How Facebook Can Be An Economic Developer’s Best Friend

Picture2As we all know, social media is extremely powerful, and can be used for both very good (and very bad) purposes. I must say that I resisted it for many years, and only relented when my Vice President Brent Jones recommended we create a Facebook page to promote our organization (the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership)’s activities. In order to get followers, I found it best to create my own personal page, add friends, and then recommended they follow us. Little did I know that what began as a few posts here and there would turn into one of our most important communication tools, directly reaching over 2,300 friends. My goal for this month’s MEDA blog is to give you a few thoughts on how you can utilize your Facebook successfully in your own economic development efforts.

Communicating Value
One of the biggest challenges economic developers face is demonstrating value to their stakeholders (board members, funders, government and business leaders, public at large). You not only have to do good work, but also have to communicate it. A constant flow of quick stories about what you do helps build an impression over time that you are tirelessly striving to improve your local economy, which brings you lots of credibility. It also creates a more positive perception of your community in general, which can in turn increase resident and existing business confidence in the area, and also serve as a resource to attract new investment.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
This is something that I didn’t expect when I started, but quickly found out that Facebook is the single most impactful tool to connect people with jobs. As we all know, the communication of employment opportunities has become more fragmented (you no longer just look in the help wanted section of the newspaper). With pretty much everyone on Facebook, and the ability to share posts with your network, the exposure of job postings mushrooms very quickly to reach more people than any other form of media. Given the tight labor market, we are finding it effective right now in engaging with our commuter population (70% of our residents leave the county for work every day), who are not actively looking for a job but are intrigued about the possibility of finding something closer to home (particularly when facing this winter weather).

Balance The Personal With The Professional
This one is tricky, and probably the biggest reason why some of my peers don’t want to mix the two. Personally, I think it is valuable for people to see that you are not only passionate and driven with your career, but can also have fun too (like me with University of Michigan athletics – Go Blue!). That being said, I try very hard to avoid anything controversial that doesn’t relate directly to my job. I also strive to ensure pretty much everything has a positive, uplifting tone to it (except when my Wolverines lose L).

If you would like to discuss further, feel free to reach out to me on Facebook!

 

Justin Horvath, CEcD
President/CEO
Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership
Ph: (989) 725-9241
Email: jhorvath@sedpweb.org
Web: http://sedpweb.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sedpweb

Justin is the 2018 Board Treasurer for the Michigan Economic Developers Association.

Advertisements

OppSites – A Great Tool for Any Economic Developer

I wanted to share a great tool with my fellow Economic Developers that is easy to use and very helpful. It is called OppSites. The mission of OppSites is to “connect the people who are involved in building and rebuilding our cities.”

While the company launched its product in 2014, I was not introduced to it until the ICSC ReCon conference in 2016. The company provided a free webinar and encouraged everyone to use the “FREE” tool. With nothing to lose, I gave it a try and I am happy to report it was a great decision. It has helped me to promote some of my redevelopment sites to developers that I would never have been able to connect with otherwise and, better yet, promote difficult sites with absent owners.

The OppSites program has 3 major components:

OppSitesMatchmaker – OppSites Matchmaker makes it easy to describe your goals and delivers connections between people who have aligned interests, so you can make projects happen.

Messenger – While Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provide instant messaging between friends and family, the OppSites Messenger connects public and private sector real estate professionals as well as economic development leaders who have aligned interests.

Marketplace – OppSites empowers local leaders to showcase areas in their communities where new development or redevelopment would support the community goals. Unlike typical commercial real estate listings, the OppSites Marketplace is not a marketplace for the buying or selling of property, OppSites is a marketplace for what is possible in every city even if the property is not currently listed with a real estate firm.

“If you want to attract development to your city, OppSites allow you to showcase opportunities in the OppSites Marketplace, which is free and publicly accessible. It allows you to market the properties in a unique way and showcase every aspect of the site, your development ideas, incentives, and of course your community profile. Whether the site is currently listed or not, you can showcase it and indicate the availability status. How great is that? You can actually market those difficult properties owned by difficult or absent property owners without it ever hitting the real estate market.” said Ken Bouchard at OppSites.

The company began in 2014 and, since I have been a user, I have seen many upgrades to the user experience as well. They are constantly evolving and listening to the needs of their customers to make the product even better. I would encourage everyone to utilize this system to promote their available sites and gain the exposure I have. The more users the system has the better the outcome for all. You can try it for free today by visiting OppSites.

Authored by MEDA Board Member and Education Committee Chair Kim Marrone, who is the Economic Development and Communications Director for the City of Oak Park.

Economic Development Tools

Economics 4 (646x346)Most economic development agencies provide programs and tools that benefit our partners and the business community. We welcome businesses of all stages and sizes to stop in and visit with our business development team and let us show you what an asset we can be to your company. Services include business planning, financial planning, market research, marketing, advocacy, business to business opportunities and much more. Face to face support isn’t always required, note that many also have helpful tools that can be accessed from your computer.

ZoomProspector is a site location database available for anyone to use. You can locate Zoom from the home page of our website and on economic development sites at the state and local levels. This program provides comprehensive information to help new, expanding and relocating businesses find the perfect location. You are able to search for buildings, sites and businesses that are for lease or sale. The program filters by square feet, price, zip code and any keywords that you’d like. You can choose assets you are interested in such as redevelopment ready communities, enterprise zones, foreign trade zones, rail access, build to suit and more.

Zoom is updated frequently and connected to the multiple listing service. If you have a site, property or office space that you would like to see listed, contact your local economic development agency to assist you.

Zoom also provides reporting on each property including labor force, demographics, consumer spending, wages, business types nearby and housing nearby. These reports can be exported into PDFs and the information is useful when searching for a property for your business.

Another helpful tool many of us use is SizeUp. This software is designed to show businesses how they can grow and stay competitive. All information is customized to a geographic region and updated quarterly or semi-annually. Here are just some of the features SizeUp offers:

  • Benchmark Performance – See how you “size up” by comparing your business’ performance to other competitors in your industry. SizeUp super-crunches millions of data points to answer this question so businesses know where they stand.
  • Demographic Analysis – Interactively map up-to-date demographic, labor force, and consumer expenditure data for your area, based on hundreds of variables.
  • Assess Competitiveness – Map where your potential competitors, customers, and suppliers are located. Determine how you can best serve existing customers, new customers, and choose suppliers.
  • Find Best Places to Advertise – Determine the optimal areas to target your next advertising campaign based on industry performance and target markets.
  • Exportable Reports – Save and share demographic, consumer expenditure, and workforce reports.
  • User-friendly and Intuitive Interface – No training required! SizeUp is easy to navigate and use, so business owners can quickly find the information they seek.
  • Caches User Information – No need to re-enter the same information on each website visit – SizeUp can access information previously entered on the same computer.

Business owners can find out how their performance compares to competitors in their industry based on benchmarking of their revenue, employees, and years in business, and other measures. An entrepreneur that has yet to start a business can use this tool to assess whether their projections are realistic given the state of the competitive market.

We find these tools are very popular among our business clients and very easy to use. Both are products of GIS Planning who has a strong relationship with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) as the state currently uses Zoom Prospector. Not familiar with these tools? Check out our website at www.marquette.org.

Authored by: Amy Clickner, CEcD, CFRM, Chief Executive Officer, Lake Superior Community Partnership. Amy is the Board Secretary for MEDA’s Board of Directors this year.