This is latest in a monthly series of articles prepared by Davidson Committee on Aging on topics of interest to seniors.
By CAROLYN COOK
In 2008, the N.C. General Assembly created a Certified Retirement Community Program to be administered by the state Department of Commerce. It’s a community development program for towns that want to attract retirees as an economic and community development strategy.
The program designates a town as having a quality of life that the older community desires. The potential benefits for making a town attractive to retirees is substantial: accumulated wealth brought into the area, developers attracted to build affordable housing and senior facilities, existing retirees remain in the community.
Texas has been very successful with Certified Retirement Communities (CRCs) and estimates that each retiree household that moves to the state creates 1.5 jobs (www.topretirements.com). The GO TEXAN Certified Retirement Community Program has been in place since 2006 and is currently updating information on the impact of CRCs on member communities. The town of Cuero, Texas, has had its CRC designation for two years. Randall Malik, the Executive Director for the Cuero Development Corp., credits his town’s newly-built assisted living and adult daycare facility to the active marketing of Cuero as a Certified Retirement Community.
To be considered for certification, a local government must submit an application to the Department of Commerce’s Community Development Division. The town is evaluated on criteria important to retirees: affordable cost of living, low taxes, low crime rate, quality medical care, recreation, educational and cultural opportunities, and a welcoming community. Size of the population does not deter certification, nor does a rural or urban setting. The lack of affordable senior housing is also not an issue because, if certified, developers could be influenced to build. The designation has a five-year life, after which communities must seek re-certification.
The Department of Commerce has established qualifying criteria for a Certified Retirement Community. Communities must:
- Be located within 30 miles of a hospital or emergency medical services (does not have to be within the city limits).
- Gain support of churches, clubs, businesses, media.
- Establish a retiree attraction committee which must be in place for 6 months before the town can apply for certification. Applications are received twice a year in January and June/July, and several months are needed for review.
- Assesses the community and submits a report to the Department.
- Sends representative of committee to state training meetings conducted by the 21st Century Communities program.
- Raises funds necessary to run the program, organizes special events and promotes and coordinates the program with local entities.
- Establishes a community image, evaluates target markets and develops a marketing and public relations plan designed to accomplish the purpose of the program.
- Develops a system that identifies and makes contact with existing and prospective retirees who will provide tour guides when prospects visit the community, invite prospects to special community events and maintain continual contact with prospects until the prospect makes a retirement location decision.
- Remits a $10,000 application fee to the 21st Century Communities program. If Davidson does not receive certification, the $10,000 will be returned.
- Submits the completed marketing and public relations plan designed to accomplish the purpose of the Program to the Department of Commerce.
- Submits a long-term plan outlining the steps the community will undertake to maintain or improve its desirability as a destination for retirees.
Communities selected for certification will be included in state-level marketing and technical assistance programs, find networking opportunities and be eligble for grants to support their programs.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR RETIREES?
When retirees look for a retirement community, most of the vetting has already been completed by the state of North Carolina’s certification process. The retiree can rest assured that the town will be welcoming and have a minimum level of facilities and services.
At this time, Lumberton, is the only Certified Retirement Community in North Carolina and was developed in 2010. Connie Russ is the Downtown Development Coordinator/Retiree Recruiter for Lumberton and was instrumental, along with her committee, in developing the certification program for North Carolina.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Visit these websites for more information on becoming a Certified Retirement Community:
N.C. Department of Commerce web page on Certified Retirement Communities