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Seattle area’s challenges bring financial company to Boise

Jeremy Ames’ employees were spending more than two hours in a car every day getting to and from work in Seattle suburb Bellevue, WA. That’s ten hours away from families, away from work and away from anything but a podcast or wacky morning radio show.

He knew something had to change.

His company, Guidant Financial, saw turnover pick up as the business competed for talent with names like Amazon and Google.

“It’s a great place for tech or executives, but hard for customer service and admin types of support roles,” he said of the Seattle area. “We felt like long term we were going to need to bite the bullet and find a place that was going to provide a better employee experience that was going to lead to us being the type of employer we want to be.”

[Company fed up with California moving to Treasure Valley]

From 100 to 1: Boise

Ames, his co-founder and other team members conducted a search that started with a mountain of data. Looking at more than one-hundred cities, many met basic criteria like cost of living and cost of labor.

But the data alone wouldn’t solve the challenge.

“The filter we used was ‘OK, let’s think about the places that we would be willing to live,'” he said. “If we are going to sell this to people, and where the company is going to expand in the future, we had to be fully on board.”

They looked other factors: how much sun did the area get? Was it close to water? Did it have sports teams?

Plus, an X factor.

“We wanted a place that some of our employees could relocate and have a significant boost in lifestyle.”

When all the factors were mixed together, plus proximity to Seattle, Boise became the clear winner.

“It was by far the smallest market, and that was a little bit attractive to us,” Ames said. “It’s a market that we think we could be relevant in… as opposed to some of these markets where (our business) would be just incremental.”

A personal connection

Despite all the data and intangible factors, Ames and his wife Jill both have ties to Boise: They both attended Boise State University.

But the town has changed since their college years in the 1990s.

“I remember coming back from our first due diligence trip – it was different than I remember,” he said. “I don’t rememebr from when I was in college Boise having that cool, upcoming vibe.”

He said seeing the Jack’s Urban Meeting Place project downtown sent a strong signal that resonated with him and the team.

“I love that you have a major Idaho business family that has done this field of dreams business concept. You just see that type of investment and excitement in people – and it’s hard not to see that vision for how Boise is going to continue to evolve and grow.”

Guidant’s growth curve

Guidant Financial launched in 2003 and specializes in a financial product known as ROBS. The Rollovers for Business Startups allows individuals to take funds in their 401(k) accounts and put them toward certain business costs. The process can be complex, and Guidant has made itself a leader in the space to navigate IRS and Department of Labor rules.

In Boise, the company will start out with 25 employees at a new office on Emerald St. But Ames said that could grow to 40-50 this year and more than 75 in 2020.

Guidant’s Bellevue office will remain, but some employees already made the switch to Boise.

“We have six people that have already relocated and two more in the next two weeks,” Ames said. “Two people that just bought houses for the first time. We were hoping this would open up opportunities for people that they didn’t see in Seattle.”

[Analysis: Boise is about to add a lot more people. Buckle up]

The Boise-based positions include customer service, a senior recruiter, the head of human resources and more.

And it’s having a snowball effect.

“One of my employees told me today she had a friend coming this weekend and one next weekend and they are considering moving to Boise,” Ames recounted. “I said, ‘now you’re recruiting people who don’t work in our company to work here!'”

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