Cleveland County Launches Manufacturing Talent Attraction Campaign:
Charlotte’s Backyard NC
In Cleveland County, NC we have never allowed our “rural” designation be a limiting factor in our economic development efforts and as a proud member of the Charlotte Regional Partnership (CRP), Cleveland County Economic Development Partnership (CCEDP) has worked to strategically capitalize on our convienent proximity to our big city neighbor to the East – Charlotte. Over the last twelve years, we are pretty proud of the fact that we have transformed our community’s economy into one that is vibrant and diverse and represents a myriad of industrial sectors such as: automotive, energy, consumer products, advanced materials, precision machining and data centers. The cumulative totals that those corporative relocations and expansions represent is over $6.1 billion in new announced capital investment and over 4,500 new jobs. It’s no secret, but companies who moved here will tell you that our community’s close distance to the CLT airport, available industrial sites and buildings, robust infrastructure and transportation network was what intially caught their attention – but, it was the palpable spirit of innovation, creativity and collaboration displayed by our local leaders, which ultimately helped to close the deals.
Unfortunately, even with success, there also comes challenges, and our community has been facing one that other manufacturing-dense locations and rural communities know all too well. While manufacturing has been booming, the talent and population growth rate needed to sustain these operations has not been sufficient to keep up with the demand. Additionally, if you combine those factors with the mass exodus of baby boomers departing manufacturing for retirement, and the current millennial generation that is showing less interest in manufacturing careers when compared to previous generations – it appears that there is a “perfect storm” brewing related to talent attraction across the United States.
Instead of resting on our laurels and waiting for the problem to fix itself, our team decided to aggressively dive into the somewhat unchartered world of talent attraction head on. We reallocated a significant portion of our traditional business development budget to talent attraction and collaborated with local community leaders that represented manufacturing, education and government to develop a strategic plan to aggressively recruit talent to our community and help connect existing residents to manufacturing careers. We are optimistic that because of the significant uptick in population and millennial growth that is being projected for the Charlotte, the talent attraction odds may not be stacked up nearly as high against counties like Cleveland, whose convenient geographic positioning near Charlotte may put them at an advantage for capturing the attention of people who are contemplating a move to the city.
My team retained the assistance of two very talented marketing and advertising firms, DCI and Little Red Bird, both of whom also had deep knowledge of talent attraction – Charlotte’s Backyard NC was birthed and successfully launched. Charlotte’s Backyard NC is not just a website, but it is an innovative and highly creative project that spans social media, video, print, billboards and radio – and, is geared specifically to target millennials and share the benefits of living and working in Cleveland County. Through our research, we have learned that the millennial-driven workforce wants a life as well as career opportunities. They want their ‘real world’ to look more like their weekend adventures, which is a state of harmony difficult to find, yet one that we believe can be found not just in our community – but, in many communities across the Charlotte region.
In closing, I think it’s very important to point out that the economic development paradigm is shifting rapidly away from the historic focus that once centered around traditional business development efforts, and local economic development organizations such as CCEDP will continue to be tasked with spearheading talent attraction efforts. While Cleveland County is generating many positive accolades and results through the through the launch of Charlotte’s Backyard NC and we wholeheartedly believe in the mission of the project, I can personally attest to the fact that it has required a substantial amount of financial and staff investment to develop and deploy. As the war for talent rages on, we believe it will require sustained investments and highly-focused strategies for the unforseeable future. For many organizations such as mine who are already precarioulsy balancing limited staff capacity and a lean operating budget may find that this increased workload may put additional strain on resources and the need for public and private support to fuel these economic development efforts will be more critical than ever.
Cleveland County, NC is proud to be a member of the CRP and we feel grateful that we are able to strategically leverage countless regional assets to benefit our community’s economic development and talent attraction efforts. Respectfully, I encourage you to continue to maintain your investment in the CRP, as well as the local economic development organizations that are currently operating throughout the region. Now, more than ever those investments are essential to funding talent attraction efforts like Charlotte’s Backyard NC, which will help to ensure that our manufacturing companies have a growing pipeline of talent that will successfully fuel their operations in the future.
Together, we are STRONGER!
Kristin Reese | Executive Director | CCEDP