Effort seeks to attract young professionals

The state of Michigan launched a campaign to attract graduates and young professionals from other areas of the Midwest.

Funded by the Marshall Plan, the $2.5-million Choose Michigan campaign is focused on sharing the state’s abundant job opportunities, low cost of living and rise in creative culture.

The goal is for the state’s regional marketing work to drive interest to specific areas and allow local talent-attraction agencies to take efforts from there, according to Talent and Economic Development Director Roger Curtis.

The Choose Michigan website — choosemichigan.org — contains pages for the three founding cities of Grand Rapids, Detroit and Ann Arbor, with each linking to the local organization heading the area’s professional recruitment efforts.

In Grand Rapids, that organization is the membership-based talent recruitment agency Hello West Michigan, which shares information about living and working in the area with professionals of all ages.

Cindy Brown, Hello West Michigan executive director, said the organization has shared information about West Michigan to help TED create advertising that best represents the area.

“What we’re excited about with the Choose Michigan campaign is this is an overall statewide attraction initiative where we’re going to cast a wider net,” Brown said. “We’re now going to be able to reach more people who may not even know anything about us.”

Curtis said there are 100,000 open Michigan jobs, with a projected talent gap of more than 800,000 jobs between now and 2024.

“I think we know our talent gap is going to require a multiprong approach,” he said.

To prepare for the campaign, Curtis said TED did a year of research, including surveys and focus groups in Chicago; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Madison, Wisconsin; and throughout Michigan.

He said TED is continuously sharing this and other information it gathers with the local communities involved.

Through the research, Curtis said TED found 36 percent of Michigan college graduates leave the state, and 41 percent of those people looked for jobs in Michigan before they left.

The goal of the research was to learn young professionals’ perceptions of Michigan and what aspects of the state they find attractive.

He said the research found those outside of Michigan are unaware of the comeback the state has made following last decade’s economic downturn.

Many of them also think the majority of jobs are in automotive manufacturing, unaware of jobs in such fields as mobility, agriculture, aerospace, defense, health care and IT.

“They have no clue of the careers that are available here in the state,” Curtis said.

He said they also are not aware of the culture and lifestyle activities available in much of the state.

“Millennials are absolutely looking for work-life balance,” he said. “That’s what resonating with our young professionals.”

After sharing this information with the focus groups, 74 percent of young people said they would consider moving to or staying in Michigan. The number in California was 62 percent, he said.

“We were very heartened to see numbers like that even in California,” he said.

However, he said the campaign will stay in the Midwest for now, with the possibility of expanding later.

Rather than adding another focus to the current Pure Michigan tourism campaign, he said the state wanted to consider the best way to reach young people.

He noted young professionals spend more time on social media and streaming platforms than watching TV or listening to the radio.

“We want to be on the screens that they’re using,” Curtis said.

“We were blown away how important video is to all of them about all the decisions they make.”

He said many young professionals considering a Michigan job have web searched the term “moving to Michigan,” which brings forward some “unflattering” videos.

The campaign will primarily include video and other advertisements via social media. By not advertising on billboards or TV, Curtis said the budget will go far.

He said the campaign is open to any community in the state, and several others are looking into how they can be involved.

There are several tools available to communities through the campaign, such as website designed by the Detroit Regional Chamber and a “Sherpa” program, which connects prospective young Michigan job seekers with peers already living in Michigan.

As an established organization, Hello West Michigan is not using many of these tools provided by the campaign, Brown said.

For Hello West Michigan, the campaign will be another way to make additional young professionals aware of the services provided.

Brown said the organization has been mainly focused on reaching potential “boomerangs,” professionals who return to Michigan after moving away, as well as people already in West Michigan who would like to stay.

Brown said that over the past five years, 51 million people outside the West Michigan area have received advertising as a result of those efforts.

The organization’s website is a “one-stop shop” for information about lifestyle, neighborhoods and housing, member companies, networking opportunities and more.

There also is a program that allows job seekers to submit résumés and be connected with opportunities at member companies for free.

The organization hosts the annual ReThink West Michigan event on Thanksgiving eve, connecting companies with professionals visiting home. The kickoff for the new campaign aligns well with that event, Brown said.

Relocation is a big choice that takes time, Brown noted, so this new campaign likely would see results long term. She said an IT campaign last year has brought in 26 résumés, resulting in the relocation of two employees and their families.

She said it will be important to keep the messaging relevant as time moves on.

“People don’t understand you can have a great job here; you can work for awesome companies here and have relevance, as well as have really good fun after 5 and on the weekends,” Brown said.

“Our goal is to share that information so people can have a great life, as well as have a great career.”

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