To Find Qualified Applicants, Woo Local Employers
Finding qualified applicants for your tax credit site is a little like dating. You have to spend some time with each candidate before discovering that he's not a good fit—this person is over-income; that one cannot afford the rent, and the next doesn't meet another screening requirement. It's too bad that you can't enlist the help of a matchmaker to target better-qualified candidates and steer them your way… except that you can.
Large local companies that employ many blue-collar workers—those who earn minimum wage or slightly above—are usually willing and motivated to offer an affordable housing option to their eligible workforce, says Jennifer Nevitt Casey, CEO of Bravo Strategic Marketing, based in Elkins Park, Pa.
“Employers are very concerned about the housing affordability index and the impact on their workforce,” she says. “It relieves the pressure for them if the housing in their market is reasonable.”
Where to Start
So which employers make good partners? Nevitt Casey recommends starting with your local economic development council (EDC). “By going to them first, you're educating them,” she says. “As the EDCs recruit various companies to relocate in your vicinity, they will include your site as part of the presentation to show that affordable housing exists in the region. It's a tool that the economic development council can use to sell their community to potential corporations.”
Your local chamber of commerce can also help by providing you with a listing of the top large employers in your area, along with a breakdown of the professions they employ. In addition, large companies, such as hotels, casinos, and convention centers, employ a great many minimum-wage workers. You can also find information about local occupational employment statistics on the U.S. Department of Labor's Web site (http://www.dol.gov).
How to Attract the Right Employer
Once you've identified appropriate companies to target, what is the best way to approach them about a partnership? Nevitt Casey says that promoting tax credit housing requires an educational presentation rather than a conventional marketing approach. She suggests a one-page flyer that includes a paragraph or two at the top that explains the low-income housing tax credit program.
In the middle of the page layout, list the income guidelines, followed by the apartment sizes and rents. Below that, in the lower portion of the page, provide a call-to-action statement—Contact us today for more information—along with your site's contact information.
“If you give them an overview that piques their interest, the majority of the time, they're going to call you,” she says.
PRACTICAL POINTER: When drafting your flyer, try to avoid using words and phrases that may have negative associations, such as “low income,” “project,” and “tax credit.” Instead, Nevitt Casey suggests using “affordable housing.” “It's a better way to describe how this program works, which offers a lot more dignity to the apartment hunter,” she says.
Continue to Build the Relationship
Once you have your foot in the door of a target employer's human resources department, you need to present a strong offering that convinces them to give you their time and attention. How? It's simple. Employers want to know, “What's in it for me?” So tell them. For instance: “We know that it is difficult to find affordable housing for your working-class employees, and we'd like to help you to create a solution.”
Then work with the employer to help them create a program so that their employees know that it is available to them, Nevitt Casey says. One way to do that is with a Web page that explains the program. Ask employers to send the link out to their workforce in the next employee newsletter, or post it on their company intranet.
Make a Long-Term Commitment
Relationships take work—and you have to commit to maintaining them, says Nevitt Casey. “I've worked with teams that have come up with some great initial ideas. They get excited about it and execute it well, but then it loses its priority. They become inconsistent, and they do not maintain the relationship. You have to be diligent about communicating and finding ways to work with the employers.
“This is not a fly-by-night idea,” Nevitt Casey stresses. “It requires a plan, true commitment, and a lot of tenacity—but it can offer a tremendous pipeline for available sources of qualified residents.”
Jennifer Nevitt Casey: CEO, Bravo Strategic Marketing; (775) 473-1280; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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