MANSFIELD – As people travel home this Thanksgiving, a first-time event in downtown Mansfield aims to capitalize on the holiday and perhaps entice some folks to stay.
With careers and families, moving back home may seem daunting. But to make the transition more viable, the Richland Community Development Group (RCDG) is holding Rethink Richland, a business casual networking event from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22 – Thanksgiving Eve — at Relax, It's Just Coffee.
“This isn’t a job fair; this is an opportunity for people to meet each other in a relaxed setting," said Karen Seman, RCDG director of workforce development. "People who come down should expect an opportunity to have a very casual conversation with some significant employers in our community who may have current openings or future openings.”
It’s not meant to replicate a traditional interview setting either, she says. Rather, employers at this event are asked to position themselves to “build enthusiasm” and “share job opportunities” with people who may or may not be looking to come to Richland County for employment.
In mid-October, several employers already committed to participating. Dozens more have shown interest in the unique -- but not one-of-a-kind -- event.
Seman took ideas from an event called ReThink West Michigan that takes place each Thanksgiving Eve at various locations in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It asks people to “take another look” at their hometown.
"If people want to move home, why are there barriers for them to get home?" said Cindy Brown, executive director of Hello West Michigan, the organization that holds ReThink West Michigan. "We try to get people connected and remove the barriers."
Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holiday travel periods, along with Christmas and the New Year. According to the Bureau of Transportation, the number of long-distance trips increases by 54 percent in a six-day travel period for Thanksgiving.
The Christmas season, Brown says, could be too hectic. But Thanksgiving Eve works well. People who moved away are able to attend since they are already coming home for Thanksgiving dinner the next day.
Now in its sixth year, ReThink West Michigan has grown so rapidly that it's held at several locations. It's website reports that 52 people have been hired by employers -- who they first interacted with the day before Thanksgiving.
"It depends on if people report it to us. We'd like to think there's more," said Cindy Brown, executive director of Hello West Michigan, the organization that holds ReThink West Michigan.
Watch a video about ReThink West Michigan here.
Seman hopes to get at least 30 people to attend the Mansfield event this year. She believes the key to the event’s success is a “grassroots effort,” where Richland County residents encourage their sons, daughters and other visiting relatives to attend the event.
“If we find out months from now that Ohio Health or Avita made connection with a respiratory therapist or registered nurse that they were able to hire, who they met or sewed some seeds with through this event, then we’d call that successful,” Seman said.
She emphasized that there are jobs in Richland County.
“With some of the employers, people know the names, but they don’t really know what they do,” she said, mentioning several local manufacturers with accounting, engineering and other job openings.
The event will take place at Relax, It's Just Coffee, 105 N Main St. It is free to attend. Appetizers will be provided by Ed Pickens, and wines from Cypress Hill Winery and beers from The Pheonix Brewing Company will be offered to guests over 21.