Better with age

For years, human resources experts predicted that the retirement of the baby boomers would create a shortage of experienced workers in the United States.

However, the recession has forced some individuals to delay their retirement, or even return to work full- or part-time, as their retirement savings and 401(k)s have decreased in value.

That dynamic is the driving force behind the emergence of West Allis-based Patina Solutions, which specializes in the placement of workers ages 50 and over, for part-time or project-based work, executive or management needs, consulting services and training or operational support.

“This is really the best type of workforce for this economy. Our portfolio of people are experienced and well-trained. They won’t be learning on an employer’s time,” said Michael Harris, president and chief executive officer of Patina. “They can mentor a younger generation of workers, and they have great character, and the skills to come in and hit the ground running.”

Patina is Harris’ sixth startup company. His others have included Jefferson Wells International Inc., which was acquired by Manpower Inc. in 2001, The Novo Group and The Capital H Group.

Harris came up with the idea for Patina, when speaking with a friend whose company hires back people who were either retired or in semi-retirement stage because companies can’t find the kind of talent they need.

“We are offering employers the opportunity to get that kind of talent. We are not just another staffing company. We are very careful about not becoming just a database,” said Deborah Seeger, vice president and co-founder of Patina. “Our portfolio of people want meaningful work. They want to feel appreciated and valuable. Some of them have just decided that full on retirement is just not for them. They need some project to keep them happy. Patina will be able to provide them with opportunities that allow them to feel that.”

Patina offers its employees opportunities to utilize their skills, have flexible work schedules and earn competitive pay and benefits, while still learning from and gaining from the work experience, Seeger said.

Patina was formed last summer, and by November, it had secured enough money from angel investors, Seeger said.

“There really isn’t anything else like this out there that specifically focuses on this portfolio generation. I have gotten consistent affirmation from people that this is a great idea,” Harris said.

“I came up with the name, because I’m a huge fan of architecture, and I realized that there is not a single more beautiful thing than the patina that forms as copper or some other material naturally ages,” Harris said. “I believe the same is true for our portfolio workforce. They have aged beautifully, they have the experience, they have the wisdom and knowledge, and you can’t get that kind of workforce any other way than from people who have just lived life.”

Patina moved into shared office space located at the Summit Place office complex at 6737 W. Washington Ave. in West Allis, and the company already has opportunities to expand in at least four other nearby cities, Harris said.

“In an economy like this, it’s nice that we are brand new. We are getting used to introducing ourselves, and inviting people into our portfolio,” Harris said. “It’s OK if things are a little slow right now. It’s great because we are recognizing a demand for this type of service even with the slow economy.”

Patina plans to open another office in 2009 and hopes to be located in 25 cities within five years.

“There is no reason we can’t become a national organization,” Harris said. “We have a great idea, an excellent talent pool and leadership team. Now it really just comes down to execution.”

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