Indianapolis is one of the fastest-growing technology hubs in the country, but the number of tech workers and potential recruits is not as robust as it is in some other cities.
That's likely to be a challenge for Salesforce.com, Inc. as it looks to add 800 jobs here by 2021, according to tech industry officials. The firm announced its plans alongside ebullient city and state leaders on Friday morning. The incentive deal ranks among the largest the state has offered to a company in the past decade.
The $50 billion company has a steady tailwind with respect to talent acquisition.
"I think one of the advantages they have is being a global company with a big brand and a well-established culture that provides a leg up in being able to recruit talent," said TechPoint CEO Mike Langellier,
Langellier also noted that mature tech hubs around the country are struggling with livability issues such as housing costs.
"The people who want that quality of life and a great job, this represents more opportunities for people like that," he said.
The software giant, which planted its flag in Indianapolis by acquiring locally based ExactTarget Inc in 2013, also plans to take about 250,000 square feet of available space in downtown's Chase Tower to establish a regional headquarters. As part of the deal, the building will be renamed Salesforce Tower Indianapolis.
The 800 new jobs will be in areas including finance, customer support, sales, and software development. The company sells customer relationship management software, and its Indianapolis operations are the hub for its Marketing Cloud product.
According to CBRE Research, Indianapolis boasted 19,959 high-tech software and services jobs in Indianapolis in 2014, the latest year of available data. That's compared with 42,304 in Phoenix and 37,541 in Austin—two other fast-growing second-tier tech hubs—and nearly 120,000 such jobs in Silicon Valley.
While those jobs have grown quickly in Indianapolis—18 percent from 2012 to 2014, versus a national average of 5.7 percent—demand continues to outweigh supply. Burning Glass, which surveys job postings, said Indianapolis-area employers posted 17,578 tech job openings in 2015, up from 6,993 postings in 2010.
That environment has led some local tech companies, including Mobi Wireless Management, to try new tactics for growing software talent besides poaching from other firms.
"Recruiting … in Indianapolis is a zero sum game, unless you're pulling people from other markets into town," said Mobi chief technology officer Eric Sendlebach,
Scott McCorkle, CEO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, said he foresees luring out-of-town talent, since the company has a global recruiting machine that will not just be hiring for the Marketing Cloud division, but Salesforce proper in Indianapolis.
McCorkle said he believes the company's culture will be a core strength for attracting talent.
"What I've learned most being a part of Salesforce is the impact of our 1:1:1 model," McCorkle said, referring to the company's philanthropy philosophy, "The impact of equality being a core value, and the impact of a relentless drive for innovation. It creates this environment where people feel they're contributing something important, that matters."
Scott Durchslag, CEO of Angie's List, is looking to hire tech talent for his firm as well, as it undergoes a product-driven turnaround. He said the announcement "will help attract more talent to Indianapolis, and that's one of the reasons I'm excited about it."
"It also encourages the universities and the coding schools," he said. "This justifies them in making additional investments or increasing their class sizes to develop more talent."
The former Best Buy executive said the Indianapolis technology ecosystem was broader and deeper than he anticipated when he moved here last fall. "There's great depth in some areas here, but there are other areas where I wish there were more people, areas like DevOps," he said.
DevOps refers to employees who are adept in both software engineering and operations. Durchslag said he also would love to have more HTML, Java and mobile developers, as well as more folks with "big data" expertise.