December 12, 2000, 3:29 PM — YOU WANT TO COMPLAIN about how hard it is finding qualified IT talent? Try
recruiting from Nampa, Idaho; Laramie, Wyo.; or Bartlesville, Okla. In those rural
locales, far from the tech hotbeds of San Francisco, Denver, and New York, in-demand
techies aren't exactly banging down the employment office doors.
At least not yet.
Recruiting in rural America has always been a problem. But as tech professionals
want to find that balance between professional and personal lives, some are beginning
to look to the open horizon.
Advances in technology and communications mean that companies, high-tech or
otherwise, don't need to be centrally located. Add a quality of life highly touted by
the denizens of rural communities, and technical professionals find compelling reasons
to leave the daily struggles of urban living for wide-open spaces.
But the major downside for companies locating in a rural area is the same as for
those in the big city -- staffing. But in the great wide open, companies don't have the
same ready-to-work talent pool of their urban competitors. Most IT hiring managers far
from the asphalt jungle agree that recruitment success often depends on how well
they're able to sell a rural location to city dwellers who can't imagine going more
than a few blocks for a pint of milk.
When Mike Kmetz, CEO of IDES in Laramie, Wyo. (population 27,000), started his
company 15 years ago, the opportunities for IT people in the area were limited at best.
Even so, he's been able to increase the size of his company to 50 people, including
about 20 IT staffers from various disciplines including networking infrastructure,
programming, testing, and project management. IDES develops e-catalogs and content for
a variety of raw material industries. In the next few years, Kmetz plans to double his
But doubling an IT staff in Laramie will be problematic. "Because we don't have a
lot of other companies like us in this area, it creates more of a barrier. Potential
employees might think: 'What if it doesn't work out in Laramie, then what will I do?' "
Kmetz says. That same "didn't work out" in Denver isn't nearly as meaningful with
hundreds of other IT opportunities nearby.
On the other hand, a less-harried, less expensive quality of life in Laramie might
offset those concerns. "In Laramie, we have so many pluses: the small town feel, no
traffic, people walking annd biking to work, and easy access to skiing," Kmetz says.
Knowing that his company's culture is a big asset, Kmetz offers such perks as flextime,
and sometimes even lets employees "play" in the middle of the day if there is a
particularly bountiful snowfall.