Thank you for sharing your own “how we welcome newcomers” stories! I appreciate every one of you.
First up, Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel has a relocation guide for you to borrow and more thoughts on how we welcome people.
A colleague forwarded your recent post asking for sources of relocation guides. The link has a good one that has been used in the oil shale boom town of Stanley ND.
I work for the University of Nebraska as an Extension Specialist in Community Vitality. My institution as well as North Dakota State University and South Dakota State University have been doing some on-going research and programming on new resident recruitment and retention for about eight years. Recently our multi-state team of Extension educators and specialists have piloted a new program, “Marketing Hometown America” that may be of interest to you. It is based on research done right here in the Great Plains, funded by the USDA. An electronic magazine (zmag) gives an overview and it links to several resources and videos
Your article hit on a major issue… as a rural community, do we really welcome new people? And do we welcome them in a way that makes them feel like they can belong or want to belong? The New York Times article also makes an important point. People looking to relocate may be looking at small town life through their lens of fantasy and not reality. Lots of pieces need to come together to have a successful relocation experience become a successful retention experience for both the new resident and the community.
If you have any questions or would like more information, feel free to contact me at (hit reply to ask for Cheryl’s email and phone number.) And please share this information with others!
Of course Rick Skorupski had something to say on this. Remember that he, too, relocated from a big city to the small town. Here are his thoughts.
Good morning Becky,
…Let’s look at the article and what happened to this couple. First they picked the wrong town. Then they chose to immerse themselves into their work. They didn’t “connect” because they didn’t know how. Is that their fault, yes – partially.
Is this the fault of Hudson, New York? Yes and no. This couple moved to a clicky town that, by her own admission, has a large influx of weekenders. I would expect that if Hudson has any kind of Economic Development organization they focus on those weekenders. Weekenders bring in money and use very little in infrastructure assets. Does Hudson even cater to newcomers? …
Okay, we can’t do anything about our couple picking the wrong town. People do that of their own choosing. What could have Hudson done (that is if they even cared to)? They might have had a newcomer workshop, or a lunch as Randolph, Nebraska did. In smaller towns it is possible for the Mayor to call or visit the new folks once they are settled. Hudson New York, at 6600, might be too big for the mayor to visit each and every new resident. It is not too big, however to have a “newcomers day” every six months or so. Another thought is a public day of some sort. Some towns hold Founder’s days, others art and craft festivals. A day outside in the park with others will help newer people feel welcome. It also gives them an opportunity to find and mix with those of similar interests. These two were in the writing business, one as a novelist and the other as a magazine publisher. I’ll bet there are other writers in Hudson who would love to have sat over coffee. It is the town that needs to bring that together, and holding public events is a great tool to do just that.
One more thing I want to point out. At the end of the story, this couple moved to Manhattan. They still love Hudson and have become weekenders. Two things come to mind here. Did the economic development agency fail to keep these two? Or did they succeed by keeping their discretionary cash without having to provide city services?
Rick Skorupski can be found at Flyovercounty.com
Shelagh Wright has a great story of a welcoming small town, building on common interests.
Osawatomie, KS (rural with a population of 4700) has a very active Partners in Education (P.I.E.) group that takes the lead in welcoming new families with children into our school district each fall. They partner with the school to get a list of newbies, then put together packets of helpful community information, resources, and things that would be of interest to a family with children.
Committee members then volunteer to make personal contact both by phone and later in person, with the families- offering them a chance to ask questions and learn more about our school and community. Since most committee members have children of their own, they often try to match with families with kids of similar ages and take them along when they meet face to face, allowing the new kids to actually know one or more of their peers before that sometimes stressful 1st day of school.
We are fortunate to have this special group of committed volunteers and a community that supports their efforts!
Finally, my long-time friend Gayle Machetta has a welcome-to-town guide to offer.
Hey Becky. Your column this week hit home with me. Not being a native Oklahoman, there were several peculiar things I had to adjust to when I first moved here as a college student back in 1976. For instance, your drivers’ license and auto plate are not issued through the DMV as we referred to it in another state, and that year, I needed to know pretty quickly where and how to transfer my voter’s registration. Those types of issues, besides knowing how and where to get utilities turned on were a little bit of a challenge once we moved into a small town several years later. In the bigger cities, I think you probably still go into an actual utility office, but not so in our small towns.
Anyway, a number of years ago, when I sold real estate, I prepared the attached Newcomer’s Welcome brochure. It’s outdated now, of course, because I haven’t been in that business for almost ten years. But I kept it intending to revise it and possibly find a way to re-use it and I think now it a good time. It’s on my “to-do” list for this coming year so I can offer it to my current employer (the bank who closes on home loans for people who move into town all the time) and our Chamber who can certainly be a good spot to offer a friendly bit of assistance to those who try to maneuver in the system when first coming to our community.
It’s certainly not all-inclusive, but it worked for our area, and I will probably also add all of the resources for internet services now, cellphone shops, etc. that weren’t as big a deal in the previous decade. Maybe this will be of some help to your lady who was looking for suggestions on what to include in this type of guide. I might also mention that the document was created in one version of Word and I’m now using a different, so the conversion left a lot to be desired with the layout/whitespace, etc. So please let her know I’m aware of the need to fix some of those issues in order to put the most professional product forward.
When I get my revised guide, I’ll send you a copy.
You can download Gayle’s old brochure here. (Word DOC)
Keep making your small town better,
PS – I thought you might want to pass along or reprint this “Get Ready for the Holidays” article (and you have my permission to go right ahead! Just include a link back to the original.)