Heidrick & Struggles
Cleantech, Pacific Northwest
Only a few years ago the searching question for the then emerging Cleantech industry was how the pace of growth in the industry was going to be constrained by the availability of talent. The breakneck speed of the industry and the urgency in driving to a low carbon economy was such that everyone in the industry knew there to be a war for talent. What we have seen over the last five years is that the Cleantech industry has, in fact, been able to attract the talent it needs (the solar sector from semiconductor, hardware, electronics and software; the bioindustrials sector from chemicals, life sciences, ag, etc). In fact, so much so, that we can declare that the war for talent is over! Of course, there will always be short term spikes where demand exceeds supply as when a spate of energy storage companies chase specialists in electrochemistry.
What about the war for talent in the Pacific Northwest? Are Cleantech companies able to attract talent and fast enough from outside the industry?
There are a set of factors that impinge on the growth of the Cleantech industry in the Pacific Northwest. If talent turns out to be a constraining factor, the main reason would be because of talent immobility – geography is the issue, not an aversion to changing industries in the first instance. Executives from the Midwest are reluctant to relocate to the West. Similarly, executives are typically not keen to move from the South to the North, or even from Southern to Northern California, and so on. Talent immobility is not unique to the Pacific Northwest. Silicon Valley has its own challenges in attracting talent from the Midwest and the South. However, for the Pacific Northwest, the challenges are even greater since it has to compete with Silicon Valley and other centers which have a more developed investor and Cleantech investment infrastructure.