Leaning toward the future

Marketing campaign to draw workers, new residents to Washburn

Submitted Photo

COMMUNITY IS WHERE WASHBURN BEGINS

When preparing to create a marketing campaign to draw workers and new residents to Washburn, Economic Development & Marketing Director of the Washburn Area Economic Development Association, Tana Larsen knew one thing for certain.

“We had to start with who we are today as a community. Then, we needed to ask our current residents what their vision for the future looked like,” she explained.

Now, almost 12 months after starting the effort, Larsen is preparing to launch a workforce development campaign focusing on the strengths of the Washburn community. The campaign will build on the momentum started with the community promotion and tourism materials and expand onto employee recruitment and development.

“We are really focusing on what Washburn has to offer for tourism and why Washburn overall is a great community to call ‘home,’ “ she explained. “Many residents helped us figure out what our strengths are, and now we are ready to start capitalizing on them and showing people why our new slogan is so fitting for the community.

Larsen went on to explain that the expanding efforts will focus on attracting people who are just starting their careers, as well as families, graduates of Washburn, and anyone else who wants to live in a rural community with so much to offer.

“It’s just exciting to see these ideas materialize into action,” she said.

MARKETING HOMETOWN AMERICA

The effort started by partnering with Jodi Bruns, Area Extension Specialist, NDSU Extension Service- Center for Community Vitality and using their program, Marketing Hometown America. The program organized study circles in hopes of asking residents to provide input on focused questions.

Last April residents received letters asking for their participation in four two-hour sessions. Each session focused on a different aspect of the community.

“We asked people why they choose to live in Washburn, what they like about the town, and what the town needs to do to improve,” Larsen explained. The sessions had between 20 and 30 people in attendance.

“It was a great opportunity to bring together a diverse set of people and learn from each other,” Larsen explained.

Feedback ranged from small issues, like making sure new residents feel welcome to larger issues like infrastructure and the dream of having an indoor swimming pool.

WHERE IT BEGINS

After months of reviewing the data and sifting through answers, the Washburn Area Economic Development Association settled on a solid campaign theme.

“We are a place ‘Where History was Made and Your Future Begins,’ “ Larsen explains. “Lewis and Clark made history here, and now we need to lean toward the future.”

That vision of the future has continued to evolve and expand in the past few months as the campaign materials have hit the streets.

“We have materials promoting the community itself, and we are working on workforce development and social media engagement to encourage workers to come live in Washburn,” Larsen explained.

Her own story highlights why she thinks the city has a good chance to retain its residents and attract new blood.

“I moved back home with my family because we wanted a small, friendly, safe community to call home,” Larsen explained. “My children are receiving a quality education, participating in activities and we are enjoying success at our careers. I am happy to call Washburn home.”

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