Retiree website, video unveiled

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A website created to help attract more retirees to Elizabeth City is up and running, touting the city as a place to enjoy architecture, arts, boating, continuing education, dining, healthcare, warm weather and quality-of-life experiences.

The website, RetireInEC.com, also includes an approximately 6½-minute video featuring the voices of two local women conversing as images of some of Elizabeth City’s best-known attractions — the Pasquotank River, Elizabeth City State University, College of The Albemarle and Sentara Albemarle Medical Center — appear on the screen.

"Come see for yourself," one of the women says of Elizabeth City. "It is a nice place to visit — and you'll really want to live here."

Getting more retirees to visit Elizabeth City as a first step toward deciding they “really want to live here” is the point of the RetireInEC website and video, says Peter Thomson, chairman of the Elizabeth City Committee of 100 and part of the team that is spearheading the RetireInEC.com project.

"I think that there are people who would benefit from having retirees coming here," Thomson said.

Thomson, who himself is retired, believes that attracting more retirees to live in a community just makes economic sense. The average retiree couple’s impact on a local economy is the equivalent of nearly 2¼ jobs, he said.

The key to getting more people to retire here, however, is getting them to visit, and to do that, Thomson says, requires a marketing strategy.

RetireInEC.com’s strategy, he said, is to offer a visitation package deal that includes lodging, food and entertainment. For just $249, two retirees can spend two nights here at a local hotel or inn of their choice, enjoy two dinners and two breakfasts at a restaurant of their choice, and, depending on whether there’s a show currently underway, receive two tickets to a theater performance.  

Retirees who agree to the deal have the option of meeting with other retirees while they’re here who can answer questions about why they chose to retire in Elizabeth City, Thomson said.

While a number of businesses use visitation package deals to entice people to visit, no other city or town seems to be using the strategy, he said.

The demographic being targeted with the visitation package are people ages 50-70, Thomson said. He noted they are usually people with the income to buy homes, purchase art and spend money eating out. He also noted they usually don't have young children, meaning they won’t add students to the public schools. 

Thomson said the RetireInEC.com project would like to get at least 100 retired couples to visit Elizabeth City. He believes if that many visit, anywhere from 25-30 couples could commit to settling here. 

One of the keys to getting retirees to try the visitation package is making sure they know about it.

To help pay for RetireInEC’s advertising costs, both Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County have each contributed $5,000 toward the retiree initiative. Thomson said the majority of that funding was spent with the Maryland-based specialty travel publication Recreation News. The publication is mainly read by government employees and military personnel.

Thomson said the project is focused right now on the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area because of the vast numbers of government employees who live there. Elizabeth City also is less than a four-hour drive from that area, he said.

Thomson said project organizers, however, would like to reach out to more retirees living in Baltimore, the Wilmington, Delaware area, the New Jersey suburbs, Manhattan and downstate New York. To do that will require more funding, he said.

"It's now a question of just expanding advertising," Thomson said. "If we had some more support from the community who would benefit obviously from these folks coming, we could afford to broaden that advertising and do some websites and some direct email."

Thomson said the effort needs another $10,000 in private funding to pay for the expanded advertising. 

The retiree initiative has already benefited from a number of private donors. Both the Committee of 100, which is a private, non-profit organization, and the Long and Foster real estate agency donated the $12,000 that paid for the video used on the RetireInEC website. The video was produced by David Haycox, of Virginia Beach, Virginia. The website was created by Nicholas Toupin, son of Downtown Waterfront Market Coordinator Danielle Toupin.


Sentara Albemarle Medical Center also has helped with the retiree initiative, joining with the Committee of 100 to fund Elizabeth City’s $10,000 cost to qualify for North Carolina’s Certified Retired Community program.

The General Assembly created the Certified Retirement Community program in 2008 to help promote North Carolina as a destination for retirees and potential retirees. A city or a town has to meet an extensive list of criteria to qualify for the program. 

During last week’s Elizabeth City Downtown Inc. meeting, Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Economic Development Director Wayne Harris gave a brief update about the RetireInEC project.

Harris noted the project’s first advertising campaign began appearing on Recreation News’ website last month. He said the plan is to launch a second ad campaign featuring the lodging and dining package by the end of next month.

There are also plans to hire the Virginia-based Red Chalk Studios to develop a public relations campaign for the RetireInEC project. Red Chalk has acquired Cahoon and Cross, the public relations firm that has long handled the EDC's marketing efforts.

ECDI Executive Director Deborah Malenfant said she likes the project's concept.

"I think it will bring a focus to Elizabeth City from retirees, as well as other folks, because it is a good portrayal of all the things that we have here,” she said. “I think it will attract a lot of attention to the area."