Red Sage’s Michelle Stark Moderates 2020 SEDC Annual Conference Panel on Communications & Marketing for Economic Development
On Tuesday, August 18, Red Sage’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Michelle Stark, moderated a panel discussion on communications and marketing for economic developers. The panel was a featured session in 2020’s SEDC Annual Conference.
The Southern Economic Development Council’s Annual Conference typically attracts hundreds of economic development professionals from around the Southeastern United States. This year’s Annual Conference was originally scheduled to take place in Nashville, TN but was re-positioned as a virtual conference due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Economic development and community marketing during COVID-19
The 2020 Annual Conference theme was Disruption and featured sessions on economic forecasting, industry sector updates, industrial, retail and workforce recruitment trends, and new ways to market and position communities these unusual times. There was also a regular site location consultants panel with updates on trends in business location.
The Red Sage-led panel discussion featured these respected professionals:
Veronica Crock, President, Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corporation & Grow Southeast Alabama Regional Alliance
Kate MacArthur, President/CEO, Ascension Parish Economic Development Corporation
Courtney Ross, Chief Economic Development Officer, Nashville Chamber of Commerce
Angela Hendrix, Vice President, Savannah Economic Development Authority
Attracting site selectors and conducting site visits for economic development
One core focus area of discussion was on the need to continue attracting and communicating with site selectors. Panelists offered several solutions for economic developers to consider: a shift to “virtual first” strategies, utilizing a website as a platform for telling a community’s story, and guided tours or experiences. Other solutions included 360 video and virtual reality-driven assets that help visualize the “feel” of a community remotely.
Supporting existing businesses and chamber of commerce activities during COVID-19
Another focus area was providing support for existing industrial or retail entities. Many chambers of commerce struggled with COVID-19’s arrival. They were eager to find solutions to aid small retailers or mom-and-pop operations. Some chambers turned to website directory aggregators and Shop Local initiatives in COVID-19 times and for the future.
Grow Southeast Alabama was one of the first regional cooperatives to adopt Red Sage’s own Shop Local solution. You can see the website here. As a specialist in economic development and community marketing, Red Sage frequently partners with chambers of commerce, economic developers, and municipalities to develop customized, affordable solutions.
Red Sage’s Shop Local website is a directory-based aggregator providing information about local restaurant and retail operations (pickup, delivery, gift cards, etc.) into a single, easy-to-maintain platform.
Communication and collaboration among economic developers during COVID-19
Some panelists discussed the need for increased communication with stakeholders. They touched on the need for more frequent meetings and “big picture” discussions. Shorter, more tactical planning can lead to more intentional, purposeful decision-making.
Several organizations also have long-term initiatives underway related to workforce recruitment and livability campaigns, or industrial and retail recruitment. In many cases, COVID-19 has created a need for rapid adaptation of original strategies. Some economic developers, for example, have seen a dramatic swing in unemployment numbers since March 2020. Understanding the shift in the employment landscape and aligning that with longer-term local trends, should remain a top-of-mind priority when planning.