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In the Battle for Talent, Real Estate Leads the Tech Conversation at SXSW

Q1 2014
When innovation is like oxygen, as it is for tech firms, the ability to attract and retain talented employees is mission critical. At the recent 2014 South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival, widely considered the annual gathering of the industry's most innovative minds, the stage was set not only for showcasing new technology, but also for sharing ideas on the business of tech. And for the first time, real estate became a trending topic, thanks to the roles of location selection and workplace strategy in employee recruitment.

Tech companies are reinventing their approach to workplace strategy, with a stronger emphasis on mobility and choice, explains Greg Matter, JLL Vice President and leader of the firm’s national high technology brokerage group. With wi-fi ubiquitous and a growing pool of third-party site opportunities, the entire concept of workplace is evolving towards greater mobility. Indeed, SXSW presenter and CEO of LiquidSpace Mark Gilbreath sees a radical new concept emerging: the idea that corporate workplace can be anywhere—which can be especially appealing for tech workers.

Workplace strategy was a trending topic at the recent South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference, as tech leaders are increasingly seeing the value that real estate can have in driving talent recruitment.

Emphasizing Workplace Choice
Promoting choice is an important element of workplace strategy for tech firms—but that means a lot more than just allowing work-from-home. The allure of mobility is stronger for, say, a tech employee who has collaborative, inviting workplace options to choose from—both within and outside a company's real estate footprint. In other words, mobility enhances rather than trumps the importance of having an attractive, modern professional home base (or several). These appealing offices can serve as a recruitment tool by reflecting company culture, driving brand identity, and ultimately providing employees the flexibility they seek in a prospective employer.

The proof that putting stakes in the ground still matters is in the numbers: While tech leaders generally champion mobile, they are not cutting back on corporate leasing. Demand from tech firms is growing, comprising as much as 74 percent of corporate leasing in Silicon Valley, about half in Seattle and San Francisco, and roughly a third of the market in Boston.

Even outside the big tech hubs, tech leasing is on the rise. Startups looking to break into a market, as well as established firms looking to expand, are seeing new value in developing a presence in emerging tech clusters, where affordability is coupled with a fresh talent base. JLL’s national ranking of top tech cities highlights already hot locations like Austin, Portland and Seattle as well as emerging tech markets like Denver and Atlanta.

Using a combination of real estate mobility and choice to entice the next generation of innovators? Now that's corporate workplace innovation.

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