Ludington Talent Connect a chance to come back home

December 20, 2013

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

Earlier this year Sarah and Justin Ray met a goal they have been working on since they got married 5 years ago. They moved back home, to Ludington. Both grew up here. Justin moved away, with his mother, when he was 14. Sarah moved away to attend college. Fate brought them together in Seattle a couple years before they got married. Since that time, they knew they wanted to be back here.

Sarah recently got a job as an emergency nurse at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital (formerly Memorial Medical Center). The job factor was one of the areas that held them back longer than they had liked. Justin takes care of the couple’s two children. He is still in recovery from defeating cancer.

“After getting married and having our first child, we started to think about where we wanted to raise him, big city versus small town,” Sarah said. “For us this was an easy choice. Not only are we extremely family oriented and wanted very much to be closer to much of our immediate family, but we also knew that raising our boys in a small community was what we wanted for them. We both have so many happy chlidhood memories of growing up on Lake Michigan and seeing our boys live out some of those memories living in the small town is totally worth it.”

The Rays are part of a group of people who meet a common trend in Mason County, people who moved away for various reasons — mostly for work or to “see the world” and now have decided to raise a family and come home.

Others agree and believe it’s time that those who moved away realize that there are opportunities for college degree level jobs in Mason County. On Dec. 23, those coming home for Christmas will have a chance to meet up with some of the area’s employers during Talent Connect Ludington, a networking event that will be held at The Mitten Bar in downtown Ludington from 6 to 8 p.m.

The event is being organized by the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce and West Shore Community College. It is based on Pure Michigan Talent Connect, a statewide effort to bring people back to Michigan.

After hearing about the Pure Michigan Talent Connect, Jim Scatena, president and CEO of Floracraft, decided that Ludington needed to do something to get back its youth.

“This event is a real win-win for our community,” Scatena said. “It gives the community the chance to show the opportunities that exist for long-term careers and also to see how the community has grown and changed since many of these young people left town. It also gives the business community an opportunity to attract young talented local residents and have them return home.”

Matt Larson, business development consultant with the chamber, says Dec. 23 was chosen to capitalize on people returning for the holiday.

“We want them to be aware of the options that exist here,” Larson said. “We want people to realize what’s available to them.”

The event is not a job fair but rather a networking opportunity. It will include appetizers and a cash bar.

Some of the companies and organizations that will be present include, to date: Spectrum Health, Tendercare, Ludington Area Schools, West Shore Community College, City of Scottville, West Shore Bank, Western Land Services, FloraCraft, Metalworks and Carrom.

Kristen O’Hare, Chamber events coordinator, said the chamber frequently gets calls from people who wish to move back here or relocate to the Ludington area. But, there aren’t always jobs available at that particular moment. She said attendees are going to be encouraged to bring their resumes with them. The resumes will be collected by the chamber and distributed to the participating organizations.

Larson said some of the companies participating expect to be adding jobs in the future, many of those jobs require college degrees.

Larson and O’Hare each have unique stories about choosing Ludington as a place to work and live.

Larson moved away for college and hadn’t planned on coming back.

“I relocated back a little over two years ago. For me, I like the smaller community aspect of it, the safer environment, the school systems. Cost of living is also a lot different here. But, the main reason was the woods and the water.”

O’Hare is not originally from Ludington but has summered here throughout her youth.

“The recreational opportunities and sense of community are very important aspects to me,” she said. “You can impact a lot in a small town.”

O’Hare said the goal for Talent Connect Ludington is to make it an annual event. Though reservations are not required, those planning to attend are encouraged to either call the chamber at 231-845-0324 or by going to the Talent Connect Ludington Facebook event page.

Are you originally from Mason County and hoping to move back? Have you recently moved back for work? MCP would love to tell your story. Please email us before Dec. 18: [email protected]

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