So, let’s start with the GOOD NEWS. Over the last 12 years, Cleveland County has had a tremendous amount of economic development success. We have successfully acquired and developed approximately 1,000 acres of land that we could market to manufacturers and we financed, constructed and sold two industrial shell buildings. We transformed an economy that had been suffered devastating job losses and plant closures due to the offshoring of textiles, into a vibrant and diverse economy that includes, but is not limited to advanced manufacturing sectors such as: Automotive, Energy, Consumer Products, Precision Machining, Advanced Materials and Data Centers. Those efforts netted us over 85 new and/or expanded companies, $6.5 billion in announced new capital investment, over 4,500 new jobs and a sharp increase in manufacturing wages in our community. That success catapulted us to the position of the #4 Top Micropolitan in the United States for 2016 and 2017 by Site Selection Magazine.
We’ve run the calculations internally and estimate that had we not recruited what we called the “Top 5” economic development projects, then we would have had to had raised County property taxes by 6 cents per $100 valuation.
So, it would seem that all is good in the neighborhood, right? Wrong.
While our team and elected leaders had every right to be celebrating our County’s accomplishments, we soon learned that our local manufacturers were dealing with some very significant challenges related to workforce attraction and couldn’t fill many of their open positions or fill the new vacancies being left by the retiring baby boomers .
The challenge that we found our manufacturers were facing certainly did not occur over night, but it did feel as though this challenge came to a head very suddenly last year, when our team began experiencing call after call by manufacturers many of whom had seemingly reached a point of desperation regarding their ability to find workers. The bullet points that I listed above are what ultimately culminated into ‘this perfect storm’ of not being able to find workers. Also, with Cleveland County being classified as being at ‘full employment’, with a 4% unemployment rate, we knew that we had one heck of a challenge on our hands.
So what did we do? Our economic development team rallied a multitude of stakeholders and partners, and most importantly – we put manufacturers at the helm of all discussions pertaining to their inability to find workers. In a nutshell, a year’s worth of strategy development meetings resulted in the development and deployment of a manufacturing talent attraction campaign geared specifically to share the benefits of living and working in Cleveland County, and provide millennial talent with the resources and information they need to make the move to a career in manufacturing. We did our homework, and there were very few marketing and advertising firms across the US who had significant experience in this arena. The one firm that stood out and who we ultimately ended up retaining for the project was DCI: A firm that specializes in ED and Place-Based Marketing and had recently worked on campaigns in Dallas, TX – Chattanooga, TN – and Baton Rouge, LA. Cleveland County tapped into DCI’s deep knowledge of talent attraction behavior, and web design and development know-how to create CharlottesBackyardNC.com. We also hired a semi-local advertising agency, Little Red Bird, out of CLT who essentially worked in tandem with DCI to develop our ad campaign and marketing materials. DCI designed the “Charlotte’s Backyard” campaign brand to highlight the benefits of Cleveland County’s location, and a website that would serve as a complete resource for millennial job seekers with information and inspiration about living, working, playing and getting involved in the Cleveland County community. In addition to being a resource for job seekers, the website would be rooted in research. According to DCI’s Talent Wars report, jobs are the number one factor in relocation decisions. The website content aims to change the perception of manufacturing through profiling real local employees and including information on the cost benefits of working and living in Cleveland County.
Not only is the Charlotte’s Backyard brand and website designed with all of today’s best practices – a mobile, user experience and SEO-friendly design, action-driven call-outs and rich story-telling content, it also takes advantage of the newest map, job search and social integrations which all help Cleveland County show off its stuff, and also get users to learn about local manufacturers and area employment opportunities.
There are so many things that I love about the website that we have developed, but for the sake of time today, I have narrowed it down to my Top 4.
The first thing I love the most is the actual brand, Charlotte’s Backyard NC. It’s creative, fun and somewhat-edgy and appealed to the millennials that we tested it with. Since one of the primary goals of the campaign is to convince people to live and work in our community, we thought it would be very strategic to capitalize on our close proximity to Charlotte to educate prospective talent about where it is located and how they can benefit from both easy access to the largest metro in North Carolina, and the low-cost of living and job opportunities available just over an hour away in Cleveland County.
