Recruiting out-of-town employees to fill jobs? This Fort Wayne talent attraction service can help

Northeast Indiana Talent Attraction, Inc., partners with local HR representatives and headhunters to help out-of-town talent get to know Fort Wayne’s culture and lifestyle.

It’s been well documented that pandemic-induced labor shortages are shifting the power dynamics in talent recruiting relationships. Rather than candidates competing for jobs, employers are competing for candidates, offering hefty sign-on bonuses and other benefits to sway the odds in their favor.
 
If you ask Lynn Reecer and her team of recruiting and relocation specialists at Northeast Indiana Talent Attraction, Inc., matchmaking the candidate to the city where a company is based is a vital part of the equation in today's job market. While remote work will play a role in the “new normal,” so will communities and those long-awaited in-person interactions. So being a competitive employer is about more than selling the livelihood; it’s also about selling the lifestyle, and oftentimes, employers are not in a position to do it all themselves.
 
That’s where Northeast Indiana Talent Attraction, Inc., comes in, or NEITA, for short. Founded by Reecer in 2018, NEITA partners with local HR representatives and headhunters to help out-of-town talent get to know Fort Wayne’s culture and lifestyle.
 
“We’re our clients’ secret weapon,” Reecer says. “We help them get who they want, when they want them, and keep them here.”

Northeast Indiana Talent Attraction, Inc., helps sell the Fort Wayne lifestyle to job candidates considering a move to Fort Wayne.
 
In 2021, NEITA worked with 77 recruits with a 75 percent job acceptance rate. They’ve even convinced candidates from Canada and coastal states, like California, to relocate to Northeast Indiana.
 
So how does it work?
 
NEITA sells the Fort Wayne lifestyle by offering highly personalized talent tours and becoming the “first friends” of employees and their families, partners, and children relocating to the area. This approach is rooted in Reecer’s own experience as a transplant to Fort Wayne in 1993.
 
While you might know Reecer as a Fort Wayne real estate veteran and leader of The Lynn Reecer Team with Encore Sotheby’s International Realty, before she built her career selling Northeast Indiana properties, she moved to the city herself as a reluctant trailing spouse with her husband and two toddlers.
 
“We were living in Indianapolis at the time, and my husband was recruited to work for a medical practice in Fort Wayne,” Reecer says. “But I was left out of the entire recruiting process.”

Lynn Reecer
 
At the time, Reecer was a stay-at-home mom, and one of her children needed surgery. So on top of figuring out her family’s move, she also needed to find a rental property, preschools, doctors, groceries, and navigate all of the day-to-day headaches of acclimating to an unfamiliar city.
 
Drawing on her experience, Reecer started NEITA to help fellow transplants relocating to Fort Wayne for a job, focusing on their lifestyle needs beyond the 9-to-5. Once NEITA is hired by an HR representative or headhunter, they meet with their job candidates, first virtually, using an in-depth, email-based intake survey they’ve developed to get to know recruits and assess their whole family’s needs, from schools to housing and special interests.
 
Through its intake survey and face-to-face interactions, NEITA creates a safe space for candidates to ask uncomfortable questions related to race, religion, sexual orientation, and other protected classes and characteristics employers cannot discuss legally. Reecer says this is a key way her team supports their business clients.
 
“There are a lot of topics on candidates’ minds related to a move that they either can’t or won’t discuss with their employers,” Reecer says. “And yet, these aspects play a huge role in their lives and decisions. This way, they can ask us honest questions, whether it’s, ‘I’m gay, and I need to know if I’m welcome in Fort Wayne,’ or ‘I have a parent coming with me who has severe dementia, and we need to find daycare for them.’”

NEITA welcomes candidates with gift bags.
 
As NEITA gets to know candidates, they lead them on unique, personalized lifestyle tours of Fort Wayne, either virtually or in-person on a job visit. Kathy Skekloff is a contractor who leads tours with NEITA and says the experience goes beyond driving around town.
 
“We park, and we get out and walk around and sample food at local restaurants and coffee shops, so they really get a feel for the local environment,” Skekloff says. “Anybody can Google ‘Things to do in Fort Wayne’ based on their interests, but we offer an interactive experience with personal insights as residents here. In doing so, we help our clients stand out from the competition, and our candidates are blown away by our attention to detail.”

NEITA often takes talent to local businesses like Utopian Coffee on The Landing in Downtown Fort Wayne.
 
Skekloff has given recruits FaceTime walkthroughs of apartment buildings they’re interested in or helped nurses from Canada apply for bank accounts and purchase cars in Fort Wayne for their move. 

This beyond-the-basics approach is part of NEITA’s commitment to providing job candidates with an unexpected, red-carpet, concierge-level experience of Fort Wayne, says Kathy Ray, Sr. Director of Candidate Experience for the organization. She coordinates with Nancy Ecclestone, Director of Business Development, to provide everything from adding special touches and gift baskets to hotel rooms to troubleshooting challenges and arranging transportation to and from the airport.
 
