One of the main talent attraction goals in West Michigan is helping out-of-state talent realize that the state of Michigan offers more than just the city of Detroit.
That’s the story leaders in West Michigan began working to tell in 2007, as a way of building success for the entire state and alleviating some of the talent shortages the state faced when the Great Recession hit.
Eventually, Hello West Michigan was born, and is now a stand-alone organization that’s funded through its members – which range from small businesses such as realtors and moving companies, to large companies that include some of the 14 headquarters companies that call West Michigan home.
The organization – which represents 13 counties – has created a synergistic relationship that is beneficial for all employers. And it’s generating big-time success. From March 2013 to March 2014, the campaign site has had 25,000 unique monthly visitors. The average user spends 2 minutes, 7 seconds per visit, and 69 percent are new visitors.
DCI spoke with Hello West Michigan Executive Director Cindy Brown to learn more about the campaign.
Launch Date: January 2010
Cost/Budget: Hello West Michigan has 51 members, and the talent initiative is funded solely through those members, who pay a sliding scale fee depending on company size. The organization also regularly applies for and obtains a variety of grants.
What DCI loves about the campaign:
Major success with “trailing significant others” program: Hello West Michigan created a program that caters specifically to the significant others of people recruited to work in the region. Research shows that if after six months, a trailing family member does not feel acclimated, they’ll probably leave, and Hello West Michigan aims to make sure that doesn’t happen. On average, about 10 to 12 trailing significant others contact Hello West Michigan weekly, and a team member talks with them to find out what they’re looking for and connects them with potential employers. Hello West Michigan also assists by sending trailing significant others’ resumes to recruiters and workforce development agencies. Numbers show the program is working. From March 2013 to March 2014, Hello West Michigan sent 400 resumes for trailing significant others and additional people who were looking to relocate, and about 100 of those people found jobs.
Campaign’s use of microsite to build content, market to talent outside of West Michigan: Hello West Michigan knows that everyone living in the region has a reason for staying – whether it’s the sunsets, the lake, the beaches or the snow. So the organization created a microsite called Mireason.com which allows community members to share their reasons for living in West Michigan. That content is used to market to talent outside of the region to help build connections and encourage potential talent to take a closer look at what West Michigan has to offer. The goal this year is to increase content, and Hello West Michigan is targeting young professionals groups to encourage them to write content.
Smart marketing reaches target audience, leads to results: Hello West Michigan created an event to take advantage of the biggest bar night of the year – the night before Thanksgiving – as an opportunity to target young talent, including those returning home for holiday visits. They host an event in a cool atmosphere – think nightclub – and invite about a dozen employers to mingle with potential talent. Last year, about 86 people attended, and five people have been hired and are now living in West Michigan. Additionally, two people who attended have since started their own business and stayed in the region.
Stand-alone talent initiative includes broad array of cities and companies: Hello West Michigan is one of the more unique talent attraction campaigns in that it doesn’t fall under a larger economic development organization. Rather, it was formed by local business leaders and employers to raise awareness of what West Michigan offers. The group works closely with local chambers of commerce, and the main office is housed at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. But the “home” office doesn’t mean team members stay put in one city. Executive Director Cindy Brown travels to the 13 counties represented as much as possible, and has the ability to work remotely from chambers of commerce offices in various cities.