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Wellington Welcomes celebrates what newcomers bring to local economy

Welcome to a regular Jobs of the Future feature, stories about career paths, local jobs, programs and tales of success that highlight Elora and Fergus's diverse job market
Mina Kim, owner of Ikiru Sushi in Fergus.

Wellington County recognizes the value that diverse experiences from newcomers can bring.

Launched in July, The Wellington Welcomes initiative highlights stories from immigrants who live and work in Wellington County.

Anuradha Dam, Wellington County's economic development project coordinator, says that the online social media campaign is designed to offer a 'warm welcome' and inspire other newcomers to live and work in the county by highlighting opportunities and communities through the lens of rural success stories.

“Through storytelling directly with community members, the campaign plays a pivotal role in nurturing a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable community in Wellington County,” Dam says.

“The demography of our region, as well as that of the workforce, is changing. While this is the first time we have a campaign with this name, our community has always been about welcoming everyone."

'Wellington Welcomes' received 26 interests which led to interviews with 13 individuals. Two success stories a month are shared on the Wellington County website for a period of six months, concluding at the end of the year. 

“The campaign played a key role in forging partnerships between local businesses, community organizations, and the county. Its impact was visible at Wellington County’s first Multicultural Festival which drew nearly 1,300 attendees and involved over 10 local community organizations, setting the stage for a long-term commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and talent attraction,” Dam says.

Through the promotion of local stories, Dam says the campaign enhances the visibility of minority-owned businesses, thereby motivating residents to support them by shopping locally and contributing to their growth.

“The Wellington Welcomes initiative took shape in response to a changing demography and growing diversity in our community. It is part of the county’s 2023-2025 Economic Development Strategic Plan and came to be through collaborative discussions among member municipalities and representatives from local community organizations who recognize the importance of embracing diversity and for attracting talent,” Dam says.

Mina Kim, owner of Ikiru Sushi, made Fergus her forever home 12 years ago.

Born in South Korea, Kim visited Canada to learn English after high school and fell in love with the beautiful nature of the county.

"Fergus is a great place to enjoy the advantages of cities a short drive away, while experiencing the benefits of small-town life," Kim says.

“I am proud of what I have accomplished here. It was hard, but with help from the Wellington County community, I managed to successfully balance working and raising my children at the same time.”

Saurabh Bose from Oman is the owner of Osmow’s in Fergus

"Fergus and Wellington County is a great place to begin a business,” he says.

“I have had a great experience so far working in Fergus. All the customers are very friendly, welcoming, and always appreciative of me and my food.”

A key takeaway from the initiative is community unity.

“Residents and local businesses unite to welcome newcomers, new community members, and celebrate our diversity,” Dam says

“The initiative has also opened ways to ongoing conversations about the diverse cultures and backgrounds that strengthen our community.”

And in terms of growth potential, Dam says Wellington Welcomes can evolve and expand, offering possibilities for future collaborations and diversity enhancement, which could also aid in attracting talent to fill labour shortages in the county.

"Through Wellington Welcomes, we have learned the power of community-driven efforts for diversity, equity, and inclusion. The true highlight though was learning that communities are built on human interactions," Dam says.

According to Dam, the county is delighted to see that the campaign has exceeded its initial plans and expectations.

"Initial reception and feedback have been positive and heartwarming. It may undergo further developments in the upcoming year," she says.

"The stories shared by participants in Wellington County have been inspiring and the overall experience has been humbling. We are grateful to the participants, to let us into their lives, and share their personal journeys with us."

Newcomers shared experiences ranging from finding local employment opportunities to starting businesses of their own. 

"And how for some, locals in the community came together to help them and their families settle," Dam says.

"Their stories emphasize the friendliness and helpfulness of residents, making them feel that they belong."

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Barbara Latkowski

About the Author: Barbara Latkowski

Barbara graduated with a Masters degree in Journalism from Western University and has covered politics, arts and entertainment, health, education, sports, courts, social justice, and issues that matter to the community
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