delaware’s unique heritage and showcases the arts and culture along with Delaware’s parks and nature trails.
“Looking for a job is about so much more than simply getting a paycheck,” said DPP President and CEO Kurt Foreman. “Employees or prospective employees and their families have many options today. Choosing to move to, or to stay in, a great place where you can feel welcome, where you can get involved and where you can take advantage of a varied and desirable quality of life is key.”
Foreman added, “Factors may vary slightly for each jobseeker, but whatever it is to you, there is no doubt you can find it in Delaware. We like to say that Delaware is a state of welcoming neighbors.”
LiveLoveDelaware.com was created with support from DPP’s private sector investors, a cross section of businesses representing a variety of innovative industries that share a commitment to supporting a vibrant economic future for Delaware. Private-sector investors who support Delaware Prosperity Partnership’s Advancing Prosperity Campaign play an essential role in shaping Delaware’s continued economic success.
MILLENNIALS HAVE IT ALL IN MISSOURI
A nice, affordable home. Reliable, fast broadband. Outstanding restaurants. Plenty of museums and family attractions. Endless outdoor adventures. Millennials in the tech industry are flocking to Missouri to take advantage of all of the above—and more.
They want it all, and in Missouri, they can have it. The pandemic has disrupted the tech industry and provided new opportunities for rising tech hubs to emerge. In the Midwest, Missouri is rapidly becoming the newest destination for tech companies.
For example, Accenture Federal Services recently announced plans to open a new Advanced Technology Center in the state. The new operation is bringing 1,400 new tech jobs to the St. Louis region. Accenture is one of several tech companies showing their confidence in the state’s ability to provide a solid foundation for their business.
Missouri’s success in the tech industry didn’t happen overnight. While other markets have touted their accomplishments in the tech scene for years, Missouri has been quietly building its tech ecosystem from the ground up.
In 2015, Square, Inc. announced plans to open its first office in Missouri. The digital payments company joined several well-known companies already operating in the state, including Centene, Microsoft, IBM and Expedia—along with more than 10,000 other tech businesses that call Missouri home. Since opening its doors in Missouri, Square has tripled its workforce in the state and expanded into a larger office space to accommodate the rapid growth.
Nearly a decade ago, Google Fiber selected Kansas City, Missouri, for its first location. Since then, Kansas City has made a splash in the tech scene—particularly for women in the industry. It’s the only city in the U.S. where women, on average, earn more than men.
Across the state, millennials make up 20 percent of the workforce, and nearly half of those millennials work in the tech industry.
Companies and talent are drawn to Missouri, leading to top rankings in various studies and surveys about the best locations for tech businesses and workers. The state’s low-cost of living is extremely attractive to millennials that are establishing themselves both professionally and personally.
Missouri is one of the top five most affordable places to live in the U.S. Combine affordability with short commute times and lively urban areas and it’s clear why Missouri is a good fit for millennials. With a labor market that is not saturated like many other tech hubs, millennials can also find rewarding careers at leading companies in the state.
Long gone are the days of struggling to get noticed by top companies. In Missouri, job seekers are actually able to get their foot in the door, which also provides the thousands of tech companies in the state with the brightest talent in the world. Missouri’s world-class universities are feeders into that talent pool, and organizations like LaunchCode and Claim Academy are delivering tech talent at an accelerated rate for Missouri employers. Apprenticeship Missouri, one of the top apprenticeships in the nation in terms of completed programs, also strengthens the tech talent in the state by providing a combination of job-learning experiences and course work.
Missouri’s commitment to keeping its homegrown talent aware of job opportunities is evident through the Missouri One Start Division. One Start helps businesses recruit the best talent—making it a beneficial program for both employers and job seekers. Since the pandemic increased the need for workers, both in-person and remote, One Start has been helping Missouri companies recruit with digital marketing that goes straight to potential millennial employees. By focusing on geographic areas and replacing the sometimes-complicated corporate career pages with an on-brand customized microsite, One Start removes barriers and connects talent with Missouri companies in just one or two clicks. But it’s not just talent that’s shining a spotlight on Missouri’s tech scene-it’s the unmatched collaboration among private individuals, local officials and universities. From downtowns establishing coworking spaces to support remote work and tech companies, to tech incubators sprouting up in various cities and venture capital firms investing in Missouri companies, the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit in the state is evident. And that spirit isn’t limited to a few urban areas. In fact, five MO cities were recently recognized by the Best of the Midwest Startup City Rankings—St. Louis (5th), Kansas City (12th), Columbia (29th), Springfield (37th) and Jefferson City (54th).
