Techies, come to Idaho — please

Local economic-development agencies turn to marketing videos to combat the Valley’s persistent tech-talent shortage.

krodine@idahostatesman.comAugust 13, 2013 

Come to Boise, where you can hop on your mountain bike and traverse the Foothills at lunch.

That’s part of the message in a new recruiting video planned to lure software developers and other tech workers to the Treasure Valley, where they can work for the many companies eager to make use of their skills.

“It’s the nature of the community and the nature in the community,” says Clark Krause, executive director of the Boise Valley Economic Partnership. “You can really quickly plug in here.”

BVEP is partnering with the Idaho Department of Commerce to pay for the video, expected to debut in September, and a new website that will shift the focus from attracting companies to attracting talent.

“What’s special about Boise isn’t about what happens in a cubicle between 8 and 5,” says Jess Flynn, whose PR firm Red Sky is helping develop the video, the website and other talent-attracting tools for BVEP.

“It’s the lunchtime ride. It’s the short commute. It’s what we have here.”

MEANWHILE, ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES

The Valley’s smorgasbord of outdoors offerings also will play a featured role in another new strategy to attract tech workers: the Idaho College Recruiting Co-Op.

The BVEP video aims to attract established professionals who have already been plying their trade. But the co-op will mine other territory: college students looking for an internship or a post-graduation job.

Tim Ramey, research and development manager for White Cloud Analytics, says the co-op notion sprang from a “software action talent workshop” in December where representatives of tech companies and government agencies brainstormed about ways to feed the growing need for developers. The Idaho Technology Council and affiliated Idaho Software Alliance are promoting the effort.

“For a lot of small software companies, it’s cost-prohibitive to recruit people from out of state,” Ramey says. “And the number of (software technology) graduates from Idaho universities isn’t enough to fill the needs of companies in the Treasure Valley, not to mention the rest of the state.”

“We have to have a much more concentrated marketing effort, because people just don’t know what we have to offer,” he says.

Only a few Idaho tech companies — notably giants Micron and Hewlett-Packard plus fast-growing Clearwater Analytics — have recruiters who can routinely travel out of state to interview prospective talent, he says. The co-op is designed to serve the rest.

To join the co-op, a company must commit to making one recruiting trip per year to a college or university of its choosing, then share the resulting resumes with other co-op members. He estimated each trip would cost about $1,000 or $2,000 plus the recruiter’s time.

Each recruiter would share information about other participating companies and the Valley as a whole. And, as an incentive, each recruiter could hold back 20 percent of the resumes they gather, with the understanding that if they don’t hire those candidates the resumes will be returned to the co-op pool.

So far, White Cloud is the only company that has committed to the co-op, but Ramey says a couple of other firms have indicated interest.

“I would like to get 10 this year, but I’ll start it with however many there are,” he says. “If you have one opening for a software developer, this would be valuable to you.”

One strategy co-op members might use is focusing their recruiting on states that lack the mountains and rivers beloved by Idaho’s tech community, he says.

“We could go to Kansas and say, ‘Look, you’ve got a pancake here. Look what we’ve got,” Ramey says. “For anybody who’s an outdoorsy-type person, this is ideal.”

PROFILES IN LOCAL TECH

The upcoming recruitment video, now in production by Rizen Creative, will offer three quick — 3.5 minutes total — “slice of life” profiles of tech professionals who thrive in the Valley’s business and natural environments.

White Cloud software developer Will Foster’s video slice will show him biking or running in the Foothills, having beers after work with colleagues, and barbecuing with his wife in their North End backyard. Foster, 25, has lived in the Valley since he was 12 and earned a computer science degree from Boise State University.

The others featured in the video will be Christina Tierney, director of recruiting at Balihoo, who moved to Boise from California; and a software architect for a large local firm who declines to be identified until the video comes out.

“These people share the demographics of the people who are coming here,” Flynn says, noting that the video pitch captures the joy the profiled professionals find in local tech jobs and the community.

Another focus of these and other tech-recruiting efforts is on the breadth of opportunity that Idaho, and particularly the Treasure Valley, provide.

“There are a lot of companies that are healthy and growing, and if it doesn’t work out at the first place you work, you don’t have to leave,” Ramey said.

According to the state Department of Labor, Idaho has more than 800 software companies, nearly half of which are in the Boise-Nampa area. Software developer comes in sixth on the department’s “Hot Jobs for 2010-2020” list. Moscow-based data analysis firm Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. anticipates that software development jobs in Idaho will increase by nearly 30 percent in the next decade, from 1,622 in 2012 to 2,107 in 2022.

WORKING TOGETHER

Other recruitment-focused efforts have been gaining ground recently. The Idaho Department of Labor launched a specialized TechJobs website last year. BVEP’s planned talent-attracting website will launch in connection with TechJobs.

Human-resource workers at firms that routinely need software developers have been meeting with other local experts for months to discuss the challenges and opportunities of recruiting tech workers. On Aug. 27, they will hold a “best practices” workshop at Hewlett-Packard to share ideas.

A common thread in the efforts is collaboration, a notion that companies and agencies need to work together to improve the flow of software developers to Idaho.

BVEP is sharing the $61,000 cost of the first video and several planned additional videos and the website with the Commerce Department, which kicked in $25,000, and Idaho Power, which contributed $6,000.

Krause says the melding of disparate groups’ efforts is his favorite part of the recruiting projects.

“This is probably the first and best example of us having a nice collaborative team,” he says. “I love seeing the silos break down.”

Kristin Rodine: 377-6447

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