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Laser Focus on Talent Gap By Mary Minor Davis

Joe Snell


President & CEO TREO

Joe Snell has seen tremendous change in his eight years at the helm of TREO. History, the Great Recession and global competition have reshaped his organization’s focus, with new paradigms in economic development bringing about innovative approaches to enhancing economic prosperity. “Arizona has never had to truly compete,” Snell explained. “Blessed with in-migration from 1957 into 2007, Arizona led the country in population growth and a certain amount of income growth – we held a lot of No. 1 rankings. Then the bottom fell out in 2007. The recession changed everything. We can no longer rely on wealth and in-migration.” The secret to success in this new economy is our ability to fill open jobs with a skilled workforce, Snell said. Talent attraction and retention is now the chief driver of the economy. Several thousand jobs go unfilled each year in our region because companies cannot find employees with the skills they need, Snell said. While TREO continues to aggressively recruit new companies and help existing ones expand, the economic development organization is helping to lead the charge in developing strategies that attract and retain talent that companies require. “The old days of recruiting companies and filling those jobs once they are up and running are over,” Snell said. “It’s a new world. We must recruit and develop talent if we want to win. We must help shape our community so that the best and brightest want to live here.” This is a new approach for economic development. Groups like TREO traditionally focused on deals with companies while workforce development groups focused on the supply of employees. The old model is no longer sufficient, Snell said. Both systems must now be connected for success. In this new role, TREO must serve as a “” – connecting companies with skilled employees. “We must bridge the gulf between the workforce supply system and the economic development demand system so they become one system,” Snell said. “That’s how we’ll win.” Key in this model is the creation of a region that is attractive to highly-skilled workers. “We must build a community where the most sought-after workers want to live and build their lives.” He said the region must have a megapolitan mindset, understanding that one of our greatest strengths is our location in the heart of the Sun Corridor, stretching from north of Phoenix south to Nogales. “We must combine our strengths with those of our neighbors to attract talent and new business,” Snell said. “The days of competing jurisdictions are over.”


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