When it comes to attracting young tech talent, cities have to up their game, members of a panel on the topic said Thursday on the first day of the Innovation Conference. 

One of the most discussed topics was what young tech professionals are looking for in a city and how cities can improve and market themselves to better attract them. Some of the ideas included the walkability of the city, a multitude of social activities and child care.

But a more robust tech job sector is also an important factor.

"One of the reasons many people I know have left the area is because there isn't much diversity of companies in the industry here," said Travis Boudreaux, director of software engineering at Waitr. "They may be able to get a job at Waitr or at CGI, but besides that, there's not much else here.

"People generally don't stay in one job for more than two or three years in this industry. So that's maybe five years tops in this area before they need to move on."

The conference, hosted by the Lafayette Economic Development Authority's Opportunity Machine, is a two-day event to promote entrepreneurship and promote jobs in Acadiana.  

Other topics ranged from the pros and cons of cloud computing, in which remote networks are used to store and manage data instead of local servers, as well as what universities can do to prepare tech students for the workforce and better hiring practices and philosophies.

"You've got to be open to flipping your mindset when recruiting and that means they don't just open up a job requisition and go out and find talent; they go find talent and create a job they're going to be empowered to succeed in," said Will Labar, vice president of consulting services for CGI. "Those types of people are creating the best teams in our company."

And then there's the Cupid factor: Xenex CEO Morris Miller said four generals in the armed services recently told him that having people to introduce to young people to potential future spouses helped attract and keep talent in San Antonio, Texas.

Tom Schenk, director of analysis at KPMG, said cities can't solely rely on ad campaigns to make their cities seem more appealing; they need to invest in incubators for new small businesses, especially in the tech industry.

Follow Dan Boudreaux on Twitter, @dan_boudreaux

Business Reporter