Middle America Darlings

Middle America Darlings

In addition to serving our clients in crisis, Waymaker Group has been working hard behind the scenes to expand and fine-tune services we know our communities will need when the COVID-19 chaos settles. Teammate Brian Kelsey’s piece on the abundance of talent in unrecognized markets is exactly where we think economic development will firmly land when this storm passes. Markets in the middle U.S. will become the new darlings, especially post-pandemic.

For example, corporate leaders are telling us they’re canceling real estate hunts for large downtown properties (in recognized tech hubs) and expect that a minimum of 30% of their workforce will be working from home. Office expansions are already moving away from a prime, single-headquarters building to smaller offices across the country. In short, companies are realizing that talent can work from anywhere.

Six of the top ten markets with the highest concentrations of software developers (with wages roughly 20% less than Silicon Valley) are in cities you wouldn’t normally think of. We’re looking at you, Kansas City, Detroit, Columbus, Minneapolis, Charlotte, and Salt Lake City. We’ve known for some time that Rise of the Rest is for real but it does seem here lately, that our time is truly on the horizon.

15 Markets Tech Recruiters Should Be Watching

 

We Were Unprepared

We Were Unprepared

The last 90 days have been full: 12,000 miles crisscrossing very distinctive regions in the Middle and Eastern U.S.; three innovation conferences; meetings with two mayors; visits with thirty-three C-suite execs from municipalities and private industry; reconnections with old Austin friends; and a couple of sessions with an uber-progressive head of research for a Tier One research institution. This last quarter has brought me great joy. I’ve been able to meet new friends and connect with long-standing ones on a topic we all have in common—creating or accelerating innovation-based economic growth.

Funny, though. You’d think with all of that collective brainpower, and we’d have all figured it out by now. Or that we’d have a stronger ability to predict the future or create an algorithm to fix it all.

The only thing we seem to agree on is part of the past. I’ve been pondering a phrase I’ve heard twice in this last quarter. A new mantra that seems to ring with key leaders in this space: “We were unprepared.”

Unprepared, we can agree, for the impact that technology, innovation, and globalization had on our country, our respective regions, our communities, our families, and tribes. Man, it’s been a fast and rough ride.

While I’m not a big fan of looking back, I do believe we can learn from the past. But have we started to really ask that question of ourselves about the last thirty years? Have we stopped for a second to ask ourselves what we’ve learned from being caught entirely off guard economically, competitively, and socially? What should we do next to help us meet the new demands of technology, innovation, and globalization? These forces will only continue to accelerate in impact.

There are lots of reasons for being unprepared, most of which we’ll explore in the coming months and years here at Waymaker. My starter list of topics for us to discuss and explore together are geographic differences in risk tolerance, social contract differences in the middle part of the country compared to the east/west coasts, readying adequately for the demands of a global economy without access to global players, lack of industry leadership as it relates to policy formulation and lack of policy leadership as it relates to declaring a national industry policy. Not your average cocktail party topics, I can assure you. But don’t worry. That won’t stop me from trying to the dismay of my closest friends.

Send us a note and let us know what you think needs to be done to prepare our country — not for the future, but the right-now. We’re thirty years behind in getting prepared after all.