Live CHQ, Choose CHQ: County Launches Attraction, Retention Campaign

Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel speaks at the Robert H. Jackson Center during the Live CHQ unveiling.

Mark Geise, who heads the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency and is the deputy county executive for economic development, stood in front of a crowd gathered inside the Robert H. Jackson Center.

Behind him was a map that shows every county in the United States, and when they peaked at population.

Chautauqua County was colored yellow because it peaked in the 1970s, the same as nine other counties in the state.

There were some that had peaked longer, but the majority had peaked much more recently, some in the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and even 2020.

In fact, there were only five New York counties that peaked earlier than the 1970s.

Pictured is a Chautauqua County-themed recruitment basket for new employees to the area. Businesses can purchase them through the county Chamber of Commerce.

Looking at data like that has inspired Geise, County Executive PJ Wendel and a host of other county leaders to tackle population loss.

A couple of years ago the county hired a consultant to begin a new marketing campaign to both retain and attract new residents.

On Tuesday the campaign “Live CHQ” was officially unveiled in Jamestown. It is being unveiled in the northern end of the county today with a presentation at the Fredonia Opera House at 2 p.m.

Geise said they recognize that this campaign won’t immediately fix everything, but it can help “tell the story of what a great place (Chautauqua County) is to live, work and play, and conduct business.”

Along with addressing population loss, Geise said this campaign is designed to help businesses find dependable employees, both skilled and unskilled. “We need people that will show up, have a good attitude and get along with others,” he said.

Pictured are some of the people involved in the launch of Live CHQ and Choose CHQ. From left: Nate Aldrich with the Chautauqua County Partnership for Economic Development; Monica Simpson, CCPEG partner engagement coordinator; County Executive PJ Wendel; County Industrial Development Agency Director Mark Geise; Jason Sample, marketing and communications coordinator for the county IDA. P-J photo by Gregory Bacon

Geise noted today, younger people in particular, are looking for more than just job opportunities. He said studies have shown the importance of the population make-up, climate, outdoor recreation opportunities, and cost of living, including affordable housing.

These are some of the topics the campaign is attempting to promote Chautauqua County through a new website, commercial video, and other advertising.

But again, Geise said this campaign won’t fix everything. “We need to continue our business development. We need to continue with our workforce development, continue with making our streets more walkable. And so all of those things in combination, in concert, I think will lead to a good outcome,” he said.

Nathan Aldrich with the county’s Partnership for Economic Growth, said the campaign has two prongs – Live CHQ and Choose CHQ. The Live CHQ is more for individuals, while Choose CHQ is a campaign to encourage businesses to relocate to Chautauqua County.

He said key themes include promoting the county as an outdoor hub, its affordable cost of living, showcasing the county’s cultural assets and emphasizing economic opportunities.

Jason Sample, marketing and communications coordinator for the county IDA, said they have different videos and other ads which will be marketed in neighboring cities including Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

The marketing will focus on four aspects: outdoor recreation, affordable cost of living, cultural communities, and economic opportunities.

Referring to the cost of living, on the new website, there is a dashboard calculator which compares the cost of living in Chautauqua County to any county in the United States. “We might not be able to offer a $150,000 job in Chautauqua County that you might find in New York City, but a $100,000 job (here) will get you a lot further than a $150,000 job in New York City,” Sample said.

Monica Simpson, partner engagement coordinator, said she is working with area human resources managers to help them with recruitment.

One example she gave is recruitment baskets filled with things made in Chautauqua County. The baskets are available for purchase through the county Chamber of Commerce and can be given away to people relocating here.

County Executive Wendel said he is encouraged on what this new rollout program can and will do. “‘Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier,’ quoted by Colin Powell. That’s my new motto as we move forward,” he said.

Wendel said he doesn’t believe turning the population tide around will be easy, but he said he’s ready for the challenge. “This is something we’re going to roll up our sleeves, get engaged and start to do,” he said.


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