Finding top talent isn't easy in Mississippi, said Venture Technologies' Gibert. Unlike in a state such as California, where the job candidate you need may be working at a competitor down the street, "It's not like it's easy to find a high-level engineer working nearby," he said.
Gibert instead focuses on developing talent internally. His staff collectively has earned some 380 vendor certifications, he noted. "If I had to go find somebody, I'd likely have to go out of state."
It's much the same story in Wyoming where ISC focuses on nurturing its own talent in-house, Farnsworth said. "Hiring talent is very difficult. You have to home-grow these people. You can't put out an ad here for a Cisco Certified Network Professional."
Citynet's Randolph notes that a tech cluster has been building in West Virginia's north, including software developers, government contractors, health-care facilities and the FBI's Biometric Center of Excellence in Clarksburg. And that's attracting IT talent to the state.
"Six years ago it was much harder to get a CCIE," Randolph said, referring to a Cisco Certified Internet Engineer. "This is a very fluid, rapidly growing area. I don't think people realize the amount of technology there is here." Citynet, a provider of telecommunications and managed IT services, is building out a fiber-optic network in the northern part of West Virginia.
And even having a large pool of educated, talented labor doesn't make the hiring process much easier. While Colorado's workforce ranks No. 4, in the study, Platte River Networks, a Denver-based solution provider, still has to offer such benefits as fully paid health insurance, 4 percent 401(k) matching funds and four weeks of paid time off. (Platte River Networks is a member of the Next-Gen 250.)
"We have to be competitive in salaries and perks," said CEO Treve Suazo. "Happy employees make for happy clients."
"Hiring is still my biggest heartburn," Covalent IT's Fowler said with some frustration, despite Colorado's No. 4 rank in the availability of educated and experienced workers. "When it comes to technology, finding the seasoned, dedicated person is difficult."
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