KC Belitz: ‘People attractors’ right in Nebraska

Originally published in the Columbus Telegram

A growing group of “people attractors” are being built in Nebraska! NCF recently wrapped up a series of three online sessions we titled “People Attraction 202” as follow-on sessions from the People Attraction session at our annual training.

The final session focused on Marketing and Welcoming, two complementary aspects of this work. In general terms, marketing brings people to our towns and then our efforts at Welcoming are what help them stay. The Columbus Area Future Fund is in the middle of some exciting work on the welcoming piece, so I’ll save that for a future column when they announce their Welcoming Grants.

So today let’s dive into what we learned about marketing as a tool for attracting people. The session got some great insight into a unique Nebraska resource: The Good Life is Calling campaign. The Nebraska Department of Economic Development developed this website, tool kit, and other related resources.

Gentri Shopp from DED was on the session to give attendees a tour and the details. She shared that the Good Life is Calling website is a tool kit that is “all things talent attraction.” It contains a media kit, video resources, statistics, and opportunities for potential newcomers to connect . . . and importantly, it’s all shareable and some of it is customizable. It is a well-designed tool that’s been created for all of us to use at a local level, leveraging the state-level investment.

So, how should you be using The Good Life is Calling to attract people to your hometown? Here are some of the ideas shared during the session:

  • Share the videos on your personal and professional social media platforms
  • Talk to your local Chamber or major employers about using this resource
  • Sign up to be a Good Life Ambassador and share content on your social media.
  • Use the “Refer a friend” section to connect someone to resources.

Bottom line, the Good Life is Calling is a valuable resource that’s designed to be leveraged by towns and regions. If your hometown isn’t connecting, perhaps you should investigate.

One aspect of The Good Life is Calling is promoting regional tourism assets. Not coincidentally, that idea to partner with regional tourism assets was the second half of the NCF session, as we know often visitors become residents. Angie Stenger from the Growing Together initiative in northeast Nebraska and Ben Winchester from the University of Minnesota combined on this topic.

One general theme that emerged was the importance of front-line employees in your community’s food, entertainment, and lodging establishments. It makes perfect sense, as you consider that these are often the first people a visitor interacts with in your town.

So what’s the narrative of your community that this key group of workers is sharing? Is it the traditional “there’s nothing to do here . . . ” or have they been equipped to share all the cool stuff to see, experience and taste in your region? The answer to this question matters.

To find the answer, there was a lot of interest in doing a “secret shopper” program such as “Red Carpet Training” that was designed by University of Nebraska Extension. But honestly, if you care about your community’s ability to attract people, it could be as simple as asking. Go visit the gas station, restaurant or hotel in your hometown and see if the clerk or waiter knows what’s great about your place!

The session covered lots more great content, like “climate migrants” and the power of great broadband . . . but we ran out of time in the session just like we’ve run out of space in this column.

So I’ll tell you what we shared with those attending: we’re going to continue the conversation in a series of quarterly virtual work sessions. And if you want to be part of bringing people to Nebraska, these work sessions are the place for you!

Email me at kbelitz@nebcommfound.org and I’ll put you on the invite list.





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