Is Spokane a good place to do business?
Just ask The Principal Financial Group. The venerable Des Moines, Iowa, financial services company opened its first Spokane office with 15 employees just three years ago.
Local employment totals more than 240 and the end is not in site, said Debra Hoag, assistant manager of human resources.
Hoag said The Principal established its Spokane presence with an office designed to administer 401K pension plans. It found a fertile employee pool and growth resulted.
“We have been so successful finding employees, that about six months ago the information technology group - we call it the Pension Business Systems - chose Spokane to expand its operations.”
That 12-group team is expected to expand to 100 in the next five years and will ultimately total as many as 200.
“Eventually, our office will service pension plans for the Mountain and Pacific time zones,” Hoag explained.
Hoag, who will present a seminar at the Career Fair, said the company is looking to hire for a variety of positions.
“Our positions range from support level personnel, including pension assistance and record keeping, to consultants.”
In 1998, The Principal will bolster its administrative area, where employees with diverse backgrounds are valued.
“We look at a broad range of individuals, and we focus in on the diversity in the workforce. “
Hoag said diversity of experience and backgrounds enhance the work place.
“When you get a variety of experience and a variety of angles from which to look at a problem, you get the best solution.”
At the Career Fair, Hoag will be looking for potential employees with excellent communications, problem-solving and team-working skills.
The need for high-tech skills varies by position: “It’s always nice if (employees) have computer experience.”
Hoag said The Principal needs COBOL programmers to “work with our Pension Business Systems designing and maintaining programs to support our pension business.”
Although the awareness of COBOL has diminished in recent years with the rise of newer technologies, it is still “very prevalent in the financial industry,” Hoag said. “COBOL will never go away.”
To help satisfy its need for programmers, the company is working with local schools to increase the number of COBOL course offerings available.
“Spokane Community College has it in the curriculum and Eastern and WSU offer it as a requested class only.”
A would-be programmer can learn the language in a semester or two of course work, she said.
“We look at a two-year AA degree just as strongly as we look at a four-year degree, although there would be different responsibilities with the two positions.”