How Flyover Country is winning the competition for top talent

Attracting talent and capital to Flyover Country

Attracting Talent & Capital panel: Tom Cottingham, Hardik Desai, Justin Harlan, Kathy Henrich, and Mark Thomas

Growing an innovation ecosystem is not something a city leaves to chance. Some of the fastest-growing cities in Flyover Country have taken on this challenge in creative ways.

In our virtual event “Attracting Talent & Capital to Flyover Country,” moderated by Flyover Future CEO Tom Cottingham, we spoke to four representatives from cities doing great work to nurture innovation as well as attract and retain the talent needed for growth. Here’s a roundup of the initiatives highlighted:

Tulsa Remote

Tulsa Remote was created to bring in talented people from all across the country who have remote jobs. Benefits offered through the program include $10,000 — which members have the option to receive at one time or in a lump sum, following the purchase of a qualifying home in Tulsa. Additionally, they are provided access to a coworking space and with a collaborative community built through events and meetups. This approach is working: To date, about 90% of the workers they’ve brought in have stayed beyond their one-year commitment.

“We do events every week that help folks integrate into the community so we can keep them around long term,” said Justin Harlan, Managing Director of Tulsa Remote. “So far to date, we’ve brought over 1,500 remote workers to the city. It’s been a really awesome venture so far.”

How do they manage such a feat of assimilation? Tulsa Remote uses a platform called UrbanBound that offers resources to help people with issues such as realtors and certain demographics of areas of town.

“And then once they’re here, we make it our goal within the first 90 days to get in touch with somebody for a one-on-one meeting. We try to find out what their values are, what their passions are, and how they hope to get plugged into the city,” Harlan said. “We’re aware of the fact that Tulsa has so much to offer and it’s going to be far more likely for somebody to stick around within the city if we can get them plugged in. We’re really intentional about figuring out what makes somebody tick and then connecting that person to the right places.”

MKE Tech Hub Coalition

Milwaukee is building tech talent from within. Kathy Henrich leads the Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition, a non-profit organization that has over 120 organizational members focused on inclusively doubling tech talent in the region. “One of the things we believe is that it’s not just about upskilling, or re-skilling an individual. It’s about the pathway to employment as well,” Henrich said.

One of the first things the coalition did was to create an apprenticeship program from leveraging best practices across the country. Partnering with intermediaries, this program bridges the talent gap for employers and adults looking to get into the tech field.

“This is an important program for a couple of reasons. First of all, these are really life-changing opportunities in tech. The average tech salary is about 56% higher than the average salary in the region. We also have a very high diversity rate– 75% of those that are traditionally underrepresented in tech,” Henrich said. “This allows us to not only build capacity in the region, but also build the diversity of that tech talent workforce as well.”

JumpStart Ventures

JumpStart Ventures, a division of JumpStart Inc., focuses on pre-seed, seed, and Series A funding to early-stage technology startups throughout Ohio. “Through our history, we have invested in 140-plus companies, and have roughly $140 million assets under management,” said Hardik Desai, who is a Senior Investing Partner at JumpStart Ventures.

Ohio is a place where a lot of institutional research is going on through, for example, Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic. JumpStart Ventures recently launched a new fund called the Healthcare Collaboration Fund, in partnership with University hospitals, that is accelerating the commercialization of innovative technologies.

Pittsburgh Regional Alliance

Pittsburgh Regional Alliance is a nonprofit economic business investment and talent attraction organization for the 10 counties that make up Southwestern Pennsylvania. The Alliance is working on a number of initiatives for catalyzing growth sectors and attracting remote workers to the region.

“There are a number of catalyzing growth sectors that we want to see flourish,” said Mark Thomas, the alliance’s president. “We also have a number of talent-focused initiatives to attract remote workers. We want to brand Pittsburgh as a place that people should be living and raising their families or to start their careers.”

Those growth sectors include all things tied to automation–robotics and AI—but the city also has a huge healthcare infrastructure. “When you look at just the creative sector, whether it’s eSports or something being developed around Web 3.0, Pittsburgh is a city where you’ll continue to see innovation,” Thomas said.

If you want to watch the entire panel discussion form Attracting Talent & Capital to Flyover Country, you can click here.