By Rayce Patterson | Echo
Grant for Grads, Grant County's initiative to draw recent graduates to find employment in the area, gained national attention over the summer.
Grant for Grads is a housing assistance program put together by the Grant County Economic Growth Council. The program provides incentives to recent graduates with an associates degree or higher or a certification in a skilled trade to live and work in the Grant County area. According to Fox Business, recipients of the Grant for Grads program can receive $5,000 to help on the down payment for a house or payment of 20 percent of a recipient's rent.
According to its website, GCEGC launched Grant for Grads in 2012 to meet the needs of local employers in Grant County.
"A big thing we were seeing was a need for an increased skilled labor force," Mikayla Marazzi, director of marketing and communications for GCEGC, said. "In order for a business to be sustained, they need to have a quality workforce."
In that time, Grant for Grads has served more than 23 different employers, filling positions on all levels. In one example, Michelle Doyle, a Grant for Grads recipient, became the lead architect at the HALSTEAD architects Marion office. Since then, the office of two people has grown to a staff of four. Every year, Grant for Grads hits the maximum number of applicants possible it can take in a year.
The Grant for Grads program had been active for six years before it was thrust into the national spotlight. The Marion-Grant County Chamber of Commerce mentioned initiatives Grant County has used to attract skilled workers to find employment in the area with Wall Street Journal reporter David Harrison. Harrison then published the article, "How Bad is the Labor Shortage? Cities Will Pay You to Move There," on April 30, 2018.
"They featured our program, Grant for Grads, in one little sentence, and it had this massive ripple effect," Marazzi said. "It was really neat to see the spiral action of national media recognition."
From there, the story was picked up by statewide news channels, radio stations and even Fox Business News. According to the GCEGC website, people from as far as Missouri and Florida called to ask more questions about the program.
According to Marazzi, the reason Grant for Grads has been visited by multiple news organizations is because it is innovative and is responding to an immediate issue, even though it began in 2012.
"As the conversations in the field of economic development evolve, the conversation specifically of workforce attraction and bringing in talent into your community to fill in job vacancies has become an imperative," said Marazzi. "We've kind of been ahead of the game."