Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 31, 2014

FEDA unveils ‘Welcome Home’

By DIANE VANCE, Ledger staff writer | Nov 13, 2012

Fairfield Economic Development Association Inc., is partnering with Manpower, the global employment agency, in the community’s initiative to seek and attract former residents to return here, securing good jobs and sharing the cultural opportunities and diversity this small Iowa town is known for.

Four Manpower staff introduced the program — Welcome Home to Iowa, Fairfield Connection – at Monday night’s annual FEDA meeting.

Executive Director of Fairfield Economic Development Association, Tracy Vance, shared a brief “Why Fairfield?” video that will be part of a marketing tool to attract people and businesses to the community.

The two-minute video focused on Fairfield’s diversity of amenities, such as nature trails, restaurants, arts, music and creativity. It showed golf courses, Jefferson County trails, clips of manufacturing plants and 1st Fridays Art Walk with residents and employers speaking, promoting the town.

“This is just the first segment,” said Vance. “This will be posted on our website, and we plan to film more segments focusing on education and manufacturing, etc.”

Vance talked about his first week on the job in Fairfield, in May 2011, when he was hired as executive director at both FEDA and Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

“That first week, Dave Neff was in my office with his idea to have some type of program to encourage former residents, and especially our young people, to return to Fairfield to make their living,” said Vance.

Neff said both of his daughters and stepson graduated from Fairfield High School.

“I began getting postcards at home, asking them to sign-up for alumni organizations,” he said. “It dawned on me someone, somewhere had a data base and tracked Fairfield graduates and knew how to reach them. I thought we should make use of this data.

“Many of our kids go away to college and never return to Fairfield, thinking the job opportunities are better elsewhere,” said Neff.

A committee was formed to pilot ideas about a campaign to target former residents to return and to have a clearinghouse to match employees and employers. Serving with Neff on that committee are Lori Schaefer-Weaton, Seth Miller, Laura Atwood and Michael Halley.

“We discovered Manpower already has such an initiative, searching for former residents to return home to Iowa, and they have a program in South Dakota,” said Neff. “We could have a custom-tailored program for Fairfield.

“We previewed this program with our Young Professionals Group, and they gave it good marks,” said Neff. “Hopefully this could be a magnet to draw our children back home.”

Vance said FEDA is eager to support and partner in the effort.

Kathy Joblinske, regional manager with Manpower of the Heartland Region, which encompasses Iowa, Minnesota, and western Illinois, said her organization is excited to be a part of attracting talent back to the area.

Erika Murillo, working for Manpower in Decorah, is the Welcome Home program manager in Iowa, and will work closely with Fairfield.

“We’ve been hearing from a number of companies across Iowa about a need for qualified employees,” said Murillo. “Jobs are going unfilled in some places.

“Manpower will recruit talent for permanent jobs. When we send a candidate’s resume to a requesting employer, we aren’t just passing paper forward. Know that those candidates we send have been through Manpower’s qualification process.

“We need employers to sign-up with us and list jobs,” she said. “Working with Fairfield Connection, our first priority to recommend candidates will be Fairfield. Our second priority is Iowa, and the third priority is opening it to all employers.

“So we need a reply quickly if an employer in Fairfield is interested in the candidate, otherwise, we move down the priority list.

“And if we have an employee who doesn’t fit specific qualifications, we’ll still send that candidate to FEDA. This will all be done by email to expedite the process. We’ll be adding a link on our website so employers can view the pool of candidates,” said Murillo.

“We’re building a brand, marketing Fairfield,” she said. “We’ll market through social media sites and ask for referrals, too. LinkedIn will have a Welcome Home to Iowa Fairfield group. Candidates can mingle there with employers and other employees. We’ll use Twitter.

“We’ll use Facebook as a platform to talk about Fairfield.”

Murillo said the benefits of attracting talent proactively gives FEDA members a one-week lead time ahead of other searching employers. Job candidates pay no fees to Manpower.

Bill Schiller, manger of Ottumwa’s Manpower office, said FEDA members will receive a 20 percent fee discount, though any employers can use its service and participate in the Fairfield connection.

“We’ll be successful with your help,” said Murillo. “We’ll help get you started and explain all this more thoroughly when you contact us.”

Mayor Ed Malloy spoke to the approximately 50 people attending the meeting Monday evening.

“Our competitive advantages are what we’re developing,” said Malloy. “Fairfield is developing a broad base of manufacturers with quality cultures. We get high marks in those areas. We know FEDA has strong partnerships in our community.

“Our strategic marketing approach is building a community and economy on solid businesses and diversification through entrepreneurship,” he said. “One of the best ways to attract job creators is small businesses and industries grow their businesses from within. We need to take care of our existing businesses and build high-quality infrastructure.

“Passing a bond issue at 67 percent in a general election says having quality amenities is important to this community,” he said. “Fairfield has become a leader in supporting arts and culture, and we embrace diversity. We encourage leadership.

“We have very good cooperation between organizations that promote Fairfield,” said Malloy. “I’m very proud of that.”

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