Case Study: Launching Bludot and strategizing BR&E in Dallas, OR
Dallas has a small-town feel but has been experiencing tremendous growth in past years. I met with Tyler Ferrari to learn more about the community, how they are growing their business retention and expansion efforts, and how implementing Bludot supports their department goals. Below are some tips and tricks for business visits and keeping track of a business directory as well as Dallas’ plans for the future as they continue to launch Bludot in the Dallas Economic Development Department.
Tell us a little more about Dallas, OR!
We’re a small town of about 16,000 people about 20 minutes outside of the state capital of Salem in rural Polk County. The town originally was a frontier town back in the 1800s, it was a place where people settled after they had traveled on the different wagon trails so it definitely has a lot of history. Despite all the growth in the last ten years, it still has the small-town feel which is what a lot of people look for when they are looking to move.
What is your role and how long have you been with the city?
I’m Tyler, the Economic Development Specialist and I moved to Dallas about six months ago from California when I started my position. It's a great community and I’m really enjoying it so far. There are a lot of promising economic development opportunities I’m excited about.
Can you tell us more about the initiatives that have been successful for your department and your relationship with business owners?
Prior to Charlie, my boss, joining the team about a year and a half ago, Business retention and expansion weren’t very strategic and were more ad-hoc. Now we are strategic about making sure businesses have as much access to resources as possible and I think that's also what’s brought about using Bludot so we have an inventory of all of our businesses and who is taking advantage of resources and who still needs access to them, and how we can communicate with all of our businesses.
Dallas doesn’t have a business license program, so we are still working on developing the best database and still testing out which strategies work best and which ones don’t. I’ve noticed that what works is whenever a business opens, I try and make contact with the manager or owner which has been great to build relationships with new businesses in town and they’ve been able to access resources they probably wouldn’t know about if we weren’t being proactive about making that first contact.
When you’re doing these visits with businesses, are you going in with a set agenda? Or how do you typically conduct these visits?
I don’t usually come in with a set agenda, typically I come in and ask them if what they are doing is new to them or what their experience is, ask them if they are experiencing any problem in Dallas that I can work with them to correct, and see what they are hoping to do in the next three to five years. I usually keep it open-ended and just try to have a conversation with the business and just try to get to know them and they have been really receptive to this approach which has led to better development opportunities for us both.
What goals was your team trying to achieve when it came to Bludot?
What we want to do is build up that business inventory and make it a usable method. Prior to Bludot, we were blind copy-ing them on an email to tell them about things like road closures, which could be somewhat effective when we had that relationship already established, but we’ve run into the fact that there are a lot of businesses that we just don’t have contact information for. It's hard to make that in-person contact because we are just so busy and we didn’t have a place to store that information either. So we’re excited we have an easy place to collect and store that information centrally.
Could you tell me a bit more about how you are implementing Bludot and which features benefit you most:
The survey feature is something we’re going to be using a lot, especially in the first year of Bludot to collect as much information as possible, and ongoing we plan on using Bludot for all group email correspondence to our business community. We’re also really excited about tracking our calls and meetings and using the map functionality to designate certain areas we want to target! In the past year, lots of businesses didn’t feel like they had adequate notice prior to road closures, so we want to make sure we can be proactive with the map feature.
I saw the ARPA Funding for Facade Improvement Grant, Could you tell me more about how you administer and run grant processes?
For any larger grants we’re hoping to use Bludot to put all of these projects into Bludot so that we can keep track of all the notes, assign tasks for different team members, and have a central location for all of the information, everyone can quickly reference and be on the same page for where projects are.
What initiatives is your city going to be working on in the upcoming year?
One of the biggest projects that the city is taking on is that we have acquired an old bank building and we are going to be preparing the site to be acquired by a developer. We’re really looking forward to reaching out to the community to see what they would like to see in the community. We have an idea as the city for what we want to do, but we’re really looking forward to feedback from the community on our idea and taking this really old bank building and turning it into something that can be really community-centric. We’re working on getting our downtown designated as a national registrar for historic places as a lot of towns around us to have that designation so we’re excited to finally have that designation happen for us as well.
What advice do you have for others?
Don’t be afraid to start fresh. We have some preexisting excel sheets that were really old, messy, and had really outdated information. If you have the resources to be able to start anew, it can save you a lot of time worrying about deleting things or parsing through old data. It’s really hard to make this larger statement because cities are varied in size, but making the one-on-one connections to business owners really helps the community out in the long run so you can know the needs of your businesses so that you’re not blindsided by a larger staple of the community closing. We strive to help businesses be successful because cities cannot be successful without the businesses success.