Rural Belknap County, New Hampshire, Taps Young Professionals to Help Bring Talented Grads Back Home

March 31, 2014

Belknap Talent AttractionLocated just two hours north of Boston, Belknap County is part of the Lakes Region in the center of New Hampshire, a small, rural area home to about 100,000 people and known almost exclusively for its tourism and hospitality industries.

The median age of residents in the region is 44, and research completed in 2009 projects that by 2030, nearly 40 percent of the region’s citizens will be over age 65. Armed with these statistics, the Belknap Economic Development Council is on a mission to bring the county’s young people back home.

To do this, the Belknap EDC has started a conversation among locals – including current young professional who are thriving in Belknap County – and relatives who have remained in the area in an effort to reach young people who moved away for college and didn’t return. The area’s leaders want to showcase that the same assets that make the region a great travel destination also make it an excellent place to live and work for young professionals, and that there are numerous jobs in industries ranging from high-tech manufacturing to healthcare.

As part of this effort, the county launched a revamped website last year and will launch a radio advertising campaign later this spring. Justin Slattery, executive director for the Belknap Economic Development Council, filled us in on what leaders are doing to bring more young people to the region.

Campaign Start Date: January 2013

Budget: Radio campaign will cost $6,000 annually through a partnership with local stations. Belknap’s website revamp cost $4,000.

What DCI Loves about the Campaign:

Engaging the younger generation to sell the region’s assets: Belknap’s “Meet Our Young Talent” section of the website features volunteers who share photos and information about themselves, including what they do in their free time and what they like most about living in Belknap County. Many of the people featured are part of Fusion, the local young professional’s network. This section is part of Belknap’s website revamp and in line with the larger goal to appeal to a younger audience, ranging from late 20s to early 40s.

To gain exposure, Belknap also posts its young talent profiles on its Facebook page for a “Friday’s Featured Young Talent” segment. Those featured also help spread Belknap’s talent attraction message through their personal social networks.

Radio advertising: Belknap EDC partnered with local radio stations 98.3 WLNH FM and its sister AM station, WEMJ, to create a different radio spot each week. The spots will run 32 times in a week-long period, featuring information to target a younger demographic looking for professional jobs in a creative economy. The spots will educate people about what the area offers and highlight aspects of Belknap County that people don’t normally think of, including the vast number of professional opportunities available in a range of industries beyond tourism.

The radio spots will reach all of Belknap County, plus some areas outside of county boundaries.

Addressing workforce development needs: Belknap Economic Development Council is part of a larger effort behind the 200 by 2020 Initiative, which aims to get a minimum of 200 businesses signed on by 2020 to provide local students with vocational, technical and occupational experiences during the school year to support long-term workforce development. The partnership includes several regional organizations, along with school-to-career coordinators and guidance counselors from local schools.

The effort includes an internship website, which launched in September of 2013 with more than 50 internships for high school students during the academic year. Eleven regional schools are partnering with the program to educate students about local job opportunities before they leave for college.

Maximizing community partnerships: Belknap didn’t have a big budget, but that didn’t stop them from undergoing a website revamp. They utilized in-house strengths to rewrite the content and hired a designer to update the existing site’s framework

Belknap used community partnerships to develop a radio advertising campaign. Fundraising from the local business community generates about $60,000 annually, which pays for salaries and other general operating expenses.

What’s next: Belknap hopes to expand its presence on Facebook during a future campaign phase by reaching out to people who went to school in the region, and engaging them in a conversation about all of the opportunities available since they’ve graduated.

Eventually, Belknap leaders also hope to expand the role of those featured on the website’s “Meet Our Young Talent” section to make them full-fledged county ambassadors.

Sarah Reinecke

Written by Sarah Reinecke

Sarah Reinecke is a Senior Account Executive at DCI. Since joining the staff in 2013, she’s worked to tell the economic development stories of places that span from Salinas, Calif., to Wake County, N.C., and Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to the state of Indiana.

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