By Jennifer Vernon and Marian Kansas

The results from our 2019 Economic Development Index are in and once again, workforce availability is the leading contributor to sleepless nights among economic developers. In fact, over the past year, 93% of the 110 ED Index participants believe the availability of skilled labor has become more important in the site selection process. 

As the battle for talent wages on, we see communities becoming increasingly creative in their approach to fill local talent pipelines.  Incentives to recruit young talent – like cash stipends, co-work space, student loan assistance, home loans, and reduced income taxes – began to emerge in the past year.  

While talent incentives may prove to be more stunt than solution, some other actions are paying off for communities with patience and partnerships.  According the 2019 ED Index, four approaches are currently underway in more than 50% of surveyed communities: (1) forming industry-education partnerships, (2) creating and expanding K12 and adult training programs, and (3) expanding internship / apprenticeship programs. 

When asked what they would like to do in the future, three actions rose to the top of the wish list: (1) leading a talent attraction campaign, (2) launching a talent attraction website, and (3) expanding programs to retain local graduates.  At the end of this blog, we share a few leading practices in these areas, just in case you’re looking for inspiration.

At the end of the day, the battle for talent will not be won with a one-way approach. A smart strategy begins with a thorough understanding of your labor dynamics and an active partnership of leaders representing education, industry, community, government, and social services. Avalanche offers a suite of services proven to help communities of all sizes address their workforce challenges. We quantify gaps in the local workforce pipeline, identify strengths and surpluses of talent, facilitate industry partnerships, and develop real-time career planning websites and talent portals.  If workforce is on your mind, we’re here to help you develop your battle plan. Contact Chris Engle for more information on Avalanche’s talent related strategies. 

ED Index Wish List: Leading Practices

Talent Attraction Website: Make It. MSP.

 Make It. MSP. is Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul’s talent attraction website led by the Greater MSP Economic Development Partnership with support from the Young Professionals of Minneapolis. The Make It. MSP. website includes information about living and working in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, including cost of living, major industries, company spotlights, education, neighborhoods, virtual city tours, the BE MSP network that connects professionals of color, Greater MSP ambassadors, and a search engine for jobs and internships. They have several resources for newcomers, like MSP Hello, which are welcome events for new residents, and Ask an MSP Hello Ambassador, which is a long list of Minneapolis residents and professionals that you can contact for advice. Each Ambassador has a small bio that specifies their areas of expertise, like “Ask her about: Arts and Culture, Professional Services” so newcomers or prospective residents can seek advice from knowledgeable natives.

Talent Attraction Campaign: Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce Live in Springfield Advertising Campaign

In 2012 the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce learned that employers were struggling to fill open positions and decided the Chamber needed to attract new talent to the region to support key industries. In 2014 they launched the Live in Springfield, MO campaign. Initially the advertising campaign included just a talent attraction website,, but has since grown to include print brochures, a relocation guide, recruitment videos, and outreach at national events. The campaign’s marketing materials focused on both employment and quality of life. The talent attraction website has resources to help potential residents find a job, a home, healthcare, ways to get involved the community, and more. The campaign continues today and has recently started to focus on attracting young professionals to Springfield.

Graduate Retention Initiative: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s Greater Grads Program

Established in 2006 by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s Education and Workforce Development Department, the Greater Grads program was created to recruit and retain college graduates in the Oklahoma City region. The program has three main components. The first is their website,, that has information on living and relocating to Oklahoma City, internship and job opportunities in the region, and an interface for employers. The second component is the Greater Grads Career Fair, an event that connects job seekers to over 100 regional companies, including companies like AT&T, First Fidelity Bank, and Boeing, through personal interactions. The final component is InternOKC, a summer program that gives current interns in the Oklahoma City region the opportunity to network with other interns and employers, learn valuable skills from guest speakers at events, and prepare for the transition from an internship to a full-time career.