For a talent recruitment video for GE’s new U.S. Global Operations Center, the company asked some employees joining the new unit what they thought about Cincinnati.

Jeff Caywood, external affairs and communications leader for the new facility at The Banks that is expected to employ 2,000, says one mid-career employee responded: “I don’t know what I think about Cincinnati.” 

“That struck me. What is our story for people who’ve never been here? They don’t know what Cincinnati is all about,” says Caywood, one of the panelists at the annual Power 100 Leadership Forum presented by Cincy Magazine and the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati.

Defining the region’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities to attract, retain and develop talent was the theme of this year’s breakfast forum attended by several hundred community leaders at the Hilton Netherland Plaza’s Hall of Mirrors. Moderator David M. Szymanski, dean of the Lindner College of Business, led the panel.

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber has made expanding the region’s talent base one of the pillars of its new strategic plan, panelist Jill Meyer, chamber president and CEO, told the forum.

“The reason we’re devoting so much time and energy to that is that you all have told us clearly that the single biggest challenge to business is finding the talent you need. Some of that talent can be homegrown [but] some we still need to recruit to bring into the region,” she told the audience.

Source Cincinnati, a multi-year marketing effort by the chamber, the convention and visitor’s bureau and others, has already had dramatic success building Cincinnati’s image as a world-class Midwestern city, she says.

“One feedback we get often is: There’s something good happening here. When people get it, they’re sold and they aren’t going anywhere,” she says.

“Our challenge and greatest opportunity is how to extend that open arm to a more diverse base of the population because as the world becomes more global and our businesses are more global, we need our population and in particular our workforce to better reflect what the world population looks like.”

Panelist Geoffrey Mearns, president of Northern Kentucky University, says local higher education institutions on both sides of the Ohio River are discussing how they can better coordinate their academic programs to make the region a national education destination.

“If we can compete a little bit less and collaborate more, that would be extremely attractive to talent not just in the region but all across the country and perhaps around the world,” he says.

At the same time, he says, local colleges can play a role in the region’s talent marketing efforts. Two of his own children paid a college visit to Washington University in St. Louis, Mearns says.

“They got a typical college brochure with beautiful pictures, but it had nothing to do with Washington University, it was selling students on St. Louis,” he says. Local colleges are working with the chamber on better ways to market the region, he says.

The fourth panelist Jeff Berding, president and general manager of the new FC Cincinnati professional soccer team, says it’s important for a community to have a cosmopolitan feel to attract talent.

“It says the city has the ability to embrace multi-cultural trends. That it is progressive. That it is a city on the move, and that’s welcoming to talent. That’s a critical feature as people size up: ‘Where do I want to live?’” he says.

Sports have an important role to play, he says.

“One of the critical advantages of sports is that it puts the city on the map,” he says. It’s something the community can rally around and it’s an opportunity to show what it has to offer to a wider audience.

A decade ago soccer wasn’t on most Americans’ radar, but Berding says that’s changed dramatically in the last five years “fueled by millennials who see soccer as a sport that fits their lifestyle.”

A professional soccer team can be one more selling point for talent attraction and retention. “Soccer can be one more jewel in Cincinnati’s crown,” he says.

Caywood says GE looks beyond traditional things such as restaurants, services, entertainment and other amenities when measuring a community’s potential to attract talent.

“From the GE perspective, and the employee perspective, we look at two specific areas,” he says. “Does the employee have opportunities to grow [in a community] whether through their career in the business or contributing to the local community?”

Secondly, he says, “Does the individual feel their experience, background and perspective are appreciated? Do they feel there’s a diversity of ideas? And do they feel the community is well represented from a race and gender perspective?”

To attract and retain talent, Myers says it’s important people see Cincinnati as a place where they can make a difference. That’s particularly important to attracting the highly sought-after millennial age group.

“The job and the place are important,” Meyers says, “but at the end of the day they want to move the needle for something they feel is important.”

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Mercedes-Benz of Fort Mitchell is a Bernie Moreno Company that opened in 2013 and is Northern Kentucky’s first Mercedes dealership. It offers both new and used Mercedes’ vehicles to fit any budget. Its service and parts department offers online scheduling and the Bernie Moreno Companies App. The comfortable waiting area features complimentary food and drinks. 


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