City of Washington

Business groups pledge $30,000 for

‘Plan to Stay’ campaign

Washington Community and Economic Development Director Sal Maniaci and the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce have received four bids from agencies for a proposed plan to attract more workers to Washington.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a labor shortage for many communities, but according to Maniaci, for Washington, it exacerbated problems that existed before 2020. Mid-census numbers in 2015 painted a scary picture for the chamber, he said, as there was population growth in every age bracket except for ages 0 to 9. Maniaci said the chamber was worried the city wouldn’t have the population to fill jobs as more manufacturers and commercial businesses filled the city’s industrial parks. 

He said with fewer students in the trade schools, there is a smaller pool for manufacturers to pull from, and now the shortage has caused problems for service and restaurant industries. The marketing plan, the slogan for which is “plan on staying,” is expected to increase that pool.

“Being the business liaison person, I think it’s important to let all the companies know that we know there’s a workforce problem, and we’re trying to do something about it,” Maniaci said.

The four bids were from the Missourian Media Group, of Washington; the Timmermann Group, of St. Louis; Jajo, of St. Louis; and Spectrum Reach Advertising, which has offices spanning 94 different television markets in 27 states.

According to its website, Timmermann has clients, including Lutheran Senior Services, Club Fitness, and the city of Perryville, that recently launched a campaign aimed at encouraging workers able to work remotely to move to the southeast Missouri city of 8,200 people that is north of Cape Girardeau by 37 miles. 

On Tuesday, Maniaci said he and the chamber will set up interviews with the candidates, with a goal of having one selected by mid-November and ads running by December.

A lot of the legwork for the campaign is finished, Maniaci said. A website for the campaign is complete, and promotional videos have been shot and edited, so the firms would mostly be determining a strategy for how to push the information out. 

Strategies to be considered include a plan to target communities in the Midwest with high unemployment rates or towns with tech schools and community colleges, according to Maniaci. He said cities that are growing quickly may be targeted, too, because of their high cost of living.

“Our workforce here locally has a high concentration of manufacturing and skilled labor jobs, more than double the state average,” Maniaci said. “So we’d like to target areas that have a lot of graduates of tech schools for skilled laborers.”

The $30,000 that will be spent on the project comes mostly from donors, Maniaci said. The Washington Civic Industrial Corp. and the Industrial Development Authority have each contributed $9,000, and the chamber’s Young Professionals added two years’ worth of funds raised from Fake Paddy’s Day pub crawls, totaling about $4,000. The rest comes from Maniaci’s 2020 and 2021 marketing budgets, and he said he is hoping once a firm is selected, companies in Washington will add their own contributions.

The companies with the largest number of employees here, including Frick’s Quality Meats, WEG Manufacturing and Melton, also have the biggest employment needs, Maniaci said, so once a firm is selected, he and the Young Professionals plan to solicit more funding for the plan.