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Talent Attraction Spotlight: Greensboro, NC

As cities and regions across the country vie for talent, we are featuring economic development organizations implementing creative talent attraction marketing efforts as part of our Talent Attraction Spotlight blog series. This week, we are diving into talent attraction efforts out of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Talent Program at a Glance

Action Greensboro, housed under the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, acts as a catalyst for public-private partnerships that advance the city. We spoke with Cecelia Thompson, Action Greensboro’s Executive Director, about the organization’s talent attraction and retention efforts.

Program Elements

1. Connecting with and developing talent through Campus Greensboro: Greensboro is home to seven colleges and universities, but research found that the business community was not well connected with these institutions, and that the majority of students who found internships in Greensboro did so through personal connections. Research also revealed that students who were able to get an internship were much more likely to stay in Greensboro.

With those challenges in mind, Action Greensboro developed the Campus Greensboro Fellows Program, which includes a paid industry internship and opportunities for participants to network, receive professional development, engage in the community and explore what Greensboro has to offer. The program was inspired by Campus Philly, which many consider to be a national model for the retention of college students.

2. Riding the migration wave with Boomerang Greensboro:

With the clever tagline, “You grew up, so did Greensboro,” this program aims to recruit young adults back to Greensboro. In brainstorming ways to attract more talent to the city, Action Greensboro and fellow community leaders recognized that there were many people who were coming back after gaining experience elsewhere, and these individuals were excited about Greensboro’s growth and opportunities. Action Greensboro conducted focus groups with current boomerangs and examined migration trend data. Armed with compelling data, they wrote and received a grant for $50,000 to launch the campaign.

The first step was to create a prospect database. Cecelia Thompson spoke on countless Rotary Zoom meetings about how they wanted to “bring your kids and grandchildren back to Greensboro,” and asked Rotary members for names and contact details of people they knew who lived in Greensboro previously. From there, Action Greensboro mailed “boomerang boxes” – which opened with a skyline photo of Greensboro and contained locally made goodies, information on cost of living, testimonials from people who had moved back and more. Boomerang Greensboro also offers a concierge service to those looking to move back and serves as a resource and recruitment tool through digital marketing – including a website chock full of boomerang stories, profiles and testimonials, videos and more.

3. Cultivating Greensboro’s under-40 community through synerG Young Professionals: Aimed at attracting, engaging and connecting young professionals to Greensboro, synerG addresses the unique quality of life needs and issues affecting Greensboro’s young professionals. The program began in 2001 in response to a McKinsey report that revealed a decline in the city’s 18- to 34-year-old population, as Raleigh and Charlotte saw those numbers rise. Today, synerG offers professional networking, leadership opportunities and more.

In addition to serving as a network for the city’s young professionals, synerG works closely with local industry to upskill and retain young talent. Annually, synerG hosts Young Professional Educators Academy which provides young educators in the local school system with leadership skills and classroom tools all while earning CEUs.

Why it Works

A Unique Differentiator: While many communities look to physical amenities when trying to identify their unique differentiator, Greensboro took a different approach. They identified boomerangs – and specifically – real people and real stories about coming back to Greensboro. They leaned into these unique stories and Greensboro’s exceptional community spirit as their differentiator. They also kept a hyper-targeted focus on this group rather than going broad.

Focus on Community Connections: All of Action Greensboro’s programs focus on cultivating community connections – from connecting college students to employers and the community, to connecting those looking to move back with boomerangs who have recently done it, to connecting young professionals living and working in Greensboro. Fostering this sense of community has helped make these programs so successful and created powerful ambassadors for the community.

 Results 

  • Action Greensboro has recruited 60 families back to Greensboro over the past two years through its Boomerang programs.
  • Campus Greensboro has 75 students enrolled this summer. They received 1,700 applicants this year, 40% of which were first generation college students. Additionally, employers are hiring from the program. In fact, one employer has hired 12 people from the program alone.

Looking for more talent attraction spotlights? Check out what’s happening in Oklahoma City, Northeast Indiana, and Chattanooga.

Written By

Rachel Deloffre

Rachel Deloffre is an Account Director at DCI. Since joining the company in 2011, she has carried out strategic media relations and marketing campaigns for clients ranging from the country of Colombia, to the city of Calgary, Alberta, to the Port of Long Beach. She has also assisted in executing a talent attraction campaign for the Research Triangle region of North Carolina.

More Articles by Rachel Deloffre

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