Today’s businesses, large and small, are focused on attracting and retaining talent. As a result, human resource professionals need to be actively involved in the decision-making around their companies’ facility expansions and relocations, according to a recent study by Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.
While much has been made of Fortune 500 company ADP moving 1,600 employees to the new Five City Center office tower in downtown Allentown this summer, the strong demand for office space of all sizes in the revitalized city serves to illustrate companies’ use of new, urban real estate for recruitment and growth.
By 2020, 50 percent of the U.S. workforce will be from the Millennial Generation, whose members want to live and work in vibrant downtown environments, as seen in the state’s larger cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Businesses are paying attention to that trend and discovering how leasing new office space in downtown Allentown can help them recruit millennials.
At a symposium on opportunity zones held in downtown Allentown last year, Tom Murphy, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute, said, “For the first time in history we’re seeing jobs move to where people are, rather than vice versa. For companies, it’s all about being where talent wants to be. Tech giants, startups, Fortune 500 firms, small businesses…”
Chris Reber, Market Executive at Merrill Lynch’s downtown Allentown office in Tower 6, says, “For Merrill Lynch and companies like it, locating our offices in an energized city environment with walk-to-work opportunities like downtown Allentown is critical to attracting and retaining talented employees and expanding our business.”
Smart companies are also realizing the many benefits of leasing the new; Class A space downtown Allentown has to offer. Only 10 percent of the Lehigh Valley’s office inventory is less than a decade old, with most of it being more than 30 years old. With today’s trend of open and flexible office space that promotes collaboration, the larger floorplates of new office buildings surpass the divided ones of older buildings. In today’s quickly changing market, flexibility in both office space and lease terms, as well as a happier and more productive workforce, ultimately help businesses grow.
Companies are beginning to realize they are losing money by staying in employee-unfriendly, inefficient office space. Unhappy and unproductive employees lead to higher turnover and increased recruitment costs, and costs to operate inefficient space are higher, reducing the overall efficiency of their business. Fortunately, there is plenty of room to add new, open office space in downtown Allentown, but if developers don’t supply it, it will hurt the Lehigh Valley office market overall.
Another trend among downtown Allentown businesses is the desire to network with other companies within the central business district. Companies, like people, want to be connected and to grow through those connections.
Kerry Kulp, a Network Systems Consultant and Partner at Velaspan in Three City Center, says, “We moved to downtown Allentown with expansion in mind because of the great location and opportunities to collaborate with other downtown companies. As a direct result of our location, we have built relationships that have led to additional business, requiring us to recruit and expand our workforce.”
Attracting and retaining a young, educated workforce; designing new, open office space from scratch; and collaborating with dozens of companies within walking distance are all goals that can be met in downtown Allentown’s reenergized office community.