Missouri offers tech companies and the millennial workforce everything they need to be successful in business. But what sets the state apart from other tech hubs is what the state offers outside of office hours. As a place to live, Missouri offers a variety of exciting metro areas, quaint small towns and outdoor adventures for a work/life balance that makes it a desirable place to put down roots and grow a career.
Currently, MO has the 5th-lowest cost of living in the U.S., and for the last four years, it’s been in the top 10 for lowest cost of living in the nation. Missouri’s housing index is the second-lowest in the country at 71.6, with an average two-bedroom apartment costing $827 per month and an average home value of $159,5002.
The pandemic put outdoor activities front and center, which put Missouri on top. With 91 state parks and historic sites, its state park system is consistently recognized as one of the top state park systems in the nation. More than 1,000 miles of trails provide hikers some of the Show Me State’s most beautiful vistas, and there’s the Katy Trail, offering a 240-mile cycling trip across the state. Ready to make a splash? No problem. There are abundant crystal clear rivers for kayaking, canoeing or a relaxing float. Anglers of all ages have a home in Missouri, where fishing tournaments offer up to $100,000 for the winning catch.
Small communities, such as Hannibal, Hermann, Fulton and Ste. Genevieve, are filled with history and charm, while Branson and the Lake of the Ozarks are well-known travel destinations.
Hungry? Great food and drinks are found throughout the state. From world-famous barbecue and gourmet burgers to pizza, pasta and international cuisine, Missouri’s restaurants satisfy any appetite. More than 130 wineries offer award-winning wine and breathtaking views from patios, porches and decks. The craft beer and distillery scenes are equally strong.
In Missouri, everyone wins. Millennials in the state are excelling in tech careers they’ve always dreamed of without sacrificing their quality of life, and employers in Missouri are thriving thanks to top tech talent moving into the state. While some might say you can’t have it all—Missouri is proof that indeed you can.
TECH, TALENT AND THE PURE MICHIGAN ADVANTAGE
In the new era of digital manufacturing and remote work, Michigan has emerged as a place that can support workers and companies navigating new workforce realities.
It’s no secret that Michigan was at the epicenter of the rise of the modern middle class. More than just the state’s manufacturing heritage is tied to the assembly line and Michigan putting the world on wheels. The state, along with the entire nation, finds itself at another convergence point in workforce trends—some born of the pandemic and some accelerated by it—that once again put Michigan in position to capitalize on its workforce strengths for a new generation.
One of Michigan’s greatest advantages is its deep talent pool—from one of the largest, most experienced advanced manufacturing workforces in the nation to being home to the highest concentration of commercial and industrial designers—five times the national average—creating an R&D environment that has secured the presence of 22 original equipment manufacturers (OEM) in the state and nurtured a thriving startup ecosystem.
This pipeline is fueled by a robust university network with Michigan ranking in the top 10 nationally for degrees awarded in computer science, engineering and mathematics as well as a focus on training for skilled trades, and up-skilling the state’s existing workforce to meet demand in emerging fields like mobility and EV manufacturing.
Michigan is also seeing corporate headquarters employment growing twice as fast as the national average in large part because of a professional and corporate services workforce of 185,000, with talent costs in Michigan coming in at a third less than those in coastal markets.
There are few other places where there is an experienced workforce, with an active pipeline, that can readily meet employment needs in manufacturing, R&D and headquarter functions all in a single location.
There is perhaps nowhere this is more evident than the state’s growing tech industry. By targeting key growth and talent opportunities where the state has a competitive advantage, Michigan is leading the way in developing innovative solutions for protecting the security of systems and people across the state, country and world. Some of the world’s largest tech companies, including Amazon, Microsoft and Google are investing in Michigan to take advantage of a competitive business environment, with close proximity to a tech talent pipeline that includes the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University and Kettering University.
