While young tech professionals flock to the East and West Coasts, Midwestern cities actually have more to offer than most realize.
Tech professionals typically look to the East and West Coasts when looking to start or further their careers. Silicon Valley has been labeled one of the world's top hubs for innovation, and New York City—recently named the destination for Amazon's HQ2—has consistently remained an obvious choice due to the many jobs clustered there.
People gravitate toward the coasts because many large companies have big offices in those areas. Tech talent, in particular, needs a workplace that will allow them to develop and thrive; but in order to do so, those companies need money. Companies in these big cities in the coast tend to have that kind of money, according to Nick Cromydas, CEO of Chicago-based recruiting firm Hunt Club.
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However, "if you look at the East Coast or the West Coast today, it's really expensive to start a company," said Cromydas. Further, "the cost of living is exorbitant, it's tough to really start and raise a family. If you want to have one to two kids, and still work in an opportunity that's exciting in New York City or San Francisco, you have to be making hundreds of thousands of dollars. "It's quality of life diminishing."
The perceived excitement of moving to big coastal cities overshadows the many opportunities in other parts of the US, specifically in the Midwest. Some of the largest tech companies in the world have expanded into the Midwest: Google and LinkedIn have offices in Chicago, Salesforce has a home in Indianapolis, and Uber's Advanced Technology Group settled down in Pittsburgh.
"There's a ton of great opportunities here that weren't here five to 10 years ago," Cromydas said. "If you're from the Coasts, and you're working at a venture-backed company, and you're trying to grow, 10 years ago there wasn't the level of venture capital actually supporting the ecosystem—that's changed now. There's also more money now to deploy in these smaller private companies or startups; that's more exciting opportunities for people to get involved."
Tech jobs in the Midwest allow workers a better quality of life, Cromydas added. "You can buy a house, you can send your kids to great public schools, or even private schools. You can do so in a way that allows you to both pursue passion in career and have a great life with your family," he said.
The reason for such development and change in the Midwest boils down to one component: Technology, according to Cromydas. As tech startups and ideas flooded tech hubs on the Coasts, large and medium-sized companies had to expand, or become enveloped by other rising stars.
Now that the Midwest has all of this opportunity, the question is how to bring the coastal tech talent back inward. Cromydas offered three key strategies companies can use to help push techies back to the Midwest.
1. Target native Midwesterners
Attracting tech professionals with roots in the Midwest is a good first step, Cromydas said. "Look for a clear indicator that shows someone actually has roots in that ecosystem or market," he added. "Because if you want to take somebody from San Francisco to Cincinnati, Ohio, or New York City to Chicago, and they haven't spent that much time here or don't really understand the ecosystem, you're going to have a larger barrier getting them here."
Whether it's looking at where the candidate went to school, what professional sports teams they follow, if they have family from the region, companies can use all clues as selling points in moving back, Cromydas added.
2. Consider stage of life
The second strategy companies should take involves knowing their audience. Organizations and recruiters must consider the candidate's age and subsequent mindset, Cromydas said.
"Beginning those relationships and creating a pipeline of people that you're talking to, so that you can track stage of life and understand when they might consider coming back, is a great tactic that will give you a leg up on getting talent your desired location," Cromydas added. "Not treating it as a transaction, but really developing and building a relationship is critically important."
3. Make opportunities known
Besides appealing to personal background, pitch potential employees on the opportunities the Midwest now has to offer, said Cromydas.
"The reason why people from University of Illinois, who graduate with an engineering degree, are going straight to Silicon Valley is because, for every one great opportunity in Chicago there's a hundred there," Cromydas said. "The more that we continue to get better capital here, the more that we create more awareness. There are great opportunities here. Opportunities that impact change."
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