Nurturing newcomer connections
Beyond basic needs for food and shelter, humans also have a fundamental need for social connection. Research suggests people with a rich network of social connections live longer and are happier.
Establishing connections can be difficult for those relocating to a new community. That’s why the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation established the Welcome and Connect program in 2016. Andy Maw serves as its newcomer relations coordinator.
Maw says the program helps companies recruit employees. “It’s about making a good first impression. People coming to new communities need to feel welcome.”
In addition to welcoming prospective residents, Maw assists them with finding information they need about housing and other resources. He also connects them with community groups, churches and local schools.
Welcome and Connect has a goal of helping area companies retain employees. Its Engage classes give newcomers a chance to meet people, sample local food and learn about a variety of topics, including history, recreation, arts and culture.
During the course, the Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation (OEDC) provides an overview of the area’s economic development climate. Participants learn about OEDC’s efforts to retain and expand the region’s manufacturing, commercial and retail sectors.
The weekly classes take place over a five-week period, meeting at a different location each time. In addition to familiarizing attendees with many aspects of life in Ottumwa, this free course helps spark friendships among new residents.
Maw says he’s already gotten a lot of positive feedback for Welcome and Connect, both from companies trying to recruit employees and individual recruits.
This testimonial is from Nusaybah Ismail, Orthopedic Physician Assistant at the Ottumwa Regional Health Center.
“… what stood out the most to me about Andy was his rapid and thorough efforts in helping me find suitable housing. My ultimate decision to move to Ottumwa was directly impacted based on the sole fact, that within a few hours of contacting him about my reservations of relocating to Ottumwa, he had a list of property owners and realtors, their contact information, prices, and descriptions of properties sent to me. He also sent me information about holiday parties and activities in the area that were taking place the weekend I scheduled the walkthroughs. I did not receive the same kindness and thoughtfulness anywhere else.”
Attracting the best talent makes economic sense for companies. “Our community is realizing it’s competitive to recruit people. We have to roll out the red carpet and be an advocate for ourselves,” says Maw.
It’s clear that Welcome and Connect will have ripple effects on Ottumwa, as new residents become integrated in the community and invested in its long-term success.
Ottumwa, IA 52501