Columbus is ramping up efforts to draw young adults to the city for employment opportunities, touting the community’s rich recreation, leisure and community appeal.

With a state-low unemployment rate of 2.9 percent in November, Bartholomew County employers need all the help they can get in filling open jobs, organizers say.

The talent-attraction campaign, known as Columbus Talent, is being led by the Columbus Economic Development Corp. and the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, who will target individuals seeking job opportunities who live one to four hours away through an online jobs site.

The campaign begins today.

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“In the 3 percent range, everyone has trouble filling jobs,” said Cindy Frey, president of the chamber.

Bartholomew has long been among the state’s 92 counties with the lowest jobless rates.

Just in the past year, the number of people working in Bartholomew County grew by 795 — with a labor force that grew by 637.

Those kinds of trends send the jobless rate downward.

Statewide, the November jobless rate was 3.9 percent, down from 4.5 percent a year earlier, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

Employers such as NTN Driveshaft are among the many Columbus manufacturers that have had difficulty finding enough qualified employees to fill open jobs. NTN among more than two dozen businesses from Bartholomew County that attended a Nov. 10 Regional Workforce Talent Summit at The Commons.

Barry Parkhurst, vice president of administration for NTN Driveshaft, said his company currently has 20 to 30 openings ranging from supervisor and management-level positions, in addition to production-related jobs.

Parkhurst, who sits on the Economic Development Corp.’s board, said he hopes the talent-attraction campaign will be a helpful tool in filling professional-level jobs available at NTN Driveshaft.

“It’s just another method to raise awareness of Columbus and the manufacturing jobs here,” he said.

Reasons to consider Columbus

The campaign hopes to help job seekers see appealing components of living and working in Columbus by highlighting community, recreation and networking opportunities.

The website, columbustalent.com, lists available positions at local employers in job categories such as engineering, finance, marketing, healthcare, information technology and technical and production, said Jason Hester, president of the Columbus Economic Development Corp.

“Our targets have the skills and education that employers are looking for and they have been identified as being prospects who will consider relocating for a rewarding career,” Hester said.

The talent campaign, intended to target individuals ages 25 to 35, will market career opportunities available to that audience and align them with jobs open in the community, Hester said.

Information on apartments and homes available in the area will also be listed on the site.

“If people come to the site, they’re going to experience that Columbus really is this unique and unforgettable kind of place,” Hester said. “We feel they’re going to be surprised.”

The campaign is a relaunch of an effort that began in 2008, when the chamber — through the website and print materials — began promoting Columbus as a good place to work.

However, the website eventually became dormant and commerce officials decided to give it another try to help local employers experiencing difficulty in filling positions, Frey said.

The renewed effort has crafted a campaign message: “Find an Unexpected Job in an Unforgettable City.” It plays off the city’s slogan: “Unexpected. Unforgettable.”

Besides job listings, information on higher-education opportunities, housing, local activities and ways to get involved with various organizations in Columbus will be a click away.

The jobs page highlighting career opportunities in different sectors will be updated weekly, as positions get filled. In addition, general employment positions listed with The Republic will also be posted and will be updated through a continuous feed to the website.

Support from the city

Mayor Jim Lienhoop announced in February that the city would provide $150,000 a year for three years from its Economic Development Income Tax revenues to enhance economic development efforts provided by the Economic Development Corp.

Lienhoop said at the time the additional funding would support new-business recruitment, business expansion and talent-attraction efforts. Previously, the city contributed $14,000 annually to the organization.

The Economic Development Corp. opted to use $25,000 of the support it receives from the city to drive people to the relaunched website, Hester said.

The advertising campaign will include reaching people through a variety of social media outlets including Facebook and Instagram, he said. The placement of the online ads is being managed by digitalAIM Media, a subsidiary of AIM Media Indiana, also parent company of The Republic.

Ian McGriff, digital sales director for digitalAIM Media, said job openings will also pop up in geographical searches.

McGriff said the first step to recruit talent was to develop a strategic marketing plan.

Tracking where people are coming from will also provide a better understanding of the targeted audience, McGriff said.

As activity is monitored through detailed reporting, the Columbus Talent team has the ability to adjust media buys to take advantage of geographic or demographic traction, he said.

“If we feel that we’re getting a large push from an area we didn’t expect, we can adjust accordingly,” McGriff said.

Recruitment efforts

Hester also said other additional advertising and other talent-recruitment outreach efforts are being planned, some of which will address entry-level and other job opportunities that could be filled by regional commuters.

Lienhoop said it was important for the city to provide additional funding for economic development to broaden recruitment efforts on a much larger scale. He added that the city must take an active role in marketing itself to the public.

“You have to show others what we have to offer,” Lienhoop said.

The results of a business-retention and expansion survey conducted by the Economic Development Corp. found that many employers expressed concerns about workforce availability. Satisfaction with workforce availability scored the lowest among the four years of survey results, Hester said.

Frey also said the survey confirms that city employers consider Columbus to be pro-business.

“Along with our partners, we see that we can help local businesses grow the talent base by promoting the abundance of well-paying job opportunities and the outstanding quality of life that’s available here,” Frey said.

On the Web

The Columbus Talent website can be found by visiting columbustalent.com.

By the numbers

Unemployment rate in Bartholomew County:

November 2016: 2.9 percent (ties Dubois County for lowest in the state)

November 2015: 3.3 percent

Unemployment rate in Indiana:

November 2016: 3.9 percent

November 2015: 4.5 percent

Source: Indiana Department of Workforce Development website

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com