In early 2020, Pax8, a homegrown cloud distribution technology company based in Greenwood Village, Colorado, developed an initiative that would expand its workforce to rural areas of Colorado. The goal was to create a positive social impact in the state while also growing the company's diversity. By increasing its recruiting efforts outside of Denver, Pax8 hoped to attract people with different backgrounds and experiences, driving the progression of Pax8's diversity-driven culture. It also would enable Pax8 to positively impact rural communities throughout Colorado by providing growth-related career opportunities that may not otherwise have been available to these communities.
Pax8 reached out to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) after learning of its new Location Neutral Employment Incentive (LONE). Knowing the strategic incentives would accelerate the growth of Pax8’s initiative, they applied for the state incentive and became the first company in the state to take advantage of the LONE program.
Reaching more diverse talent
Through the LONE program, Pax8 grew its rural initiative faster and broader than anticipated. The pandemic and the resulting remote work environment accelerated the initiative at Pax8 along with the strategic partnerships it had established with community leaders throughout the state. The company was able to hire individuals with the required technical training and experience needed in communities across the state. An added benefit is that Pax8 is one of the only companies offering IT careers opportunities in these areas, decreasing competition and creating a great avenue for recruitment. It also allowed them to expand their service and technical support teams, enhancing the partner experience.
Rural hiring also increases diversity within Pax8, as they have been able to attract people from different backgrounds, including BIPOC, veterans, and LGBTQ. In addition to the benefit of a richer company culture, diversity has proven to be a critical component of the company by positively impacting the business’s bottom line. Studies show that a diverse workforce creates more value, provides multiple insights and perspectives, and offers different approaches to typical business situations. Companies use these methods to develop unique plans and solutions, gaining a competitive market advantage.
The Pax8 rural initiative is also having a significant impact on rural communities. Last year they partnered with the Upper Arkansas Technology Sector and Fremont County to support their goal of creating a catalyst for rural Colorado. Leaders in this region have established programs that include the Emergent Campus and TechSTART project to develop a technology ecosystem. With the high concentration of IT talent, paired with access to high-speed broadband internet, this area was the perfect choice for Pax8's initial partnership. People can work in their preferred field without leaving their community, which also impacts the local economy. This program laid the groundwork for future collaborations, and Pax8 is currently in discussions to expand to additional rural Colorado communities.
Prepared to pivot
Accelerating its rural initiative efforts proved to be beneficial in another way. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Pax8 knew it would need to shift to a work-from-home environment. Fortunately, the technology processes and capabilities they had established to support rural hiring provided the foundation, enabling Pax8 to be completely remote within 48 hours. Additionally, the People Operations department developed a virtual onboarding process through Pax8 University, which delivers innovative, tailored learning and career development programs that empower Pax8 employees to be more effective in their roles, gain new knowledge and skills and advance in their careers. The remote training program has allowed them to continue hiring effectively throughout the pandemic. In fact, Pax8 added more than 150 employees in 2020 and exceeded the number of rural employees incentivized as part of the LONE program.
Framework for the future
Pax8 plans to continue growing, investing, and expanding the rural initiative program. Its Rural Empowerment Programs Manager is leading the charge in developing new strategies and discovering new partnerships statewide. Earlier this year, they signed a lease on space in Fremont County, where Pax8 will create a satellite office and increase their hiring efforts. Current employees will also engage in a mentoring program with Fremont's high school, introducing students to the many career options in the technology field.
Pax8 is an ideal example of the power of a location-neutral workforce. The LONE program proved to be a significant economic tool to aid Pax8 in its rural hiring and talent expansion in the state.
By Michael Lipfield, Pax8 and Jill McGranahan, OEDIT