Mount Airy soon will become known to the world as an official retirement community, due to a unanimous vote by the city board of commissioners.
However, that doesn’t mean everyone else won’t be welcome, according to discussion at a Thursday night meeting when the action was taken.
“It’s not just retirees,” Todd Tucker, a county economic-development official, said of recruiting outsiders to move to Mount Airy through a state-run marketing effort. “This is just an opportunity to enhance our marketing to a specific group of people.”
But, Tucker added, “we want everybody.”
The commissioners’ vote Thursday night climaxed six months of study by a specially appointed committee that included Tucker and several other members. It held regular meetings to explore whether Mount Airy should apply to become a certified retirement community through a relatively new program offered by the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Earlier this week, the group had met and decided to unanimously recommend that the commissioners vote to pursue this status, which will require paying a $10,000 application fee among other steps.
In return, the city will become plugged into a vast marketing network targeting seniors, who’ll receive information about what this community has to offer in terms of quality-of-life resources.
This includes listing information about Mount Airy on the state’s RetireNC.com web site along with links to the city government’s site, based on a presentation here in August by a Department of Commerce representative.
Mount Airy also is to be promoted at the annual AARP convention, which usually draws 12,000 to 16,000 people, and through social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter. In addition, there will be advertisements in regional and national publications and the city is to benefit from various public relations activities, along with information being distributed about local events or special offers.
Others Laud Program
City Parks and Recreation Director Catrina Alexander, another committee member, contacted the two cities that have become certified retirement communities so far under the state program, Lumberton and Asheboro. Representatives of both said they had benefited from their involvement.
“I was very impressed with the information I received” as part of the study process, Alexander told the commissioners Thursday night.
She pointed out that simply informing the outside world of Mount Airy’s existence is a key first step, then the objective is to get people to actually come and see what’s to be found here. Someone usually will visit an area multiple times as tourists before moving there, Alexander said.
Businessman Burke Robertson, who has been involved with local economic development and tourism efforts and also was part of the study group, said the entry into the state program represents a departure from Mount Airy’s existing marketing thrust.
“We have been encouraging people to come spend the night,” Robertson summed-up, “and eat a pork chop sandwich.”
In actively recruiting an older population to relocate here, he stressed that the group targeted is not the “traditional retirees.” Robertson described a scenario of active individuals with large disposable incomes desiring to take advantage of recreational, shopping and other resources while also being engaged in the community and offering fresh ideas.
Seeking retirement community status shows Mount Airy is being proactive regarding its future, Robertson added.
An in-depth assessment of available resources in Mount Airy must be completed as part of the application process, to show it meets guidelines for such communities such as having an adequate health-care infrastructure. And much effort and planning must be devoted to maintain the city’s retirement status, which Tucker has said represents a continuing challenge.
Yet city and committee officials believe the program will produce dividends. In addition to luring retirees, Commissioner Scott Graham, who led the committee, said the same marketing effort could help draw more industry.
“It’s just a great opportunity, I think, for us,” Tucker said of the economic benefits of reaching out to retirees in a systematic manner.
Said another committee member, longtime city resident Allen Burton, “let’s give these people an opportunity to come.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.