Eau Claire company creates ‘a place full of opportunities’

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP) — From the fourth-floor community room at software developer Jamf, employees can grab a local craft beer from the fridge, teleconference with mentors at Fortune 500 companies and take in postcard-perfect views of a revitalized downtown riverfront.

It’s all part of company founder Zach Halmstad’s strategy to create a vibrant work and living environment in Wisconsin’s eighth-largest city — and a model state officials say should be replicated to draw the workforce of the future and to help address a growing worker shortage right now, the Wisconsin State Journal reported .

“It’s not just hanging out a ‘Help Wanted’ sign and paying a competitive wage, it’s the whole holistic environment,” University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross said of attracting workers. “It’s creating the whole environment where these people want to live and hang out.”

On a tranquil August day, Jamf employees in shorts and flip-flops walk their dogs through the office. Work notes are scrawled on glossy walls in meeting rooms decorated with local artwork. There are ping pong and bumper pool tables set out where software developers might hash out the next big idea.

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“People work really hard,” said Halmstad, 39, explaining in a manner as casual as his charcoal T-shirt and jeans how the work environment fosters stress relief, creativity and community.

The company has grown from 150 employees four years ago to 700 today, with 219 in Eau Claire, another 273 in Minneapolis and the rest spread around the world. The retention rate hovers at 98 percent, said talent acquisition manager Natalie Johnson.

Yet, the secret to Jamf’s success in attracting young talent to a city of 68,000 an hour-and-a-half east of the Twin Cities isn’t just the trendy environs.

Johnson said the company decided in 2013 to build its talent development internally, reaching out to the local technical college and university systems and even local high schools to recruit interns, 80 percent of whom have become full-time employees.

Jamf — which produces device management software for schools, businesses and government organizations — offers opportunities for career development, management training and peer mentoring opportunities with companies in much larger cities that have much longer commute times than Eau Claire. Those big city companies also don’t have…

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