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  • Matt Moloney

Economic development tools for an innovative department in Miramar, FL

Not only can it be challenging to find the right economic development tools, but it can be even more challenging to convince your department to use them. 

In Miramar, FL, the city’s Economic Development and Revitalization Department is building a team that is adaptable and technology forward to serve a diverse community. We spoke with Richard Hughes, Assistant Director of the Economic Development and Revitalization Department, and Paul Njoroge, Economic Development Manager, to hear the tactics and strategies that work best for them.

Miramar Team - Economic Development Tools Blog

Building a strong community through data collection 

Located in South Florida, conveniently between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Miramar is a suburban community home to 130,000+ residents. It has abundant parks and housing and a diverse and active community, making it a great place to raise a family. 

Their Business Retention and Expansion program prioritizes accurate data collection and 1:1 outreach with small businesses. To collect accurate data, their staff focuses on meeting businesses in person which allows them to develop stronger relationships and share resources directly. 

They also have specific programs dedicated to helping hundreds of businesses—for example, during the pandemic they provided a stimulus grant for small businesses with five or fever employees and provided $1.75 million in funding.

“We’ve been doing more for small businesses than any other group.” Richard Hughes, Assistant Director of the Economic Development and Revitalization Department

But where to store that data?

When meeting with businesses to share resources and grant information, it can be easy to keep that information siloed. However, Miramar’s economic development department utilizes Bludot, a business retention and attraction platform, as both an internal CRM and a public directory to store and share important information about their businesses. 

As an internal CRM, Miramar’s staff is able to track how they reach businesses and sort the businesses into different categories within Bludot. One of their core goals is to extend resources to minority-owned businesses—by creating those categories, they can specify what the business does, who owns them, their growth and the demographics of the business. 

This is helpful to target those businesses when they have grant and funding opportunities with the city available, as well as other opportunities. Prior to Bludot, they weren’t able to do this type of targeting before, since they were using business taxes as an information source.

Economic Development Tools - CRM Screen

With Bludot’s public-facing business directory, they assist residents to find these businesses. For example, if someone wants to find a local Jamaican restaurant open at 6AM, they find that information on Miramar’s business directory. This type of interactive directory makes it easier for their residents to support locally-owned businesses. Whenever a business updates their information on the directory, that information automatically updates in the internal CRM. 

“It’s easier to use Bludot instead of just Googling that question, to support local businesses this way.” Paul Njoroge, Economic Development Specialist

Economic Development Tools - Business Directory

Utilizing Bludot’s suite of economic development tools to collect accurate data has helped Miramar with their Business Inclusion Diversity Program. This program seeks to bring minority- and woman-owned, disadvantaged small businesses into government contracts and marketing efforts. They use Bludot to target these businesses and bring them into the fold. 

“It’s been amazing to structure the inclusivity of these businesses and tag it based on the program we have available.” Paul Njoroge, Economic Development Specialist

Creating a team that embraces tech and innovative economic development tools

Developing an economic development strategy that requires a team to comply with a new technology can be risky. However, both Richard and Paul emphasized that their team culture is what led them to embrace this tool.

“By having a lot of team members who are open to technology, it helps us be able to invest in tools that play upon our strengths and trust each other to ask questions as we are learning new things.” Richard Hughes, Assistant Director of the Economic Development and Revitalization Department

They also have a team culture of experimentation, new ideas and even making mistakes. Each team member wants their work to be the best they can be and they support each other so everyone can succeed and have fun.

In choosing Bludot, they compared what they would be able to accomplish if they could manage their initiatives outside of spreadsheets and manual entry. If your city is budget constrained, they also recommend thinking of technology as an investment.

“Once you see the value you get out of Bludot, it’s well worth the time and investment as it saves us so much time and has given us more data than we thought we could collect.” Richard Hughes, Assistant Director of the Economic Development and Revitalization Department 

Trying, failing and learning

Not every team is ready to embrace technology—we wrote a whole article about it. However, by creating a supportive team culture, Miramar is able to better support their diverse community of businesses, while creating a fun and innovative place to work. 

“We’re a small community to some extent and found that this is a better way of doing it for us. The best thing you can do is just try a smarter and faster way, the worst you can do is fail but at least you tried and you learned.” Paul Njoroge, Economic Development Specialist

Feeling inspired? You can read the entire interview with Miramar, FL.

And if you’re looking for economic development tools that can support your innovative department, book a call with Bludot today.


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