About 34 years ago, Ray moved to Fort Wayne from Columbia, S.C., to work for her family’s company, the handbag giant Vera Bradley. Now, on a recent workday, she’s applying her skills in sales and market research to figure out where to play Pokémon GO in Fort Wayne.
 
“One of our job candidates at NEITA right now is a huge Pokémon GO fan, so I did some research, and apparently Purdue Fort Wayne has a large community for it,” she says. “He was so excited about that!”
 
NEITA’s work also requires problem-solving skills. One recent candidate attending a job interview accidentally booked his flight into Indianapolis instead of the Fort Wayne International Airport, and Ray was able to reroute his trip before it caused any scheduling mishaps for his prospective new employer.
 
“Those are the things the company doesn’t want to have to worry about, and we can handle for them,” she says. “We make sure job candidates have a great first impression of our community that goes above and beyond what they’re expecting.”

Kathy Ray, Sr. Director of Candidate Experience for NEITA, and Nancy Ecclestone, Director of Business Development, provide gift bags for job candidates.
 
One resident who has benefitted from NEITA’s hospitality is Karen McMahon, the trailing spouse of one of NEITA’s 2018 recruits. When McMahon’s husband was first asked to apply for a job in Fort Wayne, she and her young boys were settled in Seattle, Wash., and the family wasn’t strongly considering a move. But when her husband toured with NEITA, and Reecer took him to some of the regional lakes, his perspective shifted.
 
“On his drive home from the tour, he called me and was like, ‘You would not believe this place; it’s amazing,’” McMahon says.
 
When the whole family came back for a tour with NEITA, they were convinced.
 
“I can tell you without a doubt: If NEITA was not involved in our visit, we would not have moved to Fort Wayne,” McMahon says. “They were able to listen to what we thought was important as a family and address all of our concerns, so there was no reason not to come.”

Karen McMahon is Vice President of Operations for NEITA and the trailing spouse of one of NEITA’s 2018 recruits.
 
McMahon now serves as Vice President of Operations for NEITA, applying her firsthand experience to the task.
 
Reecer says NEITA stays in touch with job candidates and their families long after they move to Fort Wayne, providing ongoing support for acclimating to the local culture with everything from personal check-ins to networking events and a Facebook group for new residents. This helps with multiple aspects of their move, from finding employment for their partners to finding dry cleaners and local restaurants.
 
“It helps reduce the cognitive load associated with the move, so new hires can feel settled faster and focus on their jobs,” Reecer says.
 
NEITA also offers HR representatives recruiting support at job fairs and networking events, both in-person and virtually, providing insights to help sell Fort Wayne's community and lifestyle. If companies need more leads on finding job applicants in the war for talent, NEITA can help with that, too.
 
“The NEITA team has been invaluable during the recruiting and negotiating process with our out-of-town candidates,” says Tim Bradley, HR Director of Summit Brands. “We have successfully hired every candidate NEITA has been involved with.”
 
Learn more
 
For more information and to schedule a consultation with NEITA, visit neintalent.org.
What does talent want?
What does talent want?
NEITA’s team shares their insights.
IFW: What are a few things most out-of-town job candidates enjoy when they visit Fort Wayne?
 
NEITA:
Many candidates are surprised to see what a great city Fort Wayne is when they go on our tours. We really are a big small town, so we have a little bit of everything here, and it’s easy to tailor tours to meet each candidate’s unique interests and needs. They love all the amazing new amenities our city has diligently worked on adding over the past 20 or so years, like our stellar 100+ mile trails system and all the numerous beautiful additions to our Downtown from the ballpark to the Bradley Hotel. Most transplants we work with are looking to rent houses when they first move to Fort Wayne, but they usually comment about how the housing prices here are very attractive and much more affordable than other markets. (We assist them with the difficult work of finding rental housing too.) Several of them have noted the Midwestern kindness and hospitality they experience in Fort Wayne. Having a Trader Joe’s is also a much-appreciated addition!
 
IFW: What’s something Fort Wayne could improve to boost talent attraction?
 
NEITA:
Public transit. Something we hear over and over is that Fort Wayne needs better public transportation. Job candidates from out of town arrive at the airport very late at night sometimes, and it’s hard to find them an Uber or reliable ride. Transit has actually been the reason some of our candidates have chosen not to come to Fort Wayne. There was a nurse we were recruiting who was planning to live five miles away from her workplace, but she doesn’t have a car, and the bus ride to her job was going to take her three-and-a-half hours, so she didn’t take the job. Oftentimes, people moving from bigger cities don’t have personal cars and rely on public transportation, so stronger public transit in Fort Wayne would make the city even more attractive.