Community Concierge welcomes and is welcome
Plenty of hope for the region’s future hinges on Electric Boat’s continued robust hiring over the next years. The company hired some 2,000 new workers in Connecticut in 2017 and in the upcoming decade promises to double that number.
The state’s and region’s leaders universally hail this hiring as providing a positive punch for the local economy at a time when it’s no secret many of Connecticut’s young people are leaving the state for warmer climates or more cosmopolitan locales. Younger generations are increasingly mobile and less reluctant than were previous generations to ditch unsatisfying jobs or leave behind places that don’t provide the lifestyle they seek.
That means those who hire and those who have a stake in the hiring — which really is all of us in the region — must pay attention not only to what lures new people to the region, but also what will keep them here for the long run. The true payoff from any local hiring surges will come to fruition only if the workers who relocate to this area discover a welcoming environment they feel comfortable calling home.
Fortunately, the Community Concierge program is helping these newcomers settle in, make connections and find their local niches. Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut Vice President Amanda Ljubicic said the program, which the Chamber oversees and which got off the ground in the fall thanks to a $90,000 grant from CTNext through Thames River Innovation Place, said more than 100 are now formally registered as either newcomers or so-called connectors. The connectors are locals signed on to team with newcomers to help them navigate the challenges of relocating to an unfamiliar location.
Newbies to southeastern Connecticut say the area of relocation they have the most trepidation about is making new friends and feeling a part of the community, the Chamber’s recent research shows. As such, the program, dubbed a 21st-century Welcome Wagon, sponsors fun events ranging from sushi-making and hot yoga classes to tours at local breweries and a behind-the-scenes peek at the Garde Arts Center. Social gatherings at the likes of MBAR in Mystic and Hard Rock Café at Foxwoods Resort Casino have been particularly popular.
While EB newcomers are among the participants, others who have relocated to the region with the Navy, to work at Millstone, or for jobs with smaller businesses, are also active in the group.
Besides sponsoring events, Community Concierge has developed a three-minute introductory video to the region, launched its own website and will soon release a 60-page guide. Many of the program tools will be used directly by employers seeking to both attract and retain new employees.
While Community Concierge is emphasizing fun activities and personal connections to local residents, Chamber President Tony Sheridan said it also will assist with the many other issues with which newcomers seek assistance. Among these are connecting with church communities, making appropriate school choices for children, and finding housing that fits individual budgets and lifestyles.
Many younger people who grew up in the Nutmeg State see Connecticut as a rather stodgy place that too often lacks both pizzazz and human warmth. Connecticut also suffers from its reputation as a place that can be unwelcoming to newcomers; a spot where many locals seem to have neither the time nor interest to answer newcomers’ questions or lend a friendly ear.
Community Concierge is making much-needed inroads in changing this reputation. With much room to grow, the program deserves local support. The region stands to gain from its success.
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