EDITORIAL: Innovative companies like TMap help hobbled Hoosier recruiters

Keywords Editorials / Opinion

Most executives who do the real work of advancing our state economy know that one of Indiana’s biggest challenges is finding people to fill high-quality jobs.

As John McDonald, CEO of Fishers-based ClearObject, put it in his March 29 Forefront column, the state is “in a death match for recruiting and retaining talent.”

McDonald and his peers continue to face the recruiting challenge against a headwind of negative messaging churned out year after year by our Republican-controlled Legislature. The damaging Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015, which the state’s business community opposed, and legislators’ continued reluctance to pass a strong hate crimes bill, something businesses have begged for, are examples of legislative action—and inaction—that diminish our brand in a very public way.

Lower-profile issues also take a toll on Indiana’s reputation by painting the state as unhealthy or averse to change. Consider the Legislature’s penchant for occasionally overriding local government authority on issues it doesn’t agree with, such as Bloomington’s attempt to help the environment by moving away from the use of plastic bags. Or the Legislature’s stubborn resistance to raising the cigarette tax as a way to help Hoosiers kick the deadly habit and bring down health care costs.

Fortunately, efforts are afoot in the private sector that portray a state that’s more innovative than stuck in the past.

One example is the tech firm TMap, launched by Bill Oesterle, the one-time Angie’s List CEO who also managed former Gov. Mitch Daniels’ first campaign.

Profiled on the front page of last week’s IBJ, TMap is laser-focused on helping Indiana companies bring out-of-state talent into the state’s labor force. But TMap isn’t exactly cold-calling its prospects. They’re part of a database it has amassed of nearly 3 million people who went to school in Indiana in the last 25 years but no longer live here.

The people it targets are as likely as anyone to shake their heads at some of our state’s policy missteps, but because they’ve lived here before they know there are more positives to Indiana than some of its unflattering national headlines suggest. And they’re more likely to maintain connections here that can help draw them back.

Recognizing this, Oesterle and a small group of local investors started TMap less than a year ago specifically to refresh the state’s stagnant labor pool. The company was born of Oesterle’s concern over statistics showing the state’s workforce will shrink over the next few decades, a problem compounded by a significant slowdown in migration to Indiana in the 2000s.

Buoyed by the early support of Daniels and subsequent partnerships with Indiana, Purdue and Ball State universities and the University of Notre Dame, TMap has identified in its database 2,000 college graduates with Hoosier ties who don’t work in the state but are considered likely to move back for the right job.

Working on behalf of 20 corporate clients, TMap reaches out to those people to match them with appropriate job openings. Executives whose companies have used the service say TMap is helping them tap into a talent pool they wouldn’t have pursued.

With the Legislature more inclined these days to reject proposals the business community say will boost the state’s economy, companies are forced to compensate in any way they can.

Thanks to the inventive Oesterle and his partners in TMap, Indiana’s talent recruiters have at least one new tool at their disposal to help counter public-policy defeats coming out of the Statehouse.•

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