Scott Stenclik spent 14 years living away from Buffalo for school and work before he came back in 1986 to take a position at his family's company.
Now, the 61-year-old city resident wants to help many others get jobs, while boosting the fortunes of his hometown. And as CEO of Aleron Group – the global staffing firm founded by his parents in 1957 – he's in a great position to do it.
Long based in Amherst, the company moved its corporate headquarters to downtown Buffalo this year as the first commercial tenant in Ellicott Development Co.'s 500 Pearl St. project.
The company was running out of space in Amherst. But Stenclik also wanted to create a "signature presence" for the company in downtown Buffalo that would impress new clients. And he wanted to play a role in Buffalo's renaissance.
Today, Aleron occupies 8,000 square feet on the eighth floor of the 12-story tower. The company kept its back-office operations center in Amherst, at 250 International Drive.
Q: How active are you locally?
A: We’re headquartered here, and we have strong operations here. We have strong relationships with most major employers in the area. Not every one, but most of them. And those relationships run long and deep, because we’ve been serving them in some capacity for many decades. We are in our 61st year of operation, so we’ve had the ability and opportunity to work very closely with major companies in the area.
One thing that’s very nice, too, is with the resurgence of the economy in Buffalo Niagara, companies are coming here and expanding – companies that otherwise wouldn’t have necessarily looked at this place for expansion.
We’re currently working with a company that is expanding here in the next few months to place a significant customer service center here. Based on a national agreement with them working with them in other parts of the country, we were able to extend our services to that center as well.
Q: Were you involved in recruiting them?
A: No. They were engaged with Invest Buffalo Niagara, in terms of looking at this location, but you raise a very interesting point.
We, actually many times, do assist Invest Buffalo Niagara with companies that are looking to expand here. We have individuals in our company that work on a talent committee as part of Invest Buffalo Niagara, and oftentimes we’re called in to give insight as to what the labor market conditions are and what they can reasonably expect from the workforce here in terms of productivity.
One of the attractions of this region is the work ethic here tends to be very strong. So it’s not uncommon for us to be asked to provide information or data regarding talent availability, labor rates for certain classes or job disciplines that they may have an interest in hiring, and actually it’s an opportunity for us to really help facilitate the growth of the region.
We love those opportunities when we’re asked by someone to come in and provide labor market data. When we’re placed in that situation, we do a very good job of selling the region to these companies.
Q: What about lobbying or encouraging clients to come here?
A: Every opportunity we get. We love to bring our national relations to our hometown, no question. It’s something that we enjoy very much. We’re very passionate, being Buffalo natives, about doing what we can to grow this economy and assist in its shift from an industrial manufacturing-based economy to more of a knowledge-based economy.
We feel that as a successful company, we feel we have an opportunity and a responsibility to give back, and it’s part of the reason we make some of the investments that we’ve made here.
An example of that would be a company called Viaduct. It’s not one of the major brands that we have but it’s something I launched a few years back. It’s specific purpose was to provide recruitment and other services to startup and emerging businesses.
And Viaduct has been a very successful vehicle for driving talent needs to emerging companies here. Six out of eight winners of last year’s 43North are clients of ours.
Q: What are you seeing in terms of the workforce locally and its potential to meet the demand?
A: It’s becoming a challenge. There’s a high demand for talented, capable workers. The demand right now is exceeding the supply. You’ve seen situations where employees have options. They have many choices in terms of employment opportunities, far more so than in many years in Buffalo Niagara.
An example would be M&T’s employment initiative. They’re hiring 1,000 technology workers. That’s having a profound impact on the labor market here, because M&T is a very strong employer in this region.
So one of the things that we do to help balance the demand with the supply is we are very actively engaging the Buffalo expat network. Those people who have lived here for many years or even if they didn’t live here, they went to school here and got their college degrees here and then left the area for one reason or another.
A lot of those individuals are hearing the very positive stories about this region again, and they want to come home. They want to come back. And because of our national network of offices around the United States, we’re very capable and able to tap into that Buffalo expat network and make them aware of the opportunities that are available now in Buffalo Niagara.
Q: Do you find the expat network very close-knit?
A: Very much so. The reality is that a lot of people left the region. Just in sheer numbers, there are a lot of people with Buffalo roots that don’t live in Buffalo anymore, but a lot of them want to come back. And I think that working with a company like ours affords them that opportunity because of the depth of our client base and the degree to which we’re integrated into the employment market in this community.
And surprisingly, the expat network is fairly well organized, not on a national level, but on a local level. There are very strong expat communities in Boston, New York City, Charlotte. A lot of it is tied to the fact that they’re all strong Buffalo Bills fans. It’s the great unifier of Buffalonians.
We know people, and we go to Bills backer bars in different cities, and we get the word out. You would be surprised at the number of people who are interested in coming back for the right opportunity. And while they’ve been away, they’ve learned some really great skills and it’s wonderful to bring them back into our community.
Q: Is that enough to accommodate demand?
A: That in itself is not going to be enough to do it, but when you consider the number of college graduates that graduate from four-year institutions and two-year institutions in the region, tapping into the college placement offices is another way of retaining and growing talent here.
The other thing that works in our favor is our proximity to Canada. The GTA and Southern Ontario in general is a tremendous talent pool. And if they possess the right skill sets and education requirements, there are opportunities for individuals to work as residents of Canada here in Buffalo. When we do searches for clients in a 150-mile radius, Toronto falls within that radius.
Q: Why move back into downtown Buffalo?
A: I’ve always been a big believer and supporter of the region. I always thought there was tremendous potential here that was untapped.
I’m really excited. I’m really happy to see the resurgence of the region and for us to be part of it. That’s one of the reasons we moved our corporate functions downtown. It’s one thing to say you're a Buffalo booster and you believe in the city. It’s another to take those words into action. It’s a lot more conviction when we’re walking the walk.