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Archive for September, 2012

Economic Development in the Information Age

Written by
Rickey Hayes
Retail Attractions, LLC

There has been a lot of attention recently on social media in terms of marketing communities and the effect of the internet on economic development efforts in local settings. Last year in one of our client cities, a national quick service restaurant CEO stated to the press at their grand opening that Facebook messages to the company influenced their decision. What he did not mention are the less glamorous influences: the hundreds of hours of work by our firm, the city and real estate professionals on both sides. The deal would not have happened without the compelling market data and traffic counts or the countless meetings and calls. But social media did play a role.

Cities around the country are using Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other sources to keep their constituents informed of events, weather alerts, traffic detours, etc… Information is good. On the other hand, misinformation can be bad. While accurate information is always helpful, rumors and half-truths sometimes cause major problems for city administrators. We have seen first-hand how uninformed and in-experienced folks can slow down and sometimes even stop economic development in cities. Social media is a collaborative effort of the community, and there is no requirement for qualification to be part of the community. This means anyone can post anything on a social media site, and it is out there for the whole world to see: regardless of whether it is accurate or pure fiction. This can be very dangerous to development.

The bottom line is that social media is what a community makes of it. A properly managed campaign can be very beneficial to a community’s retail recruitment efforts, but a poorly managed campaign can sabotage even the most lucrative deal. Communities have to actively post pertinent information and more importantly respond to misinformation. City leaders have to be very sensitive to what should be public knowledge at what stage of the process, and they have to aggressively dispel rumors and half-truths.

The city should be the best informed party on matters of economic development, and they should be the ones delivering the information directly. Communities should not depend on quasi-governmental groups to be the spokespeople for marketing the community. Retail Attractions has considerable experience with how and when social media should be used to promote retail development. Using Retail Attractions will save a community time, money, sweat, and most importantly tears. Contact us today to streamline your economic development efforts and to get the most out of social media.

Rickey Hayes is the principal of Retail Attractions, LLC, a firm dedicated to helping cities and developers successfully find retail sites, close deals and improve the quality of life for our client cities.