Internet offers new path for businesses

Infrastructure upgrades would help draw techies to Southwest Colorado

IGNACIO – The business culture is shifting from the 40-hour workweek to a distributed workforce of employees working around the globe, a panel of technology experts say.

Virtual employees communicate better than those in an office, said Chris McCroskey, co-founder of Idea Loop, a design company based in Dallas that is looking to relocate to Durango.

“I hire people who want the freedom to do what they want with their time,” McCroskey said. “I encourage our developers to go around and travel.”

McCroskey and several others, including Shane Larson, a software developer with Markit on Demand; and Walker Thompson, vice president of sales and marketing for restaurant software company WhenToManage, spoke about the advantages of having a distributed workforce at the sixth annual Economic Summit hosted by the La Plata Economic Development Alliance.

McCroskey’s company motto is “recruit the world.”

It’s hard to find employees with a software skill-set, but that search is even more difficult if companies limit the search to the immediate area, McCroskey said.

It’s also hard to find technology employees in Durango, Thompson said. When employers do find them, they often don’t understand online tools and how to navigate through them, he said.

WhenToManage uses tools such as HipChat, where employees can share files, video chat and leave messages.

Another issue Durango faces is the lack of broadband and strong Internet that can handle downloading large files from designers, the panel said.

Durango can be a magnet for technology employees because it’s a highly skilled and educated community, but the area needs the infrastructure and broadband to accommodate them, McCroskey said.

Broadband is a big issue for businesses, and the Region 9 Economic Development District is starting to focus on infrastructure, said Joe Keck, director of the Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center.

It doesn’t matter where employees reside, and those who have more flexibility are less stressed and more loyal to their company, said Kate North, vice president of global development for e-Work.com, who spoke on a separate summit panel about local culture.

North focused on well-being and quality of life in her address.

There are four generations in the workforce now, and middle-aged women are the most stressed group in the United States because many are taking care of kids and their parents along with working a full-time job, North said.

The current group of middle-aged women will be the first generation to die earlier than their husbands by five to seven years, she said.

The virtual world goes beyond offering more freedom and quality of life to workers, though. The Internet is where businesses looking to grow and expand their revenue need to go, said keynote speaker Mark Weiler, president of Parelli Natural Horsemanship.

Parelli generates $20 million of revenue annually and has the largest FedEx account in the Four Corners, Weiler said.

Parelli creates “intellectual property,” videos and pamphlets that teach horse guru Pat Parelli’s approach of teaching horse owners to establish trust with their horse and become their own horse trainer.

“The world is your sandbox,” Weiler said. “Mobile communication and creating your own intellectual property is the wave of the future.”

Weiler told attendees the overall message he wanted them to take from the summit is that social media is the future and employers need to trust the teenagers and those in their 20s because “they get it.”

jdahl@durangoherald.com

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