The most recent example of tech giants looking to Michigan is Apple’s announcement earlier this year that it would locate its Apple Developer Academy in Detroit to support coding and tech education for students as part of its $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative. Apple expects the academy’s programming to reach close to 1,000 students each year, with a curriculum that covers coding, design, marketing and professional skills.
Similarly, Silicon Valley-based KLA chose Ann Arbor, Mich. as the home to its second North American headquarters from an initial list of 350 locations with the rich talent pipeline coming out of the University of Michigan and high quality, but affordable lifestyle the city offered being key to that decision. In the midst of a pandemic, KLA has been exceeding its hiring benchmarks in Ann Arbor as it nears completion on its permanent campus in Michigan.
“No longer do you think about the development team being located in one area,” said Rick Wallace, president and CEO of KLA. “What Michigan has is what a lot of other places don’t–which is a chance to live in a great town or a great state and be part of a global development community and also have a great quality of life. I think that’s rare, and that’s exciting.”
It’s not just established tech businesses that are growing in Michigan.
The state supports a robust high-tech ecosystem through a network of SmartZones and programs to support commercialization of university research. This ecosystem has helped to foster five Unicorn companies born in and committed to Michigan: OneStream Software, Rivian, Duo Security, Llamasoft and StockX.
Additionally, information technology startups received 32 percent of venture capital invested in Michigan last year and accounted for nearly half of the startup companies receiving venture capital funds during that time according to the Michigan Venture Capital Association annual report.
This combination—premier tech companies along with a statewide approach to nurturing start-ups and innovation—is helping to drive talent attraction efforts in tech-related fields to the state. Michigan has more than 80,000 workers already employed in technology cluster industries with a concentration in computer systems design services and customer computer programming. According to the 2020 CompTIA Cyberstates report, Michigan is ranked 11th in the nation for net tech employment and Business Facilities includes the state in the top 10 for both tech job growth and cybersecurity leadership.
For the past century, Michigan has been synonymous with manufacturing. Today, it is increasingly redefining itself as being a leader for introducing technology onto factory floors and integrating high-tech solutions into traditional manufacturing processes. Cities like Grand Rapids are being recognized as new ‘digital factory’ towns as manufacturers look to go digital. Through its collaborative Industry 4.0 initiative, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation is continuing to keep Michigan at the forefront of manufacturing technology and workforce.
Today, Michigan is the national leader for employment in industries related to Industry 4.0 and automation, with more than 13,000 workers employed in related industrial machinery manufacturing industries in the state. To remain competitive in the future of manufacturing, Michigan is laser-focused on becoming the most advanced and productive in manufacturing, by positioning its workforce and its companies at the forefront of technology. Through a partnership with Automation Alley and the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center that will ensure 50 percent of the state’s small and mid-sized manufacturers are prepared to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies by 2025, the MEDC is taking proactive steps to ensure the state’s manufacturing workforce—currently susceptible to automation risks—is positioned to lead the next industrial revolution.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has made workforce training a top priority for her administration as well, laying out a statewide goal to increase the number of Michiganders with a post-secondary credential to 60 percent by 2030, allowing the state build on the talent infrastructure it already has and provide companies the confidence that Michigan has the highly skilled workforce they need.
Through programs like the MI Reconnect program—a workforce development initiative that is creating a tuition-free pathway for Michiganders to receive in-demand industry certificates or associate degrees—Michigan is already working to both anticipate and fill the skills gaps that exist in its talent pipeline to prepare for Industry 4.0.
Michigan’s Midwest work ethic is well-known, and when the day is over, residents can turn to the playground of Pure Michigan in their backyard offering the chance to explore vibrant urban centers and to play and enjoy the outdoors—from epic sand dunes on freshwater coasts to trout streams and bike trails winding through immense forests.
The pandemic-accelerated trend in flexible work locations shows no sign of slowing even as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out. Talent is seeking to work from places that maximize work/life balance, and increasingly finding that balance in Michigan.
“Michigan gives you more time and money to do what you want,” says Priya Nigam, an Ann Arbor-based tech consultant for a Chicago company. The commute-free lifestyle of remote work coupled with Michigan’s affordable cost of living—Michigan is the fourth most affordable state, with a cost of living 10 percent lower than the national average—frees up remote workers to enjoy more of what makes them happy.
