WATERLOO — A rustic winter scene with a log cabin and the message “More time living.”
A penguin soaring through the clouds with the caption “Be who you want to be.”
The images graced coasters in local establishments over the holidays, just in time to catch Cedar Valley expatriates returning home to visit family.
The goal behind the coaster campaign was to entice people to ponder moving back, said Danny Laudick, director of talent solutions for the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber. He said the coasters, which included a third with local landmarks, were an immediate hit.
“It was meant for people to connect with that while they are home for the holidays and remind them of everything that’s here,” Laudick said.
“We had someone call and ask if she could get the first one of the series because they took the other two out to her son who lives somewhere on the coast, and he wanted a set of all three so he could frame them,” Laudick said.
The drink mats are part of a larger initiative to retain and recapture local talent that began when the Alliance started rebranding. This involved consolidating the organization’s Cedar Valley Life website, a Facebook page and an online job bulletin board under the moniker Live The Valley.
“We were talking about the quality of life, talent attraction side, and how do we make the Cedar Valley the type of place people want to live? So it’s not just marketing the community, but how are we actually improving the quality of the community and the types of resources people look to in a community when they are going to move there,” Laudick said.
The plan came together last year, and the Alliance started promoting in areas where University of Northern Iowa and Wartburg College graduates tend to relocate after earning their degrees.
“You kind of take for granted what’s going on in your backyard sometimes. A lot of times you move away, and you don’t think maybe there is new stuff going on,” Laudick said. He said the online content is designed to show off some of these changes and help the community tell its story.
During the summer, the Alliance focused on outside talent visiting the Cedar Valley in the form of internships. It sponsored socials for interns and students, using settings like Lost Island Water Park.
“You’ve got people from all over the world and country coming to work here over the summer as interns, and we wanted to get them together, let them network, build relationships and show them the type of community we have here,” he said.
This included collaboration with Main Street Waterloo to highlight urban living and nightlife activities.
The initiatives appear to be working.
Besides the popularity of coasters, some 200 people showed up for the first summer social, which drew people from 20 states and five counties.
The Alliance keeps an eye on its website traffic, and the jobs board sees about 6,000 views a month, Laudick said.
“About 50 percent of the people looking at the jobs are people from the Cedar Valley, and the other 50 percent are from other big Midwest metros and places that have UNI alumni and Wartburg alumni,” he said.
The Alliance is in the process of creating a tool kit to help employers promote the community when they interview prospective employees from other areas.