What drives a company to relocate or expand? Costs might come to mind first, or perhaps locating closer to customers. While both of these can be drivers, increasingly access to sustainable talent is driving company expansion and relocation decisions. As one recent, high profile example, General Electric, Co. moved its corporate headquarters in 2016 from Fairfield, Connecticut to Boston, Massachusetts after 42 years. CEO Jeff Immelt noted the need for new “business ecosystems,” and Boston’s universities and talent offered a solid foundation to build these new ecosystems.

Not every community has the kinds of assets available in Boston. This is especially true in rural America. However, small-town America has advantages you are not able to find anywhere else. In so many of the communities we work in, we hear stories like the rural community that raised money to save the only grocery store in town or the community that came together to build a performing arts center. Traditionally, rural communities have had to think creatively and work collaboratively to solve problems. Without knowing it, these communities have created foundations for strong local economic development ecosystems.

While there is no silver bullet for a community’s talent issue, various solutions to the talent conundrum can be found through economic development ecosystems. That means talent is not an issue to only be solved by workforce development or educational institutions alone, but collaboratively by partnering on a regional level. Now more than ever, talent is an economic developer’s issue and EDOs are in a position to bring all the right regional stakeholders to the table to help peel back the layers of a talent issue and reveal a solvable problem.

Rural communities have been building local ecosystems for years. Now, it’s a matter of redefining your ecosystem beyond the city limits. Your workforce is not confined to boundaries on a map, so why limit the ecosystem to those same boundaries? Talent is regional and will need to be solved regionally.

Ady Advantage has spent the last three years developing a talent strategy blueprint based on our proprietary talent strategy database consisting of over 100 successful strategies happening across the county in rural and larger metropolitan areas. We understand the importance of staying ahead of economic development trends and helping our clients skate to where the puck will be. How can we help your community build a regional ecosystem and develop a plan for your talent challenge?