Low unemployment sounds like something cities strive for. But people in Rochester, Minn., know from experience that a booming jobs market can also present challenges.
Buoyed by the city’s growing reputation as an innovation center, thanks in part to the expansion of the Mayo Clinic and the multi-billion-dollar Destination Medical Center initiative, the Rochester area has more than 12,000 unfilled jobs, with the prospect of even greater job availability in the future as the city continues to grow.
“We are working in partnership with nonprofits and other organizations to help companies understand how they can market themselves better and find workforce in places they never dreamed of,” says Julie Brock, DEED workforce strategist. ”A low unemployment rate brings constraints, but it also brings the chance to be innovative.”
Location, the Great Outdoors Appeal
The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce is undertaking an ambitious marketing/recruitment effort to attract the talent for which so many other cities and regions compete. What sets Rochester apart, besides the number of open jobs, are its enviable location, its reasonable cost of living and the availability of great outdoor recreation opportunities.
Affordable housing is in much demand, and responding to that need a housing summit in May 2017 brought together city officials, developers and other stakeholders to discuss current options and plan for future development.
Networking is especially important to young professionals, who can take advantage of numerous opportunities such as Leadership Greater Rochester, The Commission and Emerging Leaders.
“There is a deep appreciation of relationships here in Rochester,” Brock says. “We like to share our networks. You can ask a question of someone here and people will get you connected with who you need to know.”
The new Hubsource.mn initiative is particularly exciting. It is geared to recruit both local and out of town talent, offering a detailed look at job opportunitities in southeastern Minnesota.
“Hiring has always been hard, but with a 2.7 percent unemployment rate it is particularly challenging,” says Nate Nordstrom, owner of BrandHoot, and the designer and builder of the new website. “We recognize that just having all these opportunities listed isn’t going to solve the problem by itself. We need outside people to move here. That’s the only way to solve this quickly enough, and to retain the talent we have here. We hope this tool showcases the opportunities available here and the companies.”
Hubsource.mn offers prospective employees and employers unique services that streamline the hiring process. All of the chamber’s 1,500 member organizations may post job opportunities free of charge on the sleekly designed, user-friendly site.
Company profiles will give prospective employees details about the company, its culture, how it rates with its employees, what extra-job opportunities, such as volunteerism, exist in the company, and more. Job-seekers can be directed from Indeed.com to Hubsource.mn with a single mouse-click, and companies may link their listing to their websites.
“We’re trying to make hiring a little less hard, maybe even a little fun,” Nordstrom says. “This will be a lot more approachable for the small and medium business. And it’s free.”
Making an Impact
Nordstrom himself is a young entrepreneur who chose Rochester, where he is passionate about the city’s outdoor recreation possibilities and a certain ambiance that suits people like him.
“In Rochester you can have an impact. If you’re persistent and doing good things in the community, you’re going to get noticed,” Nordstrom says. “We’re not a big city but we’re not a small town either. Things have been bubbling for a while and are about to take off.”
One reason things are about to take off is undoubtedly tied to the area’s higher education community, which supplies talent and young leaders, many of whom stay in the area after graduation and others who “boomerang,” returning to Rochester to put down roots or maybe open a business a few years later.
More than a dozen higher education institutions are within an hour’s drive of Rochester, among them: Rochester Community and Technical College, University of Minnesota Rochester, Winona State University-Rochester, Augsburg College, St. Mary’s University of Minnesota-Rochester, University of Minnesota Duluth-Rochester Campus, National American University, the College of St. Scholastica, Kaplan University and Mayo Medical Center.
Rochester’s small town/big city quality of life and openness to new ideas and innovative ways of working was a big plus for Nicole Nfonoyim-Hara, who moved here as a “trailing spouse” when her husband came to Mayo Clinic for a post-doc fellowship. She jokingly refers to “trailblazing spouses,” an apt description of her own success since moving here.
Nfonoyim-Hara has her own business, N2 Writing & Consulting, providing writing and communications services for nonprofits. She also writes for the Post-Bulletin and several magazines, and is a respected fiction writer.
“Rochester has been really great for me,” says Nfonoyim-Hara. “Bigger cities tend to be really saturated with artists and writers and creatives, so often there are not that many resources available. Rochester has given me the time and the flexibility and more access. The city is definitely on a wonderful precipice of possibilities, and it’s really exciting to be part of that.”