Working from and living in Michigan means grabbing a post-Zoom pint at one of Grand Rapids’ 80+ breweries; exploring 3,288 miles of freshwater shoreline without ever having to drive more than 80 miles; heading to the backyard to see the Northern Lights in Marquette; or touring some of Detroit’s 1,000+ murals on a lunch break.
Communities across the state are embracing the opportunity to welcome remote workers and helping them to build their personal and professional networks.
Grand Rapids, ranked by Livability as the No. 2 Remote-Ready City in the U.S., is noted for its “tons of resources and programs to help you develop leadership skills, learn a new skill set or simply take the next step in your career.” Detroit’s “close-knit community of friendly individuals who are enthusiastic about their hometown” helped earn it a spot on Rocket Homes’ list of top 10 cities for remote work.
Berrien County in Southwest Michigan, located 90 miles from Chicago, is offering up to $15,000 toward a new home and a choice of over $5,000 in additional perks to help residents of the Windy City make the move.
In the Upper Peninsula, Marquette’s collaborative approach to supporting start-ups is giving remote workers the resources they need to operate in the area. The Innovate Marquette SmartZone is creating a world-class entrepreneurial ecosystem while supporting existing business innovation, tech-based and tech-enabled entrepreneurs, innovators and startups.
And in Traverse City, incubators and coworking space like 20Fathoms offer tech talent the opportunity to work and live in a community Conde Nast Traveler named one of the Prettiest Towns in the U.S.
Gov. Whitmer announced a $12.7 million investment in increasing broadband internet access across MI in October 2020 and an additional $5.3 million and $14.3 million in funding for second and third rounds of broadband infrastructure projects to help make remote work and telecommuting an option from every corner of the state.
“These projects, along with additional infrastructure initiatives we are undertaking, will provide underserved communities in Michigan with high-speed internet service,” says Gov. Whitmer. “This critical service is no longer a luxury but is a necessity that allows every Michigander to get a quality education and compete in the global economy.”
Whether it is creating a path to long-term employment through training new talent in emerging industries, or offering an ideal home base for a greatly expanded remote workforce, Michigan is doubling down on a foundation of a high-output workforce and affordability to drive long-term economic growth in the state.
INDIANA LAUNCHES $500-MILLION TALENT ATTRACTION INITIATIVE
This month, Indiana launched the Indiana Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI), which will dedicate $500 million in state appropriations to promote strategic investments to make Indiana a magnet for talent and economic growth.
Governor Eric J. Holcomb announced the concept of READI in his January State of the State address, and the Indiana General Assembly funded the program as a part of its new biennial budget. READI is expected to attract at least $2 billion of local public, private and philanthropic match funding that will propel investment in the state’s quality of place, quality of life and quality of opportunity.
“Indiana is uniquely positioned to make transformational investments in our communities that will catalyze economic and population growth for years to come,” said Gov. Holcomb. “READI will lead the nation in encouraging regional collaboration, and it will equip Indiana regions with the tools and resources needed to implement strategic investments in quality of place and innovation, creating a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our state.”
Through this initiative, the state will encourage neighboring counties, cities and towns to partner to create a shared vision for their future, mapping out the programs, initiatives and projects that are critical for them to retain talent today and attract the workforce of tomorrow. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) will award up to $50 million per region to support the implementation of strategies focused on making positive developments in quality of place and quality of life, innovation, entrepreneurship and talent attraction and development.
To participate and seek funding through READI, Indiana communities will collaborate to define their regions and create regional development plans that show how the region will be transformed from its current state to one that leverages unique opportunities and removes barriers to growth to propel its future.
Regional investments are expected to attract a 4:1 match of local public and private funding and may include strategies focused on physical projects, such as infrastructure, workforce housing developments, the revitalization of blighted or vacant properties, and cultural amenities, as well as sustainable, multi-year programs, such as talent attraction initiatives, public-private partnerships to advance innovation in industry, and small business support services.
READI builds on the framework and successes of the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative and the 21st Century Talent Initiative, encouraging neighboring communities across the state to work collaboratively to develop a bold vision for their future that, when implemented, will attract, develop and retain talent in Indiana.
To achieve this vision, regions will develop data-driven, actionable and sustainable development plans that outline strategies focused on improving the quality of place, quality of life and quality of opportunity within their communities.