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Out-of-state businesses recruit workers in Boise for well-paying jobs

Marcus Lyons was not sure what he thought of remote working before the pandemic.

Lyons, 34, worked for years for companies in and around Boise, but always wondered what it was like to step into the much more lucrative world of remote working. Through his professional contacts, he met people all over the country thriving in their home offices, far from the headquarters of the companies that employed them while earning big city wages.

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“Seeing that they were making between 25% and 50% more than what I was making locally over the course of my time, it was kind of like ‘aw man, that sucks’,” he said. “Our local market is so low, but none of the cost of living is lower than when I first moved here either. “

But, after months of working remotely during the pandemic showed him he enjoys spending his day outside the confines of an office, he set his sights on a new job with an out-of-state employer earlier. This year. Lyons eventually landed a job as a software developer for New York-based news site Insider, where he now connects every day and collaborates with colleagues from coast to coast. It can be a little tricky to keep time zones in mind, and integrating with a business from your home took some getting used to, but he’s enjoying the transition.

Growing gap between wages and the cost of living

It’s not an unknown story for workers in Treasure Valley in white-collar jobs like tech, legal work, or accounting. Once COVID-19 showed that almost any office job can be done remotely, it opened up a whole new world of employment opportunities for workers hoping to stay in Idaho without being tied down by wages historically low state of Gem. It has also created fields of opportunity for employers nationwide looking to fill highly skilled jobs without having to attract workers to major metropolitan areas.

Alison Bruce, partner at recruiting firm Talent Spark, said Boise’s job market is particularly conducive to recruiting domestic employers due to the imbalance between our cost of living and what Idaho jobs typically pay. the workers.

“Now these companies can recruit talent at Boise because they don’t have to be in New York City or LA or Atlanta,” Bruce said. “Because we have such low salaries, it’s easier to recruit than other markets. I think part of the appeal is that they don’t have to pay quite those salaries in New York to bring such talented and experienced people out of Boise.

The higher wages were a big lure for Lyons to help support his family, but he also balked at the limits of a traditional office job after so much time at home. He said many employers in Treasure Valley often expect workers to come into the office most of the week and ask for more for less competitive offers.

“I also interviewed a few local businesses, startups and others and the pay difference was always around 60%,” Lyons said. “I spoke to a local recruiter about a position at Idaho Central Credit Union and they wanted a senior web developer with basically a four person job description for almost $ 90,000 a year and it was like” no “. You had to come to the office 4 days a week, or 3 days a week and I was like “why would I do that? “

What if you wanted a Treasure Valley employer?

The world of remote work may be liberating for people like Lyon, but it is frustrating for others.

Greg Lewis, a data manager, tried to reverse it, going from a remote job to an employer in Treasure Valley. He started working locally for T Sheets, but when Intuit moved his department into the main out-of-state-based company, he was forced to embark on a hybrid job that had been set up a few years ago. years.

He has since been trying to find a way to get back to a local business. He’s tired of ping-pong between his home office and Intuit’s here locally, he should be away part of the week. He’s tired of being home with his kids, but still expects to finish his daytime job with kids crying in the background of his conference calls. The mix of his family and work life means he doesn’t have a dedicated space for either, making it difficult to focus.

Greg Lewis poses outside his home in Meridian, Idaho. Photo: Margaret Carmel / BoiseDev

The problem is, every time he tries to leave Intuit, he can’t find a local match with benefits, health insurance, and a salary that are even close to comparable.

“I grew up here,” said Lewis, 31. “This is my home and I want to develop a great Boise business. Each circumstance is different, but it is a difficult decision to make. I have 4 kids and I’m planning on having one or two more and I’m telling you we paid maybe $ 1000 for our kids with Intuit because the insurance was so good and it was all covered by the HSA they are funding. We had a baby practically free. These kinds of considerations are really important to us.

Boise’s location away from major metropolitan areas meant his employers didn’t have to compete as strongly for highly skilled workers and could still operate with lower wages for decades. Bruce said that is changing quickly with the advent of remote working, but it’s a tough adjustment for local employers to offer packages to compete with people like Intuit in such a short period of time. This leaves people like Lewis in a tough spot at the moment.

“(Remote work) has accelerated the need to increase pay rates to attract and retain your talent. That being said, it’s hard to imagine that you’ve historically had one-year rates of pay, which puts a lot of pressure on employers. It’s hard to step in and raise everyone’s pay 30% or 40%, so they’re making incremental progress, but we’ve been slow to respond to other markets that have to compete nationally.

Office equipment, corporate culture not the same circulation

This change in the market makes hiring very different from what it was before.

In early 2021, one of Jason Abbott’s colleagues left his post at vacation rental management company Vacasa. It looked like business as usual. Abbott, 48, expected to advertise the job, interview some candidates and get it filled within a month or two. But that was not the case.

He has spent the last few months working with recruiters and interviewing candidates, but the position is still unfilled. Prospective employees continue to demand wages at far higher rates than what Abbott sees in the Boise market. They also receive applications from workers who do not live near one of Vacasa’s sites in Portland, Boise, Austin, Auckland, Santiago or Auckland, which means that there would be no possibility for these young developers. to come and work at the office. .

Jason Abbott outside the Vacasa office in downtown Boise. Photo: Margaret Carmel / BoiseDev

In the past, Vacasa’s collaborative work environment and office perks, like nerf guns and a barista, attracted potential candidates to work for the company. Now, it’s not the draw it once was.

“Initially, we started recruiting locally, but more and more we were pushed to abandon this idea for the time being and accept candidates from anywhere, even if they are not close to. a Vacasa office, ”Abbott said. “The market pushed us to change our position. Looking back as a software engineer, just being in the same physical space with other people working and hearing things and hearing conversations and seeing meetings unfold were experiences. important things that have made you aware of what this business does or how others communicate.

Lyons, more than a decade younger than Abbott, doesn’t necessarily see the office as a necessary training ground in the same way. He and other software developers have been growing and socializing online for years, often learning skills completely independently from in-person experience.

“I’m not necessarily worried that the next generation is coming and not having the skills of the previous generation, because which generation has already had the same skills as the previous generation and hasn’t moved on? “

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