When you think of the big biotech hubs in the U.S., which cities first come to mind?
If you said Boston, San Diego or Seattle, you are not alone. But if you said Louisville, Kentucky, you are onto something.
On August 20, four leaders of the med-tech community in Greater Louisville took the stage at the fifth annual TrustBelt Corporates & Consultants Forum to talk about the location factors that enable their companies to thrive.
Sharing their insights were Sumit Gupta, president of Eurofins Genomics; Brad Keller, director of workplace strategy for Humana; Rick Purdy, vice president of human resources for Talaris Therapeutics; and Chris Schremser, chief technology officer for Waystar.
Being located in a secondary market means that you are constantly competing for talent against firms based in New York, Boston, Chicago and other major cities, the panelists noted.
“Companies in New York and Chicago are hiring our engineers away and paying them to work remotely from Louisville,” said Schremser. “We are seeing people being recruited to jobs that are 100% remote jobs, and they are being paid more to stay at home and do the work.”
Keller said that Humana is “competing on mission. We are appealing to talent on culture and on work-life balance. At Humana, you don’t have to ask permission to leave work and attend your kids’ activities. We don’t ask our people where they are; we just expect them to do their work.”
Does being in a smaller market hamstring firms from hiring top talent? Not necessarily, said the panelists. “We are not limited to the region for talent attraction,” said Keller. “We are seeing a lot of relocations from across the country.”
Schremser said, “It depends on where you’re at in your life progression. An alternative lifestyle is attractive to people raising families. We have to do a better job as a community of appealing to them.”
Keller added that “commercial air routes can be a limiter in talent attraction and where we choose to locate our operations.”
Purdy noted that “Louisville has been a wonderful experience for my family. There is always something going on in this city. It is a hard sell to convince people to move here, but I can speak to it. You can have a higher quality of living here all the way around, and at much less cost.”
Keller added that “people may come here reluctantly, but they get very upset when their company wants to relocate them out of here to another city.”
Does open-concept workspace help attract talent? That’s not a sure bet either, the panelists said.
“We have a fixed workspace for everyone and that is by design,” said Gupta. “Open workspace has its distractions, but it saves on real estate. However, there is no open workspace concept that can meet human resources’ needs.”
Purdy says it “depends on the culture, whether it works or not. I have seen the pendulum go all over the place. Someone forgot the interference factor, though. You have to compensate for the noise factor if you are going the route of open workspace.”
As for public policy changes they would recommend to states and cities, the panelists offered these suggestions: