BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Back in the mid-1990s, when Bill Thompson was just a few years out of college. He was living and working in Detroit with his wife and child. However, when the couple became pregnant again, Thompson figured it was time to move back to Battle Creek to be closer to family. So, after applying for jobs but not getting response, he got creative with his resume.
He paid for a billboard.
“[I] put the billboard up as an idea to get a job back in Battle Creek,” said Thompson during an interview at Troxel Realty. “[I] got several calls [and] ended up getting a job that way. Actually, people called me and offered me a job in other locations.”
One of those places was Arizona, but he decided not to take it, he said. His goal was to return home. He’s been in Battle Creek ever since, first working in a paper goods manufacturing facility and now in real estate.
And two decades later, Thompson using billboards once again. But this time it's to lure jobs back to the area.
“I’d like to help the town that helped me,” said Thompson. “You hear about all the things going on with the government: the tax breaks, bringing job support back into the country. I thought, 'Hey, you know, this is an opportune time.’ Battle Creek could sure use it.”
Battle Creek has suffered economically in recent years, with Kellogg laying off employees at one of its local plants and a few big box stores like Kmart closing its doors. Thompson said there’s still growth potential in the city. He has rented three billboards in the city that read, "If you build it Battle Creek will work."
“Battle Creek, I’d say, overall is a great place to live and raise your family,” said Thompson. “There’s so much potential [and] opportunity in this town.”
The billboards are placed all over town, including on Capitol Avenue and Dickman Road, he said. He’s paying $1,250 per month to keep them up and will continue to keep them up for as long as possible. He believes once Battle Creek's major companies reinvest in the city and a few other businesses move in, job growth will immediately follow.
“Bold, innovative original ideas is what we need,” said Thompson. “There’s people out there, investors out there, bringing money back to the United States. Bring some of it here.”