Secondly, because our primary call to action was to help connect people to manufacturing careers, we wanted to ensure that we took the work out of job their job search. Knowing that jobs are actually the number one factor when it comes to a location decision for talent, we made it a priority to make it easy for a user to find and learn about jobs in the area. Linking to pre-filtered searches for manufacturing-specific jobs in Cleveland County communities, including Google’s newest job search function, as well as area job boards, job hunters can access an entire database of listings with just one click.
My third favorite component of the website is how we have been able to creatively showcase modern-day manufacturing facilities in our community and the awesome people that work there. Manufacturing in 2018 is much different than it was in the 20th century. But what does this actually look like? To show potential talent that Cleveland County’s manufacturing operations are modern, sleek and high-tech, we invested in new photography from major area manufacturers, and profiled both employers and millennial employees to describe the perks of having a manufacturing career in Cleveland County.
Our goal was to tell the Stories of the companies who are located here and the people who work there, because we knew that could really help make a more meaningful connection with job seekers.
And lastly - - Most talent attraction websites rely on the standard “Work, Play, Live” messaging to convey a well-rounded look at their community. For Cleveland County, we gave this formula some heart, and let our value propositions and the area’s musical heritage drive the messaging which became, “Find Your Village, Craft, Rhythm and Voice”. Yes, users can learn about Cleveland County’s location, school and places to eat and there is even a curated list of daycation ides – But, the “Find your Voice tab” is especially unique and specifically geared towards millennials and their desire to have a sense of purpose and make a difference. Users can explore philanthropy opportunities, passion projects and meet young professionals like themselves, which we think makes Charlotte’s Backyard a refreshing take on common talent attraction content.
We’ve developed brochures that are being distributed in high traffic areas across Cleveland County, as well as regionally. We’re arming teachers, guidance counselors and careers counselors with these brochures and we’re handing them out at sporting events, festivals and also giving them to existing manufacturers so that they can send to prospective employees that they are trying to recruit, who live outside of Cleveland County.
In 2018, we are launching a regional multimedia advertising campaign which will consist of print media, billboards, and aggressive social media efforts. Our motto or tagline is that “There are 7 Days in the Week. In Cleveland County, we make the most of all of them. We are week long warriors.”
And now, I want you to take a look at my very favorite component of the campaign – our video. Other than the test group of folks who saw the video and gave us feedback, you all are the very first group to publicly see this. We’ll be officially launching it within the next few weeks, but I’m excited to give you a sneak peek today. Check it out:
Kristin Reese WEDN 2018 Let's Talk Talent
Creative Strategies for the
Modern Economic Developer
$6.5 Billion New
4,500 New Jobs
• Hundreds of Available Manufacturing Jobs
• Baby Boomers Retiring or Planning for
• Fewer HS Students & College Grads Choosing
Manufacturing as a Career
• Flat Population Growth Rate & Low
“A Brand that Puts Cleveland County on the
We’re Movers and
Good Jobs for All
Kinds of People.
Weeklong Warriors: Print, Digital and Billboard
In today’s highly competitive environment f
a compelling quality of place - a communit
attractiveness to existing and future residen
and workers - is a competitive advantage.
Validation: We are on the Right Path
Talent Attraction Campaign Costs
[$100,000 from CCEDP Funding & $40,000 from
• Brand & Strategy Development
• New Photography Assets
• Advertisements: Print, Digital & Billboards
• Social Media Ad Placement Costs
• Deployment Strategy Development
• Print, Digital & Billboard Placement Costs
• Tactical Deployment Strategy Management
• Talent Attraction Tool Kit for Manufacturers
• Website & Social Media Analytics
• Employment Applications: How
did you hear about us? Was it
through Charlotte’s Backyard?
• Manufacturing Testimonials
• Population Growth Rate
• Outbound Commuting Statistics