"These are often plants in small towns where the real estate market is tight," Smith said. "And consider who we're talking about. These are professional people — often young engineers and manufacturing people who have high expectations about how they want to live, what they want their furniture to look like and what kind of proximity they want to have to nightlife."
AHI researches markets around the country to identify available high-end apartment complexes. When an industrial project pops up, the company puts leases on multiple units.
In north Georgia, the company has clients in the popular Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. In Middle Tennessee, AHI can place engineers in the trendy Germantown district of Nashville.
Equally critical is the decor of the apartments. The properties are decorated according to the client's budget, but they tend less toward "budget" and more toward "stylish." Apartments are furnished with items from Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel. The company equips every apartment with high-speed Internet and Wi-Fi. It arranges for pet deposits, helps residents locate doctors and banks and can assist with getting children enrolled in schools.
AHI looks for properties with ample amenities, such as a big clubhouse and outdoor grills. In some markets, the company recommends living quarters in a nearby city instead of at a more rural plant site. AHI serves the remote area of southeast Tennessee and north Georgia with units in Chattanooga, where there is a flourishing youth demographic, restaurants and nightlife.
"One of the biggest challenges facing the auto industry is talent recruitment and retention," Smith said. "We're working with auto companies to help them bring engineers from all over the country. The companies know they have to make sure their people like where they're going to be living for 12 months, or 18 months or two years.
"Yes, you can save money," he said. "You can save $200 a month with a cheaper rental. But that might lead to $20,000 in extra HR costs when they have to replace that person."