Rural Sourcing

Research & Engagement, 2013


Summary

The concept of “rural sourcing” relates to existing and start-up companies strategically locating operations in rural areas to reduce labor costs and increase employee reliability. This project built on a successful “cross-sourcing” model to recruit University of Nebraska alumni back to rural Nebraska in targeted professional service occupations. Alumni from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and Kearney campuses were sent several emails and one postcard regarding the opportunity. The first phase of this project was guided by existing research exploring the lifestyle expectations and career preferences of alumni who moved back to the western/Panhandle region of Nebraska. Interviews were conducted with several alumni who have moved back to rural Nebraska to understand their process and motivation. Secondary and primary data collected from this research directed the communication campaign content for alumni who opted in to receive information related to current job openings.  Several central Nebraska employers were engaged as partners to describe and promote their professional opportunities with limited success related to filling job vacancies. The project received significant regional and national press coverage and formed several new relationships with employers, two University Alumni Associations, and University outreach staff.

Xpanxion designed the platform for accessing the Alumni Association data, sending related content, and allowing subscribers to opt-in for receiving future messages. Xpanxion assigned marketing, web-site, and software engineering staff to design and host the online platform and manage the testing during the project.

Impacts

The results from this project were less than expected as none of the rural employers filled vacant professional positions as a result of the system. The project investigators planned and implemented an innovative program never attempted at this level of a statewide public-private collaboration. The innovative concept received significant national, regional, and local media resulting in positive awareness for the key organizational collaborators (i.e. Xpanxion, the Nebraska Alumni Association, the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and the Rural Futures Institute/funder).

This project was well suited as a seed, or pilot, grant funding recipients as partners were unaware of the best methods for implementation or what some results might reveal. Several major lessons were learned through the process, including the need to engage more partner companies as employers before any promotional campaigns to alumni were implemented. The initial promotional campaign should still be a personalized postcard as the target audience of working professionals receive many forms of electronic correspondence each day.  Collaboration with other secondary education institutions serving rural populations may also expand the reach and potential of this concept.  The project served its purpose as a pilot program as it engaged the public and private sector on a meaningful and innovative level and an overall good use of public funds.

Project Team

Partners

Presentations

Media Coverage

 

Contact: Shawn Kaskie, kaskiesc@unk.edu