Susan Paulsen in the van she uses to give tours to new residents.                                 Heather Norman photo

Susan Paulsen in the van she uses to give tours to new residents. Heather Norman photo

Quesnel’s program to attract and retain new residents

Susan Paulsen rolls out the red carpet treatment to help new residents adjust

The city of Quesnel has been working hard to gain and retain new residents over the past year and a half.

Between helping new residents find homes, network, and giving them a tour around town, newcomers are given the red carpet treatment to encourage them to not only move to Quesnel, but stay here, too.

The program started with the health care recruitment initiative, which is funded by a grant from the Cariboo Chilcotin Regional Hospital District to encourage health care professionals to move to Quesnel.

Amy Reid, the economic development officer for the city, says before the city re-branded and had the health care recruitment initiative, physicians would interview for jobs in the city, “but meanwhile their spouse was on the website looking at Quesnel, and it was falling flat. We figured we needed to do a better job of telling our story; who we are and what we’re all about as a community.”

So, they brought in Susan Paulsen, an independent consultant and a Quesnel native. Paulsen’s job is to roll out the red carpet for new residents.

Paulsen works with new residents on an individual basis, touching base with them once they arrive in Quesnel (and occasionally before). She helps them find housing, takes them on a tour around the city and introduces them to all of the neighbourhoods and points of interests, and then tries to gauge the supports they’ll need to settle into their new life in the city.

She also tries to get to know their interests and hobbies, and provides them with information on activities she thinks they’ll enjoy within the city and how to take part in them.

Between the city’s re-branding and Paulsen’s red carpet treatment, Reid says 15 physicians have been recruited into the community in partnership with Northern Health in the last 18 months.

Once the health care recruitment initiative took off, the city applied for a second grant through the Rural Dividend Program. This grant funds a resident recruitment program which is used for professionals and skilled trade workers.

The city works with Quesnel’s major employers to help them recruit and retain their new professionals, but Paulsen says it isn’t only businesses that refer their new employees to her. Now, many new residents come to Paulsen through word of mouth, with locals passing on her name to others new to town.

Paulsen says she has worked with new residents from across the country and the world, touring people from as far away as Bahrain, Egypt, the Bahamas, and more. “When you come to a new country,” Paulsen says, “you need to learn [terms] like municipal, district, federal, provincial, MLA … and what all those things do.” And that’s part of the first conversation Paulsen has with them.

“They may not remember everything I’ve told them, but at least we’ve had a connection where they feel comfortable [to ask whatever they need to know],” says Paulsen.

“It’s not just recruitment, it’s also retention. To welcome someone, make everything easy for their transition and give them a local person to answer questions and have an inside track with so they aren’t starting at point zero.”

Although Paulsen grew up in Quesnel, she has moved several times. She met her husband in Prince George, and they eventually moved to Burns Lake together. At the time, Paulsen had a two-and-a-half year old toddler and an eight-week-old baby.

“I wish there was a Susan during my moves,” says Paulsen. “But there were little moments of Susan that I am pulling on – people who were kind when I had small children and I was sick.”

She says the moments where someone went the extra mile for her and her young family meant a lot. But, she adds, “it was great. You either make it or you break it, right? Either you go through those times and you can do it, or it crumbles you.

“You just have to keep moving, that’s my advice. Just don’t sit still.”

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