Attracting Immigrants: Promising Practices from Rural Areas (PART ONE)

BRIANE LABUTE IMG_6624 (1)Today’s guest blog post comes from The Rural Immigration Project directed by Dr. Wayne Caldwell, a 3-year project housed at the University of Guelph that is exploring different approaches rural communities are using to attract and retain immigrants.

Author Brianne Labute and colleague Bakhtawar Khan spoke to immigrants, policy-makers, and service providers in four Ontario case study areas to uncover promising practices that may be applicable to other rural regions.

The Rural Immigration Project

The Rural Immigration Project is currently exploring all areas related to immigrant attraction and retention including attraction, collaborative networks, settlement, policies, and welcoming communities. In a series of four blog posts, I will share a selection of promising practices related to the REAPontario project including attracting immigrants and fostering immigrant entrepreneurship.


First topic for discussion is immigrant attraction. Dedicating resources to attract immigrants may seem like a daunting task for rural municipalities with limited resources. We would hear…

“We wouldn’t know where to start,” “Who will be responsible?”

or ”

“But… we have a miniscule marketing budget!”

from municipal staff. Despite concerns about how to best attract immigrants, many of the case study communities had some initiatives in place. Examples of such initiatives were the creation of an immigrant attraction strategy, community branding, and marketing.

Briane Labute - Farm community (smaller reso)

Creating an Immigrant Attraction Strategy

A good place to begin is by getting the community’s intentions in writing with an attraction strategy. The strategy doesn’t have to be lengthy — it can be integrated into existing documents such as an economic development or labour market strategy. The strategy should identify other agencies and organizations in the community that share a common concern for the future viability of the community. In addition, existing community assets, labour market needs, and capacity to provide services to integrate immigrants should be outlined.

OMAFRA Regional Advisory Team


For support in writing an attraction strategy, consider contacting a Regional Advisor in your area from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). Regional advisors are available to assist rural communities to help increase capacity to create local economic development initiatives via



  1. developing strategic plans
  2. identifying funding resources
  3. building partnerships, and
  4. providing tools.

Promising Practice: The Town of Cochrane’s Attraction Strategy

The town of Cochrane is located in northeastern Ontario and is home to more than 5000 people. The community recognized the need to attract newcomers to curb population decline and hired a consultancy to create a Resident and Labour Market Attraction Strategy. The strategy was considered a promising practice because it contained:

  1. Customized messaging strategies for immigrants, the aboriginal population, Northern Ontario ex-pats, and transient workers
  2. Examples of other Immigrant Attraction strategies from similar Canadian municipalities, and,
  3. All feasible marketing options (and corresponding budgets) with a focus on an increased web presence and selected printed materials.

The next blog post will discuss community branding. Stay tuned!

Funding for this research project is provided by the Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) New Directions Program.

For more information please contact Brianne Labute (  )

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