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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 20, 2015 4 years ago

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Tampa Bay Technology Forum's new executive director and former chairman believe Tampa needs to share its tech stories to attract talent.
by: Traci McMillan Correspondent

According to a recent economic development report, there are 4,000 open tech jobs in Hillsborough County. So how does the area attract the needed talent to fill them?

Tampa Bay needs to get better at telling its story, according to Chase Stockon and Daniel James Scott. The region's main IT recruiting obstacle comes from within, the former chairman of the board and new executive director of Tampa Bay Technology Forum (TBTF), respectively, agree.

For example, people don't know that 40% of Chase Bank's ACH transfers worldwide are processed through Brandon, Scott says. Part of the reason people don't think about technology when they think Tampa comes from the higher percentage of B2B companies compared to B2C companies in the area. “It's visible and sexy to tell someone that I work at Google,” Scott says, but there are hundreds of tech jobs out there within companies that people aren't aware of. That's why he's trying to teach companies how to tell their stories — letting people know about the well-known clients with whom they work.

Part of telling that story includes sharing what's going on with the startup community, Stockon says. From the Tampa Bay WaVE, to TEC Garage, to Tampa Bay Innovation Center, to Tampa Innovation Alliance, the industry is there, but the stories aren't compiled. “Those stories rock,” Stockon says.

Because companies like Stockon's transportation IT company, Panther International, are growing quickly while Tampa's larger companies like Tribridge and Vology continue to expand, the available talent pool continues to shrink. “But we don't want to cannibalize on each other,” Stockon says. “You can pay enough money to steal from others in the area, but that doesn't solve the problem.”

To address the issue, Stockon says there are three sources to tap for better recruiting: talent from other states, recent Florida college graduates and veterans.

Recruiting from other states can only happen if companies and development groups work together, Stockon says. His company actually partners with other Tampa-area companies to recruit because oftentimes they are looking for similar skill sets. Together, they'll bring five candidates to interview at multiple companies, experiencing the different cultures at each.

Stockon thinks tech conference advertising is another missed opportunity for the Tampa Bay metro area. If there is a technology-related conference, there should be a television advertisement or tabletop banner broadcasting that the metro area has 4,000 open positions, he says. “When that guy goes back to Chicago and has to dig his car out of the snow,” he'll remember that there are tech jobs in Tampa, Stockon says.

To attract new graduates, Scott says recruiters need to start to “show up” on campus. TBTF started a program called Tech Trek that sends buses to local colleges to bring students for behind-the-scenes tours of companies to see things like the robotics at Valpak or the software developed at MyMatrixx. The organization wants college students to realize that they don't have to move away to live in a cool tech town, Stockon adds.

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