The Unique Role Tourism Plays in Regional Talent Attraction

By: John Sampson on May 3rd, 2018

Celebrating National Economic Development Week and National Tourism Week

I am sure many are planning to celebrate National Economic Development Week the week of May 7-12.  No? If not, it is not too late! If you happened to miss that one, how about National Travel and Tourism Week? As it turns out, fortuitously, these national industry celebrations are the same week. Don’t be fooled, while this may sound self-serving, these celebrations are much more than just “Hallmark holidays.”

The point here is that both of these industries contribute in meaningful and substantial ways to the economic growth and cultures of communities across the country and here in Northeast Indiana.

Whether creating conditions in our state, region and community to foster growth of businesses and employment or attracting visitors and conventions to enjoy the amenities and lifestyles of our region, these community partners are making tangible contributions to the value proposition that makes Northeast Indiana unique and a very special place for us to call home.

My perspective this month is dedicated wholly to honor and appreciate the community leaders and their teams who have committed their life avocation to the service of economic and tourism growth in our region.

While there are many ways to enumerate the benefits derived from the professionals in economic development and convention and visitor bureaus, suffice to say that these community leaders strive to bring our communities together around “making” and “showing” our communities better every day. 

They awake each morning carrying the burden of strategies and tactics driven by local and regional interests to secure a position in the Midwest, national and global marketplaces. In many respects, they are “fighting the good fight” with the support and encouragement of their communities; even on the most difficult days of inevitable community discord, natural disasters and global recessions.

A great example can be found in our recent win of the $42 million Regional Cities grant for the Road to One Million plan.

Our win came down to the final moments of the application when we had just 5 weeks to secure the support of 11 county councils to form a regional development authority. A majority vote was required in each of 11 counties with 7 council members each; 77 votes total. In those 5 weeks, economic developers worked tirelessly day and night to secure the support required to make our application on time. In the end, 73 of 77 “yes” votes solidified this regional collaboration. 

In the era of a national talent shortage, collaboration between economic developers and tourism pros has never been more important. Development Counsellors International stresses, “Don’t take tourism for granted.” DCI emphasizes that economic development organizations should partner with local tourism groups to ensure that visitors’ first-hand experiences showcase “what the locals do” so visitors can imagine themselves not just visiting but also living in the community. Again, it has never been more important than now to attract tourists as potential residents to our communities and give them an amazing impression of lake living, rural lifestyle, urban vibrancy and our passion for our communities.

Knowing that thousands of boomers are “aging out” of our current workforce leading to an expected 100,000 job openings over the next decade, it's critical for us as a region to create a high quality of place and life. Consider these three segments of the populace.

Residents

First and foremost, we need to create a great place to live to ensure our current residents love living in their communities. Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters said it this way, “It’s all of us, working together to make our region attractive.  Not just for others, but for ourselves.” We have to make our place, a place where we LOVE to live.

Visitors 

If visitors come here to visit the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, enjoy a concert at Wabash’s Honeywell Center or attend the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival, we want them to walk away wowed at the quality of life, amenities, people and cost of living in Northeast Indiana.

Potential Residents 

Each person we meet not living here is a potential resident. When a vendor comes to Northeast Indiana to visit your business, a candidate travels to interview for a position at your company or a friend comes to visit for the weekend, they form an immediate impression of our community and decide (even if subconsciously) if it is a place they would ever consider living.

So, what can we do to celebrate and honor these industries and the professionals committed to economic development and tourism service in our communities? 

Here are some easy and effective ways to celebrate National Economic Development and Tourism Weeks.

1. Be Thankful

Thank those working together every day in these vital organizations and the community leaders committed to serve on their boards and committees.  These could be elected officials, local economic development professionals, tourism and hospitality professionals, business leaders, school superintendents and many others all essential to and volunteering to make the efforts aligned and collaborative in our region.

2. Celebrate Together

We Hoosiers are over-the-top competitive. At the end of the day, any and all successes we enjoy in tourism and economic development come from engaging diverse and numerous community residents and leaders. Let’s never overlook to celebrate our wins, together!

3. Show Your Pride

Despite the growing influence of digital sources such as websites and social media, family is both one of the top sources for finding new job opportunities and among the most important factors for relocation. Encourage residents to promote our communities and opportunities through personal and professional networks.

Successful, vibrant communities are passionate about creating opportunities and lifestyles that residents and visitors alike can rave about. As we have learned again and again, when it comes to economic development and tourism, we are better together! 

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