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Where’s the Talent? Go There.

November 8, 2016

If you build it, they will come? More like—go where they already are, and then build it. We’re talking, of course, about talent, and the importance of making sure, when locating or expanding a business, that the workforce you need is already in place. In today’s knowledge-driven economy, no resource is more important than human capital. Without a skilled local workforce, major investments in offices, plants and other facilities can be wasted money. This has more executives focused on locating their business in states where top talent lives and where institutions of higher learning produce world-leading research and innovations.

To make sure a workforce is ready, willing and able, it’s useful to consider whether the state you’re considering has invested in education—namely, in computer science programs in local schools, in workforce development partnerships between companies and schools, and in local colleges that offer programs tied to the local economy—and to your industry’s needs. Moreover, look at whether or not residents are offered relief on student loans and first home purchases, as you want to be able to offer lifestyle options that will help you retain skilled workers and recent college graduates.

States like Rhode Island have checked all these boxes. Rhode Island already laid claim to top universities like Brown, Johnson & Wales University, and Rhode Island School of Design, but Governor Gina Raimondo has gone all in with an investment to keep talent local and to build a pipeline to meet companies’ future needs. The state has rolled out CS4RI, the most comprehensive K-12 computer science initiative in the country, and partnered with employers and educators at the Community College of Rhode Island on its new P-TECH program, which will create a clear pathway from high school to college to career in some key advanced industries.

As for quality of life, Rhode Island is making living in the Ocean State even more attractive with offerings like the Wavemaker Fellowship, a competitive new student loan reimbursement program for recent graduates working in STEM and certain design fields. Dedicated to developing a deep pool of talented people who will drive Rhode Island’s future growth, the Wavemaker Fellowship is making investments in talent today, yielding short-term returns that will pay off for decades.

The state has sweetened the pot not only by its commitment to education, training and workforce development, but also through incentives, the elimination of unnecessary business licenses and more.

Is it working? Yes. Providence has been called “America’s coolest city” (GQ) and named among the best American cities for creatives (Thrillist), and major companies like General Electric and Finlays have decided that Rhode Island is the place to build a future. Having undergone a reinvention into a place where talent thrives, Rhode Island is equipped with the human capital needed for businesses, big and small, to thrive.

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