It’s long been the perception that the marketing department is often the first to take a hit when business goes south. But a report from the Marketing Executives Networking Group claims that, in fact, marketing departments are going understaffed not because of layoffs, but because there is a shortage of executive talent. Adding insult to injury, the report states that the situation is expected to worsen as baby-boomers continue to retire and there are fewer executive level marketers available to fill those positions.

What does that have to do with marketing to small businesses and organizations in Jackson Hole? I’m not exactly sure, but I can draw a few parallels. While this isn’t exactly a business community rife with executive level positions, I too have seen a lack of marketing talent within the businesses with which I work. This isn’t a criticism of those businesses; rather, it’s a result of two patterns I see within small businesses and organizations locally. The first is that often times small businesses can’t afford to hire an employee who can be dedicated solely to marketing. (But when they do, that marketing person is often over-worked and overwhelmed by the demands of the job.) And when they do fill a marketing position, it is often with a person who doesn’t have much marketing experience.

The second reason there seems to be a lack of marketing talent here, and the main reason I see a shortage of any professional talent in small communities ( around 20,000 people) is because it’s not a real attractive market for young professionals on a career track. Now, Jackson Hole and other similar mountain towns offer a slight exception to that rule due to the exceptional lifestyle available. But because of the popularity of great lifestyle opportunities, there is another factor that is somewhat related to the retiring baby-boomer issue mentioned in the MENG report. In our case, retiring baby-boomers—albeit those with a lot of money—are retiring to or buying second homes here, adding to the over-inflated real estate market, driving up prices, and making it difficult for many, including young professionals, to be able to afford to live here. That trend isn’t just taking a toll on marketers in particular or young professionals in general; it’s hitting the majority of our working community members at every job level and age.

But back to the issue of marketing talent. Ours is a professional community of what Richard Florida calls the “creative class.” We have a seemingly disproportionate number of artists, graphic designers, software developers, and all-around entrepreneurs. It is a strong business community and one that seems to be weathering the recent economic downturn fairly well. But the lack of marketing talent remains a bit of a mystery to me. It is a niche I never intended to fill when I took my first communications job here, and one that still appears to be relatively empty eight years later now that I’ve started my own marketing firm. I’m not sure how that relates to the Marketing Executives Networking Group report, but there does seem to be a correlation.