Otter Tail County Rural Rebound Initiative Earns Economic Development Marketing Award

Otter Tail County Rural Rebound Initiative Coordinator Erik Osberg.

The Economic Development Association of Minnesota (EDAM) recognized Otter Tail County Rural Rebound Initiative with their annual Marketing Award for “excellence in marketing, branding, and promotion.” The Rural Rebound Initiative (RRI) is a county-wide, collaborative effort between diverse public and private entities aimed at addressing the regional workforce shortage. The RRI was recognized by EDAM for effectively leveraging the county’s existing tourism campaign (Find Your Inner Otter) for workforce recruitment.

Ben Winchester, a research fellow with University of Minnesota Extension, coined the phrase ‘rural rebound’ after studying demographic data that showed people increasingly moving to rural areas. Winchester found that rural areas have seen a net gain of 30-49-year-olds in the last few decades. Otter Tail County is one rural area that is experiencing such a rebound. However, after examining Winchester’s data in 2016, Otter Tail County hadn’t benefited from that organic “rebound” the way other rural, recreational counties had. “The rebound was happening…just not fast enough!” said Nick Leonard, Otter Tail County External Relations Director. “Current demographic trends suggest Otter Tail County will have 3500 fewer workers by 2030. We needed to change those trend lines.” Thanks to grant support from Otto Bremer Trust, West Central Initiative, the Veden Trust and Blandin Foundation, Otter Tail County and the City of Fergus Falls launched the RRI in 2017.

Among other things, the RRI uses Winchester’s research to strategically market the area as a desirable place to live and work. The RRI partners with Otter Tail Lakes Country Association, a non-profit marketing organization, to document and promote the exciting things happening in Otter Tail County. According to Erik Osberg, Rural Rebound Initiative Coordinator, “People want to live in Otter Tail County for what we are today. Once people experience our charming towns, quality schools, friendly people and exceptional outdoor recreational opportunities, they want to return. My job is to ensure they know about us!”

EDAM advocates for economic development in Minnesota by providing professional networking and sharing of resources for leading economic development programs in the state. This year’s award recognized the county’s RRI marketing for exemplifying “best-in-class creativity, effective communication and impeccable execution of an economic development marketing initiative.”

“This is truly a team effort.  We have a number of people who have dedicated their time and talents to helping make Otter Tail County top-of-mind when it comes to relocating,” said Osberg. “It’s enjoyable work and in the end, the area sells itself.  Our job is to simply introduce Otter Tail County as not only a great place to visit, but a great place to live and work too.”