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  • Matt Moloney

Business at the beach: Economic development communication in Clearwater, FL

When you think Clearwater, Florida, you think sunny beaches—not necessarily economic development communication strategies. However, the city of Clearwater, FL is using innovative tools and strategies to support their business community, making it clear they are more than a vacation destination.

We spoke with Audra Aja and Stephanie Scalos from the economic development team to learn how they support businesses, residents and local workforce initiatives through strategic economic development communication.

Clearwater Headshots - Economic Development Communication

Making the vacation last forever

Home to over 117,000 year-round residents, there are millions of people who visit Clearwater, FL every year. These visitors not only help drive the local economy, but also drive population growth. After seeing the beautiful beach, friendly communities and affordable living, many want to make Clearwater home.

“We offer a quality of life that people seek and they wonder, “how can I make where I'm on vacation a place where I can also live?”” Audra Aja, Marketing & Communications Coordinator for Clearwater, FL

Once visitors see a potential future in Clearwater, the economic development department steps in to make it clear that it’s a great place to build a business. The Clearwater Economic Development Department is committed to supporting the growth and vitality of their community and fostering a pro-business climate—which often starts with a business visit.

“I establish relationships with our top employers and I also do what you call “cold calling”... I go to an office complex and knock on doors and introduce myself. There are times when they don't even need something city related, but I can still assist them in other ways like connecting them to resources such as the county or local colleges to help with workforce needs.” Stephanie Scalos, Business Retention & Expansion Coordinator for Clearwater, FL

This concierge-like approach establishes a strong connection between the city’s businesses and their support services in the government. It’s an incredible initiative that shows the dedication of the city.

Adding clarity to Clearwater’s businesses with effective economic development communication

However, with so many businesses, it can be extremely challenging to know where to start. Rather than randomly choosing a part of town, Stephanie and Audra use data to prioritize which businesses they should reach out to first. This data was developed through using Bludot, a CRM and software platform built for the government. Not only did Bludot provide them with a cloud-based way to track visits and notes for each business, but it actually provided them with an updated list of businesses in their area.

“When we transferred our data into Bludot and compared it against the data Bludot provides, I was able to see where businesses are located that I didn't even know existed. Now I have a clear plan when I go out on visits to meet these businesses and introduce them to the resources we provide.” Stephanie Scalos, Business Retention & Expansion Coordinator for Clearwater, FL

Now, the team has a starting point. From that data, Stephanie has created a top 50 list that she tries to engage with several times a year. In addition, she targets their key manufacturing areas—making it her mission to dive into that area this year. They also target other primary industries that are their top priorities, such as information technology and life sciences. Bludot was able to label and categorize the NAICS codes for those businesses within the CRM.

“We use Bludot to narrow down the NAICS codes of businesses that we're targeting, which is really helpful.” Audra Aja, Marketing & Communications Coordinator for Clearwater, FL

Bludot App - Economic Development Communication

Building responsive resources for the community starts with economic development communication

After meeting with the business, the economic development team is better equipped to support their local economy’s needs. Funding opportunities and workforce development are areas that are frequently discussed among the business community and are where they focus their efforts.

For example, if a worksite needs to bring something up to code, their Employment Sites Program helps bridge that funding gaps in the project. The department frequently shares workforce initiatives by communicating through Bludot. Bludot helps the Clearwater Economic Development Department create lists of relevant parties and send out those emails—along with tracking engagement—within the platform, creating communications easily, quickly and intelligently.

Bludot App Email - Economic Development Communication

“I often get information about a job fair from local resources and I know HR people would want to attend, especially our manufacturing industry which is constantly looking for people. I can use Bludot to send that information out quickly.” Stephanie Scalos, Business Retention & Expansion Coordinator for Clearwater, FL

By listening to their businesses, using data intelligently, and building responsive communications, Clearwater, FL is building a local economy that lasts beyond a summer vacation.

To learn more about how Clearwater, FL is building an incredible business community in a tourist town, read their full interview.

To learn how Bludot can help your economic development department, schedule a call today.


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