If you look for Greensboro, High Point or Guilford County on a map, you can find them – but there’s a big difference between being on the map and being on the map.
The Guilford County Economic Development Alliance (GCEDA) – a joint effort of Guilford County, High Point and Greensboro to draw new business to the area and help existing ones expand – has approved a new quarter-million dollar marketing initiative meant to make Guilford County stand out on the map in the eyes of site selection consultants, major corporations and any others interested in finding a place to start or expand a business.
The marketing campaign, which officially kicks off Jan. 1, will bring in top real estate agents in packs from around the state and from other parts of the country and use group tours to show them all that Guilford County has to offer; the campaign will also fund trips by area economic development officials to three site-consultant hot spots – New York, Atlanta and Dallas – where they will make Guilford County’s case to a large number of site consultants concentrated in those areas.
The big push to put Guilford County on the economic development map will also include the creation of new marketing materials, a direct-mail campaign aimed at multinational companies and a social media marketing campaign. It will also include a subscription to an up-to-date database that tracks site consultants across the country.
There’s also money in the plan’s budget for a new trade show booth and show materials, as well as funds for GCEDA to pay to pick up key decision makers at the airport at trade shows in other parts of the country so that Guilford County is the first thing on their minds when they get off the plane. GCEDA officials hope that will help Guilford County get in good with the movers and shakers in the business relocation industry. The plan also includes money to buy post trade show gifts for those who can help bring new business to Guilford County
The multi-pronged economic development effort was approved unanimously by the GCEDA Leadership Board at the Thursday, Oct. 27 meeting. That board includes Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan, High Point Mayor Bill Bencini, Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips, top staff from the three governments and area economic development leaders. The details will be worked out in November and December before the initiative officially gets underway at the start of 2017.
GCEDA approved $242,000 for the plan, which is the lion’s share of the group’s annual $300,000 budget for calendar year 2017. Each government ponies up $100,000 for the economic development group.
The promotion of Guilford County as a desirable place for new businesses will also be pushed in a “This Just In” email campaign as well as a “Digital Ambassadors” program that uses participating members of the community to promote Guilford County on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
Greensboro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brent Christensen, who’s also the director of GCEDA, said this week that, since GCEDA is a new group and this is a first time plan, the costs laid out aren’t set in stone. He said they could change as GCEDA gets into the weeds.
At the Oct. 27 meeting, Christensen presented an overview of the initiative. He said GCEDA will likely use freelancers to develop the new marketing materials and he explained the necessity of subscribing to an up-to-date site consultant database.
“That will be a new subscription to make sure we are on top of everybody – old consultants, new consultants, with their latest and greatest addresses.”
The budget includes about $20,000 for travel, accommodations and “on site expenses” for teams to fly to New York, Atlanta and Dallas.
He also spoke of the social media marketing aspects of the plan.
“Social Toaster is an online program that allows us to reach out to all our social ambassadors – our digital ambassadors – on a regular basis,” he said.
They in turn spread the good things going on in Guilford County.
For instance, he said, Guilford County has a strong aviation sector and he said that announcements in that area could be sent to and promoted by people connected to aviation.
High Point Economic Development Corp. President Loren Hill said at the meeting that, had the networking effort been in place earlier this month, GCEDA could have spread the word “to the entire planet” about a recent award it had received.
GCEDA, which was formed one year ago after about a year and a half of talks, was recognized recently by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) – a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group of economic developers. IEDC gave GCEDA an “Excellence in Economic Development Award” in the Regionalism and Cross-Border Collaboration category.
In addition to promoting the area on social media, GCEDA will do things like spend about $5,000 on a new trade show booth.
“A trade show booth could be used in all of those shows so you would have a one-time setup fee,” Christensen told the board.
He also said it would be wise “to get the attention of the folks who you want to see at the shows by offering them rides to and from the airport or wherever.”
Another part of the large new marketing push in this area is called “deep-sea fishing.”
“That’s our direct mail campaign to try and get in front of some big end users,” Christensen said. “The creation and execution of that I put at $25,000.”
He said bringing in major real estate agents in groups should help raise the profile of this area.
“We liked the idea of travel and hosting real estate brokers from in state and so we put a line item in there for in-state folks of $12,500, but we also like the idea of travel and hosting out-of-state prospects and consultants and that sort of thing and bringing them to the market as well, so we put $35,000 in from there.”
According to Christensen, this area had a real need for up-to-date marketing materials that show the new unity in recruiting effort. GCEDA was formed by the three local governments to promote the area as a whole and there is a belief among those who fought for the new alliance that a single front should be presented to businesses coming here.
“We don’t have the high caliber collateral materials that talk about Greensboro and High Point together the way we need to,” Christensen said. “So there’s development and collateral material of about $50,000 so we can be talking again with one voice in those collateral materials as well.”
The $243,000 includes a 10 percent contingency fund in case there are cost overruns. Christensen said that, with the $300,000 commitment by the governmental partners for 2017, and existing commitments, that accounts for the group’s entire annual budget next year.
“We get very close to, if not over, that $300,000, but we have some money in the bank,” he said. “We feel comfortable on this budget.”
Before the vote, there were some questions from GCEDA board members. Phillips asked how long of a commitment this involves.
Christensen replied that this was a 12-month plan.
“I think we reevaluate at this time next year for calendar year 18,” Christensen added.
Phillips said that, as a new organization, the board should look hard at results after a year and make adjustments as needed.
GCEDA Board Chairman Ken Smith, who is also chairman of the board of the High Point Economic Development Corp., said GCEDA needed to document actions and results to see what was working and what was not. Smith said some results will be more immediate than others, but examining their outcomes would offer at least general insight into things like whether effort invested in Atlanta created more results than efforts in New York.
Christensen said that would be done and said that the group’s market targeting and strategies could change as feedback informs the process.