Top in Talent: Portland, Oregon Puts its Growing Tech Scene on the MapMarch 17, 2016 | By: Karleen Lewis
Through speaking with industry CEOs, the Portland Development Commission (PDC) learned that tech companies were all facing the same long-term talent attraction challenge: talent was interested in the company, but not in Portland as a sustainable location to move their families and grow their careers. As an answer, PDC, along with company sponsors, supported the creation of a video to showcase the city as a place that offers a superior quality of life, lower cost of living compared to other West Coast cities and a booming tech scene. What started as a single video project has since evolved into a full-scale talent attraction initiative supported by nearly 30 companies and organizations that offers relocation and job search resources and showcases Portland as an emerging tech town.
Campaign Start Date: The first campaign video was released in May 2013. A second video and the website were launched in the following two years. The program is continuing to evolve.
Budget: $50,000 per video through a mix of public and private funding. The website is maintained in-house at a low cost.
What DCI Loves About the Campaign
Industry Collaboration for the Common Good:
TechTown Portland’s success is rooted in the desire of local tech companies to solve the talent attraction and diversity problem together at the industry level. Currently, the project has 29 company sponsors invested in the success of growing Portland’s technology talent pool.
The Video that Launched “TechTown:” TechTown Portland’s first video, which has garnered more than 38,400 views since its launch in 2013, was so successful that it launched an entire campaign. TechTown Portland’s second video, titled “People on the Move,” has garnered more than 15,000 views since its launch in mid-2015.
A Platform to Tackle Industry Diversity: The TechTown community is a way to address the technology industry’s diversity problem as it relates to talent attraction at both the local and national level. The Portland Tech Diversity Pledge implements strategies with community partners to educate professionals on the issue and provide resources to increase hiring of women and people of color.
On February 26, 2016, DCI spoke with Senior Business Development Coordinator Jared Wiener and Senior Communications Coordinator Anne Mangan with the Portland Development Commission to get their insights on the campaign.
DCI: When was the campaign launched?
Wiener: At the end of 2012 we started to engage companies and the creative side we needed for the video. This took six months to complete and the video debuted in 2013. TechTown projects have been ongoing since then.
DCI: What is the cost of the campaign and breakdown of the budget?
Wiener: TechTownPortland is labeled as “brought to you by Portland Development Commission.” This tech initiative is meant to be a resource for everyone. It cost $50,000 for each video. Plus, we spent a few thousand for the event launch. It was about a 50/50 split of public and private funding. For the second video, we did more fundraising, so we had more company sponsors. The website is low-cost and managed in-house.
DCI: How was the campaign funded?
Weiner: Company sponsorships and a mix of private and public funding from PDC, and a select number of public partnerships.
DCI: Describe how TechTownPortland came to be.
Wiener: The campaign launched when I met with CEOs with tech companies in town. My role in the PDC is to understand how to best support the industry. In a conversation with a CEO at the end of 2012, he reaffirmed that attracting talent was a major issue—in his company and nationwide for the industry in general. There was a shortage of enough quality people to do the work. One solution was to attract talent from other companies, but moving people within the same ecosystem doesn’t benefit anyone. This CEO wanted to attract talent to the region, but was having a hard time selling talent on Portland’s tech scene. An individual might be interested in one company, but not know about the scale of the tech industry. Together we reached out to leaders at other Portland tech companies and found out they also had a need to sell Portland tech alongside selling their individual companies.
Mangan: There is a lot of crossover with the tech industry and our athletic and outdoor products industry. These industries are rich in talent. They are looking for young, college-educated professionals. Our region has a positive influence on that demographic. What we need are people that can move into mid-management positions and advance in their career.
DCI: Describe the initiatives of your campaign and what the program entails. More specifically, what are you doing to attract talent?
Wiener: The campaign began in December 2012 with the idea for a recruitment video. In May 2013 we released the first video with a premiere event and social media surrounding the launch. We realized we needed a platform around the video and created the TechTown name and social media links to Twitter in April just before the video launch. After the first video launched a lot of companies wanted to be a part of it that weren’t initially, so we began working towards a second video. The second video tells the story of six people that relocated to Portland. Their stories deliver the open and inclusive message of the city. As we were creating the second video, we realized that we needed more of a presence for what we were doing. This is when we developed the website, techtownportland.com. In addition to the videos, we have a jobs board that connects to existing resources. In June 2015, we created the diversity pledge in response to conversations in the industry, and this has been the focal point of the effort since.
DCI: How does your campaign compare to other talent attraction campaigns in the U.S and Canada?
Wiener: The focus on tech talent, the company buy-in and the evolution of the initiative have been unique. It started with a video and has evolved into this community. It’s also attracting awareness of the diversity problem. Diversity is one way to look at all the avenues to draw talent from. Not having a diverse workforce is a challenge companies in this industry face. Coming together for collective solutions lifts all boats.
DCI: How are you measuring success and is it working?
Wiener: Companies can use the video footage and repurpose it. They can also link to original videos on their website to show that they’re invested in supporting the Portland tech community. Metrics are hard to track. I was talking to a group of new employees and one person who didn’t know I was involved with the videos told me the videos were the reason he came here. It made him feel comfortable about moving to Portland without a job. I’ve heard this comment a handful of times. We had 10 to 11 partner sponsors on the first video. Sponsorships doubled for the second video which is also a measure of success. With the website we started out with very quantitative metrics. We have used Twitter analytics as well.
DCI: What are some pieces of advice or lessons learned you’d like to share with other cities and regions looking to start a talent attraction program?
Wiener: Find partners early on. Identify a leader in the community and have them buy in to it in terms of concept as well as financially. It’s so much more effective when people put their money and minds where their mouth is. This made for a bit messier arrangement in managing sponsors, but it also made the project better.
DCI: What’s your favorite thing about this project?
Wiener: The buy-in from the community around what we’re doing to try to attract talent. The industry has really come together around this common goal. It lets the Portland Development Commission add value as the campaign changes.
The most impactful and most challenging is the diversity aspect. We are collectively making strides in Portland tech. We can change the dynamics of how the tech industry works within its community and possibly the changing dynamics of the country. I’m excited about this possibility.
Mangan: I’m happy to see a specific industry collaborating to do something that is useful for all of them. The PCD is able to support private efforts with public dollars for the betterment of our city. This project demonstrates what we’re good at doing. We have helped and supported the project – we didn’t instigate it – and now we’re keeping it going by evolving different initiatives. Also, having companies take a diversity pledge because they are collectively starting this effort. I have to give kudos to Portland’s tech industry for being one of the first communities talking about these [diversity] issues. It shows that we as a city are small but mighty.
Compared to cities with campaigns that have political presence, the beauty of what’s different about Portland is we’re not hanging our message on a public or political figure. Our city is the personality that is carrying this message. We have a good brand and a great city.
How does TechTown Portland inspire your talent attraction initiatives? Share what you think in a comment below or tweet at us @aboutdci.