Colorado Springs chamber launches recruiting site for local employers
By: Wayne Heilman
Paco Sandoval didn’t know much about Colorado Springs when Altia Inc. tried to recruit the software engineer from the Detroit area in July 2016, but a tour of the city by Chamber of Commerce & EDC members helped the dashboard-display software developer win Sandoval over.
“I knew there were mountains, the city was conservative and there were lots of military there,” Sandoval said of his pretour knowledge. “But just spending time with them, my impression of the city changed for the better. The place is gorgeous. You can look anywhere and see mountains. It isn’t a huge city – I’m done with big cities – and everyone is outdoors running, skiing or rock climbing. Everyone here enjoys the outdoors. I enjoyed rock climbing when I lived in Detroit, but you had to drive six or seven hours to climb.”
Sandoval was working for Altia from Detroit, but the company wanted him to move to the Springs. So he got a daylong tour by Hannah Parsons, the chamber’s chief economic development officer, and Beka Adair, an economic development analyst for the nonprofit group.
They took him to CityRock, several parks and close-in neighborhoods from which he could ride his bike to work. Sandoval bought a house in May near downtown. He often works from home and climbs frequently at CityRock.
Parsons has helped Altia and other local companies recruit key talent since she joined the chamber in late 2015. She was getting so many requests that the chamber created the ChooseColorado Springs.com website in March, she said.
The site has videos, a blog on living and working in the city, more than 20 testimonials, links to jobs listed with Indeed.com, information on school districts and colleges plus a house search engine from the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors.
“The goal is to sell the region for people who are considering jobs in Colorado Springs,” Parsons said. “We have posted it as a resource for the community. It is free and available for use. We have presented it to human resources groups, and at least 30 to 50 business people have commented to us that this is exactly what they need.”
Parsons compared the recruiting site with visitcos.com, which markets tourism for the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“We market the community for tourism, but with the unemployment rate so low (2.9 percent in July), we also have to market the region for talent, so we have taken it upon ourselves to do that. If we are going to be competitive and successful for economic development and job growth, we have to market the region for talent for people to consider moving, investing and staying here.”
The site targets millennials, emphasizing outdoor activities, nightlife and shopping. The chamber also has hired a national public relations firm to get more online mileage from positive news stories about the area, including surveys and studies in which the area ranks high as a place to live, work and play, Parsons said.
One example is a June study by real estate research firm JLL that called Colorado Springs a “hidden gem” where employers could find a strong supply of software developers. The study said the city offers “a high quality of living, access to the great outdoors and a talent pool that rivals Boulder’s.”
“If their only online exposure is a bad thing, they won’t even consider” taking a job in Colorado Springs, Parsons said of potential workers. “You don’t look at a house if it doesn’t pass the online test, and people won’t look at (moving to) a community unless it passes the online test.”
The chamber has spent about $70,000 to create the site, and it might add job listings directly from employers if they want that, she said. The group allows local employers to use content from the site, including church online marketing firm Outreach and Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Altia CEO Mike Juran said his company is “a cutting-edge technology company that needs to bring in young talent. A big part of that is millennial talent. They want a great job but also a great place to live with an urban vibe. The website is a great introduction on what Colorado Springs is today and can become. It has been critical to recruiting talent for us.”
Outreach CEO Scott Evans said the company recruited a videographer from North Carolina last month who cited a video on the website as having an effect on his decision.
“The site is a great tool to help businesses recruit,” Evans said. “There is definitely more competition for talent, and what we do is unique. We had a much harder time recruiting when we were based in San Diego because of the high cost of living. That made it hard to find people from out of the area. We find a lot of people want to move to Colorado and Colorado Springs from around the country.” Outreach moved to the Springs five years ago and now employs 140 to help churches with branding, signage, websites, social media and printing.
Children’s Hospital has used a flyer it developed from content on the chamber site to help its recruitment, attaching it to job listings or emailing it to candidates, said Heidi Rayman, the hospital’s human resources client service manager, who helped the chamber develop the site.
“As a region, we don’t toot our own horn enough about what people would be interested in,” Rayman said. “Out-of-state recruiting has always been a focus for us, but more so as we get ready to open our new (hospital) building (in 2019). Job candidates say they don’t want to move to Colorado Springs; Denver is where it’s at – it’s a bigger market. We needed something to support what I’m trying to get them sold into.”