How Greater New Orleans, Inc. Harnesses the Full Sweep of Labor Data to Attract Companies and New Talent


GNO, Inc. joined Emsi last week in a webinar to share its successes and tips for harnessing the power of workforce data to support local businesses, attract new firms, and recruit talent to New Orleans.

Grady Fitzpatrick and Harrison Crabtree, both of whom will be speaking at the 2019 Emsi conference, walked through three flagship GNO, Inc. initiatives that address workforce challenges. They also discussed the new and expanding businesses that chose New Orleans in part because of GNO, Inc.’s comprehensive research and industry validation.

“Data is vital both to the success of our organization and region,” said Crabtree, Senior Associate of Research and Policy. “… Emsi’s suite of data tools makes it easy to understand our workforce and effectively tell our story.”

Here are a few of the key points that Crabtree and Fitzpatrick made in the webinar:

Businesses want to know the skills (not just occupations) they can find in a region

Talent is the No. 1 issue expanding businesses care about, and many companies want to see more than the traditional occupation data when they ask communities for information. GNO, Inc. found this out when it received an RFI from Accruent, a software firm that eventually opened a New Orleans office.

“In their RFI, they said, ‘No, we want more data than BLS,’” Fitzpatrick said. “‘We need to know what skills they have.’”

GNO, Inc. turned to Emsi’s profile analytics—a database of 110 million social profiles that breaks down the supply of workers by skill and other variables—to prove to Accruent that New Orleans had the necessary skills in its workforce for the company to thrive there.

Explained Crabtree, “Historically we’ve relied on government-backed datasets tied to NAICS (industry) codes and SOC (occupation) codes. However, increasingly we’ve found ourselves using more real-time labor data, including job postings and profile analytics.

“The real-time labor information really helps us tell our story, and it doesn’t confine us to the limits of traditional labor market information.”

State of the Sector reports help GNO, Inc. with BRE and business attraction

GNO, Inc. has broadened its industry sector focus to include emerging clusters like digital media and water management. As part of this push, it created State of the Sector reports to give its partners easy-to-digest snapshots of the region’s driver industries and their workforce needs.

These reports have proven invaluable. GNO, Inc. supplies them to community and education partners, local companies on business retention and expansion (BRE) visits, and site selection consultants and companies looking for key stats on the region.

Part of the value of the State of the Sector reports is that GNO, Inc. takes careful steps to validate the data in the studies with industry partners.

“When we go to our BRE meetings,” Fitzpatrick said, “the No. 1 issue is talent. And when you have a BRE meeting, you want to be able to bring value. You don’t just want to sit in the meeting. You do want to be a good listener, but at the end of the meeting, you want to provide some useful info for them to use. What we found is the State of the Sector reports are very well received.”

GNOu brings together industry and education providers

GNO, Inc. launched GNOu to develop custom training programs and curricula at local universities and colleges. The program has paid huge dividends for local companies that need skilled workers and educational providers that want to validate the need for their training.

GNOu starts with either a company (large or small) or college or university approaching the EDO with an idea for a local workforce training-focused education program. GNO, Inc. gauges the regional need for that program and facilitates conversations as curriculum is being developed.

Fitzpatrick highlighted three wins the region has already seen from GNOu—an improved cybersecurity program at Tulane, a new environmental management program at Dillard University, and a mechatronics apprenticeship program for the region’s manufacturers.

“It’s important that we vet either the employer’s or the university’s need with data,” Crabtree noted. “So once an employer or university has reached out to us, we then use data to validate that there’s a need across the region for a training program to be developed. We use a wide range of data. More often than not, it’s all coming from Emsi. Both traditional labor market data and real-time labor market data.”

GNOu has started to grab national attention and help GNO, Inc. with business attraction. In December, before Amazon pulled out of New York City as one of its two HQ2 locations, The New York Times published a story on the treasure trove of data Amazon gleaned from New York officials and other cities during the site selection process. The article included a reference to GNOu (though it wasn’t named directly) as part of what Amazon learned through the first RFP process.

The program, the Times wrote, “made Amazon think (New Orleans) could be a good place to build a fulfillment center with robotics that require specialized skills to maintain and operate.”

Talent attraction program helps GNO, Inc. recruit workers to fill immediate demand

The success of GNOu, the State of the Sector reports, and GNO, Inc. more broadly means regional businesses have immediate needs for workers. Tech talent is especially in short supply in New Orleans, a shortage that projected to worsen the next 10 years.

To answer the bell, GNO, Inc. in 2018 launched a talent attraction program called Project Deja Vieux. The aim of the program is to increase visibility of the New Orleans tech market with tech talent in large, more expensive markets.

GNO, Inc. used Emsi data through a four-step process before kicking off Project Deja Vieux. It started with Crabtree analyzing the region’s fastest-growing industries and verifying the data (particularly the industry projections) with local employers and what GNO, Inc. knew from recent business wins. He then developed a list of target occupations in tech that were most in-demand.

“Next we did the graduate analysis,” Crabtree said. “So using the profile data, we looked at where were there high concentrations of New Orleans alumni. We knew we would have an easier time attracting people back to the city that were already familiar with the city vs. maybe going after people who maybe never had been to New Orleans.”

The fourth and final step was a cost of living analysis to determine target markets where tech workers abounded and living expenses were well over the national average.

GNO, Inc. narrowed its target markets to a handful of large, expensive cities. It then reached out to people it identified via email and social media campaigns on Mardi Gras day to tug at the heartstrings of people who’ve been in New Orleans and miss the giant party and family celebration.

Traffic to GNO, Inc.’s website jumped 193% during the biggest Project Deja Vieux push, and because of the marketing, a tech leader from San Francisco reached out to learn more about the New Orleans market. GNO, Inc. ended up hosting him for two days during Entrepreneur Week.

“Just a tip of the iceberg for us,” Fitzpartrick said. “We want to do a lot more of this, and the Emsi tools really got us started thinking about this now that we know we can have curated lists of folks that we want to go after.”

GNO, Inc. designed Project Deja Vieux to be a short-term talent attraction program that would complement the long-term work it and its partners are doing to build a talent pipeline for New Orleans businesses.

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