It may not be the date you envisioned, but these eastern Ontario towns are ready to commit long term.
The United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry (SDG) launched an unorthodox marketing campaign at the beginning of August. Titled “Date My County,” SDG is offering to pay one lucky applicant to live in the area for 12 consecutive months. Think Tinder but for communities.
“It was initiated by our economic development office as a venue to hopefully attract new residents,” says Tara Kirkpatrick, SDG’s manager of economic development. “We recognize that population growth is something that most areas of the province are challenged with right now, and that we need to compete for some of our labour.”
One of Kirkpatrick’s teammates pitched the idea, but county staff weren’t sure council members would be willing to spend tax dollars on the campaign. “It’s not every day that politicians will be open to something truly creative and kind of out of the box,” she says. “But they saw the bigger picture, and they were excited by it.”
The campaign offers to pay one lucky winner $1,500 a month to live in the SDG area starting this fall through to January 2024. The money can go towards buying a house or renting—it’s up to the winner to sort out their accommodations. The winner will also act as a brand ambassador for SDG, posting twice monthly blogs, vlogs, or photo collages to the county’s website and social media.
Through the campaign, Kirkpatrick says SDG hopes to strengthen its brand and get some much-needed exposure. “We all love Muskoka, and we love Prince Edward County, but I think that a lot of the other areas of the province get missed because of the shine that falls on others,” she says. “People forget that they’re driving by beautiful beaches on the way to get into Prince Edward County.”
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Situated an hour drive from both Ottawa and Montreal, the county is bordered by Quebec and Vermont with the St. Lawrence River running along its southern end. “We’re rural Ontario. Agriculture is our main backbone,” Kirkpatrick says, “but you can get into the city quickly. You can go and watch a hockey game in Montreal, and make it to work the next day, or you can go and meet friends for drinks in Ottawa.”
Kirkpatrick adds that the area also has some of the lowest housing costs in Canada. The average price of a house in SDG is $418,748, over $200,000 cheaper than Canada’s average price ($665,849). Plus the county boasts countless hiking and cross country ski trails, and beaches along the St. Lawrence River.
To date, the campaign has seen 100 applicants, mostly from the Montreal and Greater Toronto Areas, but some as far away as Iraq, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Kirkpatrick notes that to be eligible for the campaign an applicant must be 18 years or older, a Canadian citizen, and they can’t already live in the SDG area.
The applicants have a mix of backgrounds, Kirkpatrick says, ranging from young professionals looking to escape the city, retirees who grew up in the area and want to move back, to new Canadians who want to live somewhere more affordable.
“Date” applicants aren’t required to work in the area, but for those in search of a career change, SDG offers a long list of work opportunities. The 2022 Cornwall and Area Job Fair saw more than 500 jobs posted. “We have jobs to fill,” Kirkpatrick says. “It’s everything from judges and lawyers to factory workers and mechanics.”
The committee in charge of selecting the winning applicant is made up of three county councillors and two lay appointees. The committee is well versed in sifting through applicants, as it handles SDG’s tourism grants and a few business grants.
Committee members aren’t looking for any specific work or life experience in a candidate. The main criteria is someone who’s passionate about the area, excited to explore, fits well with the community, and can act as an effective brand ambassador.
Interested individuals can submit their applications at datemycounty.ca. The deadline to apply is 12 p.m. on November 1, 2022.
The only downside? Kirkpatrick says,“It’s going to be so hard to choose.”
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