Unemployment's High, So Why Does This Growing Ames Tech Company Struggle to Find Workers?
Global Reach CEO said they could do even more work, if they could find employees with the skills needed.
Global Reach, a web development firm in Iowa State University's Research Park, is about ready to knock down an office wall and expand.
It can't happen fast enough.
“We should have done it four months ago,” said Global Reach CEO and President Iacovos Zachariades.
But too often Zachariades can't find enough good people to work for him.
A majority of his applicants are college students who haven't graduated yet or people who don't have the skills he wants.
“They say, 'We have high unemployment but ...,'” Zachariades said with a shrug and looked at the resumes on his desk.
They don't have the skills needed for the job.
“We could have grown faster. At times we've pushed clients away or asked them to wait."
Zachariades is one of many high tech employers in the United States and around the world, who say they can't find employees with the skills necessary to do the job.
A 2011 Talent Shortage survey by Manpower Group found that about 75 percent of employers say potential employees have a lack of experience, skills or knowledge. In the U.S., 51 percent of employers surveyed reported having trouble filling jobs.
Global Reach, a company he founded with partners in 1995, could have grown faster if Zachariades could have found the right employees, he said.
Global Reach is looking for computer technicians, a project manager to oversee website development, web developers and marketing professionals. Zachariades could contract with a head hunter but doesn't want to spend the $15,000 to $20,000 fee they would charge (a percentage of a person's first-year salary).
When Zachariades finds an experienced person in the industry, most often he or she is a “spousal attachment” of an Iowa State University employee. Global Reach is willing to train the right people and has trained new ISU graduates, but Zachariades said a fresh graduate wouldn't be able to do the project manager job without some experience.
“We could have grown faster. At times we've pushed clients away or asked them to wait,” Zachariades said.
Zachariades, a 43-year-old immigrant from Cyprus, came to the U.S. when he was 22, planning to complete his teaching degree and return home.
Both of his parents were teachers. He wanted to be an architect.
“They wanted me to be like them,” Zachariades said.
While studying at Luther College, Zachariades took a few computer science classes and discovered he liked it. He pursued a graduate degree at Iowa State University in curriculum and instructional technology. He started web design with Global Reach in 1995 as a side job while managing computer labs at Iowa State University. He decided to focus on Global Reach full time in 2000 just before the dot-com bubble burst.
“I didn't know how long I would be able to survive,” Zachariades said.
As an immigrant, Zachariades wasn't eligible for most loans, so he limped along with some part-time employees and racked up thousands of dollars of credit card debt --- $144,000 --- so that he could pay himself for the first two years, he said.
“I just paid off all of those credit cards last month,” Zachariades said.
Growth in a Recession
Zachariades said he was able to survive and grow while other companies failed by being patient and working smarter. His company's hourly rate is the same, but he said Global Reach works more efficiently.
“We build solutions that we can reuse,” he said.
This allows them to offer better services less expensively, Zachariades said. During the recession as companies became more concerned about expenses, Global Reach was a way to save, he said.
“Once people started getting more careful with how they spent their money, they found out Global Reach was a good solution for them,” Zachariades said.
Zachariades said his company's growth has been steady since its start, but that finding good people is always hard. He added his first full-time employee in 2001.
Fast forward 10 years later and the company has developed more than 1,300 websites. Last year, the company increased its workforce by more than 50 percent, adding 11 new staff members, said Global Reach Project Manager Jessica Mortvedt. Global Reach now employs 33 people full-time and is still looking for more.
That growth also included the addition of work space and clients.
“To accommodate the growing staff, Global Reach added 1,300 more square feet to their Ames office and doubled the space of their Des Moines office,” Mortvedt said.
The company acquired Captain Jack Communications in November and Mission Creative of Dubuque just last month.
Zachariades said his company did so well in 2011 probably because no one else was hiring.
“We could get more work in the door, if we had the people to do it,” Zachariades said.
You can find more articles from this ongoing series, “Dispatches: The Changing American Dream” from across the country at The Huffington Post.