Quality of Place: A Drawing Card for Talent Attraction

Sundance Square

Does talent win?

A number of communities are betting that it does – that luring the right type of talent will give them an edge in bringing in new investment and  retaining the business they already have.

Case in point: The 10-county Greater Nashville area served by economic development organization Partnership 2020. The partnership has made talent recruitment one of four foundations of its overall economic development strategy, along with economic diversity, regionalism and livability/quality of place.

The livability component is working hand in glove with that talent recruitment strategy. Partnership leaders believe that quality of place attributes are integral to attracting and keeping talent, and that a deep pool of talent will be a key selling point for bringing new investment to the region.

“Livability and economic development are inextricably linked,” says Jim Wright, the co-chair or Partnership 20202 and chairman and  CEO of  specialty retailer Tractor Supply, which is headquartered in the Nashville area.

A cornerstone of the Nashville region’s quality of place strategy is a commitment to a strong downtown core. With a thriving entertainment district, major cultural attractions including the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and Ryman Auditorium, and the presence of NFL and NHL franchises, the city’s downtown is a destination point for area residents and visitors.

“A healthy core gives a focal point to the community,” says Alan Valentine, Nashville Symphony president. “It’s where the energy is.”

Not everyone is sold on the idea of downtowns making major gains as places to live, but the concept of a strong core as a place to work, gather, recreate and reside is an edge communities see as a draw for business investment.

In Wichita KS, an active downtown riverfront includes museums, galleries, theaters, shopping, restaurants and nightlife – a growing number of downtown residents, some 2,000 so far. A comprehensive downtown plan aimed at drawing more business investment and residents to downtown is a key part of the city’s economic development strategy.

Charlotte NC has leveraged the presence of major universities and an influx of colleges creating downtown locations to build an urban campus strategy into its city plan. UNC Charlotte’s fall 2011 opening of a 12-story $50 million building for its MBA and other graduate programs downtown has added to the influx of students, bringing with it additional energy and a ready pool of job-ready talent.

Is high quality of place vital to attracting talent or does having the right talent create a high quality of place? The chicken-egg question doesn’t offer a definitive answer, but what is clear is that having the right talent with the right skills is an increasingly important consideration as communities compete for new jobs and to keep the jobs they have.

How does your community cultivate talent and how does it keep the talent it has?