Last updated: March 27. 2014 5:02PM - 1665 Views
By Heather Meade hmeade@civitasmedia.com

Heather Meade/Advocate photoA billboard can be seen in the northern part of Darke County on southbound U.S. Route 127, advertising HometownOpportunity.com. They also have an app, for information on the go.
Heather Meade/Advocate photoA billboard can be seen in the northern part of Darke County on southbound U.S. Route 127, advertising HometownOpportunity.com. They also have an app, for information on the go.
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DARKE COUNTY - HometownOpportunity is growing, adding new employers, schools, and job seekers to improve its effectiveness at meeting the goal of promoting hometown living and economic development in Mercer, Auglaize and Darke Counties, said Lisa Wendel, workforce specialist with Darke County Economic Development.

“HometownOpportunity is a centralization of the workforce effort, it brings everybody – students, employers, parents, educators and the unemployed and underemployed – to a single place,” Wendel stated.

HometownOpportunity.com is an initiative from the Mercer County Economic Development Office, Wendel said, but in an effort to promote regionalism, Auglaize and Darke County were brought into the project. The website offers information about companies in the three-county region, education and training available in the region, job opportunities available in the region, and testimonial videos from young employees from the area.

Partnering for Progress (P4P), Darke County’s economic development initiative, funded the Darke County testimonial videos that are available on the website, said Marc Saluk, director of Darke County Economic Development.

“These [videos] are designed to show students that you can have the career and life you are seeking by staying right here in west central Ohio…and that some of our fastest growing sectors like manufacturing and healthcare can provide a lifetime of opportunity…And that we have great companies within those sectors already in operation in Darke County and beyond,” Saluk stated.

The most effective part of HometownOpportunity.com is its word of mouth potential, which Wendel says is the best way to spread the word.

“Someone sees a job posting on this site, they tell their nephew,” Wendel said. “When people visit the site, they see local success stories that highlight living and working in Darke County.”

HometownOpportunity.com features testimonial videos from young people who work for Darke County companies like Wayne HealthCare, Greenville Technology, Inc. (GTI), Ramco Electric Motors, and Midmark Corporation. The website is helping to build its own reputation, Saluk said.

“During a recent company visit, we made sure they were fully updated on the site, what it was capable of, and the direction we saw it growing,” Saluk commented. “We also played them the most recent testimonial videos that we’ve posted. Within a few hours of the conversation, the company had already posted on the site.”

“For a company to move that quickly on something they’d just learned about, with the long to-do list that executives have these days, that really says something about the value they see in the product, and the potential they see in its growth,” he added.

Darke County businesses already have a presence, or footprint, on the website, with a goal of 25 businesses present by 2017, Wendel stated. All seven Darke County schools have a footprint, grown from the original two in less than a year.

Wendel plans to use HometownOpportunity as an educational tool, going into Darke County schools and speaking with students, or allowing students to use the site on their own, to “look at what careers are in demand to make better choices regarding their own career path.”

Eventually, Wendel said, HometownOpportunity.com might be used to assist students in finding part-time employment, job shadowing opportunities, and internships.

“There is potential to use this site for local career awareness, with the goal of kids realizing that there are equal opportunities for careers in Darke County as there are in other places…We also want to attract students back to this area, our best and brightest,” Wendel stated.

HometownOpportunity is aimed at centralizing the effort, Wendel said, with a focus on technology and reaching not only current students, but young adults who have left the area to pursue careers in larger cities. In that vein, Wendel stated, there’s an app that gives users access to information and job listings at the tip of their fingers. Those involved with HometownOpportunity plan to continue development, Saluk said.

“Aside from what’s already been done to do this, our companies have begun to channel some very specific feedback to us, which will continue to change the face of the site and increase its usefulness, visibility and interactive nature,” Saluk commented.

Partnering for Progress has $25,000 budgeted this year to continue “to drive the evolution” of the HometownOpportunity site, Saluk noted.

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