Q and A with: Stay Work Play’s Kate Luczko

Canterbury native Kate Luczko is project manager at New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility, and since May has also served as executive director of Stay Work Play, a statewide nonprofit that evolved out of the governor’s task force to encourage young people to remain in the state after graduation.Having attended UNH Manchester and about to begin graduate studies in nonprofit management at SNHU, Luczko is herself an embodiment of SWP’s target demographic. Since joining SWP, Luczko has launched the organization’s social media-savvy Web site,stayworkplay.org, which features links and resources for young people about living in New Hampshire, from job boards to quality-of-living indexes to restaurant reviews and directions to bike paths.An official launch party for Stay Work Play will be held Thursday, Oct. 7 at Boynton’s Taproom in Manchester from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The free event is open to the public and will kick off a promotional campus tour of state universities.Q. What made you stay in New Hampshire after graduating?A. Actually, my first job after graduation was in Boston. From some of my professors and from what I had in my head, that was success — to get the big, fancy, plush job in Boston. All my classmates were jealous that I had found that, and it just wasn’t for me. I find that, especially in Manchester, it’s a big enough city that you can really be known. You can make a difference here, unlike some other places.Q. You knew New Hampshire was where you wanted to return?A. It has a good balance. With Stay Work Play, through social media, I put out different cool events going on during the week — there are so many things going on that you would never know about otherwise.Q. How did you apply what you learned working at New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility to Stay Work Play?A. Definitely there’s a lot of overlap in people. There’s a lot of overlap in the principles of nonprofit. There’s a lot of in-kind work — you may not have money, but here’s what I can do for you, and here’s what I need to try to work on in return. There’s a lot of networking and searching for resources and all those basic skills — organization, communication, those kinds of things.Q. SWP evolved out of the 55% Initiative. How has SWP evolved since the 55% Initiative?A. The 55% Initiative was through the University System of New Hampshire. From that, Governor Lynch formed a task force for young worker retention, so that delved more deeply into the problems and the recommendations for fixing them. SWP came out of some of those recommendations. Numerous members that were on the task force are now on SWP’s board. It’s been a linear thing.Q. What were some of the findings of the governor’s task force?A. That there were misconceptions that there are no jobs to be found, there aren’t fun things to do, you can’t find housing, if you can find a job, you’re not making the same kind of money you would elsewhere — those kinds of things.Q. What are some of the misconceptions or outdated notions that students hold about New Hampshire?A. A lot of it has to do with the money factor, but if you look at the cost of living of other places, you may make more in your salary but it may cost more for you to live there. And I think to some extent, for kids, New Hampshire is just kind of old hat, like I grew up here and it’s boring and blah, blah, blah. Again, if you take the time to look and explore and travel around the state, there’s really a lot of stuff going on.Q. How have you leveraged social media with SWP?A. For SWP, we use it a lot. Our target demographic is 20- to 30-year-olds, so of course that’s a huge part of how they communicate. So we’re on Facebook and Twitter at least daily, if not more often, posting about jobs, fun things to do, articles, trying to help promote the different young professional groups in the state. It’s a whole variety of things. In terms of how we’re tracking our success, it’s those numbers we’re focusing on.Q. How have businesses responded to SWP?A. Everybody’s really supportive. It’s a pretty soft sell, if you will. The more students we keep here, the less turnover businesses will have and the more money stays in our own economy both from them having paid for their degree through an in-state school and taking a job at an in-state company, so it’s really a win-win for everybody.Q. Why is it that half the students leave the state after graduation?A. In some cases, it’s people who aren’t from here. There’s something to be said for living in other parts of the country to experience life elsewhere, so some of what we’re doing is trying to keep graduates here, and some of it’s trying to get them to come back. You’ve graduated, go away for a couple of years, but come back here to start your life.Q. What are some of your personal favorite things to do in the state?A. I just recently joined a committee with the Manchester Young Professionals Network, it seems a little bit intimidating, these networking events where you’re not going to know anybody and you have to talk to strangers, but it’s actually a lot of fun.It’s a really good group of people that goes. I have friends from college that are involved in the comedy scene in Manchester, I really like going to those kinds of things. I really like checking out new things going on — whether it’s a new venue or restaurant, seasonal activities.

Q. Besides Manchester, do you work with the young professionals groups in the state?

A. One of the things that SWP did, we created a young professional advisory board. So our actual board of directors are more people well established in their careers and companies, but we wanted to stay in touch with who is our target demographic to get feedback other than just my opinion. So we’ve pulled representatives from all of the nine young professionals groups. Right now, we meet monthly on a conference call.One of the things we’re talking about trying to do more is getting more than one young professional group together at a time.

Q. Do you have a campus presence promoting SWP?

A. We have an event, an Oct. 7 launch party. About a month ago we had a press conference with Governor Lynch to announce the beta launch of our Web site, to show him that from this task force we had followed through with some of the recommendations that were made.This party will really just be a celebration. That will be the kickoff event to a fall campus tour, starting at Keene to Plymouth State and ending at UNH. Ideally, yes, we’ll connect with all the colleges in the state and we’ll work with them to get in and speak to classes, but at least for a start, that’s the plan. We really have an opportunity here to create a brand for New Hampshire, to really push this out to 20- and 30-somethings to what we want it to be and what they want it to be.

Q. If everything went according to plan in the next 10 years, what would SWP evolve into?

A. SWP would be the go-to resource. Already, we have something on our Web site, a living index. We’ve taken a bunch of the quality-of-life factors and aggregated them, averaged them, to see what the living index score is, and New Hampshire ranks higher than all the other states.This is data that’s provided, not anything manipulated, we just averaged them together and New Hampshire ranks higher. So on paper, we’re doing a great job.Even if some states might be slightly lower in one thing then higher in another, New Hampshire is pretty straight across the board. To take that on paper and make that belief well known throughout the state — that’s the goal.

Kathleen Calahan can be reached atkcallahan@nhbr.com.