Local economic development looks different in every city. Depending on your city’s size, resources and history, an Economic Development department’s goals can vary. However, they all start with empowering your local businesses. Let’s take a look at a few different ways to support local businesses, no matter the city.
Providing access to resources is critical for local economic development
Economic Development departments have unique access to resources for their local businesses. These could be grants, trainings, workshops and even policy updates that are critical to the business. However, it can be challenging to know which resources are important to which businesses at what time—especially if you don’t have an accurate list of the businesses in your community. To share resources even easier, consider creating an inventory of the businesses in your community through a customer relationship manager (CRM) tool, such as the Bludot platform.
Getting data out of a spreadsheet and into a purpose-built business retention CRM platform allows you to track square footage, employee counts, owner demographics, etc. more easily. Each business has a complete profile that you can use to match businesses with relevant resources, effortlessly.
These profiles can also be turned into a custom, public-facing small business directory, making it easy for the community to find local businesses to support. And Bludot makes it extremely simple to import all those spreadsheets directly into the platform.
Cities like Dallas, OR actually integrated a business directory into their overall strategy. Their Economic Development Specialist, Tyler, shared how Bludot served as a strategic partner in these efforts:
“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.” Tyler Ferrari, Economic Development Specialist from City of Dallas, OR
Supporting workforce development
Many cities, regardless of size, have workforce development hubs and pipelines to employment opportunities. We learned from Katherine at the Ponca City Development Authority in Ponca City, OK, about Ponca Works.
“Ponca Works is able to assist our local employers to become more attractive to these workers who are completing certifications and graduating from trade schools… That program has become a way to connect employers with career and certification workers who are looking for employment opportunities.” Katherine Long, Small Business & Information Coordinator from Ponca City Development Authority
Even if you don’t have official workforce development programs, it’s important to find ways to promote employment opportunities. The public-facing business directories mentioned above make it for each business to publicly post job postings, as well.
Aligning local economic development goals with the local community
A key part of economic development is creating goals that fit your community. Allen County, KS is a rural community that’s created a unique lens to their economic development. Jonathan, from Thrive Allen County, shared this:
“We’ve really focused on supporting our small local businesses through entrepreneurship to fit the needs of our community best and engaging the local college and high school students. We focus on attracting businesses that people want to frequent, local events that create experiences that are unique, and we’re working on housing every day.” Jonathan Goering, Former Economic Development Director from Thrive Allen County
Their broad approach is supported by using Bludot’s CRM—a tool that helps them spend less time in spreadsheets and more time out in the community, attending local events and visiting housing projects. And, when they’re away from their desks, Bludot is mobile responsive, which makes it easy to log notes and visits out in the field. Traveling even further south, cities in Texas use a survey tool to gather community insights and further localize their goals.
Localize community spending
Local economic development is about generating a strong local economy and keeping those dollars in that community. Sydney, at Lancaster, CA’s Economic Development Office, shared how they’re pioneering local spending with rewards programs. Digital shop local programs like Open Rewards, make it extremely easy to implement rewards for your community members who shop local. With Open Rewards, businesses see a 20X ROI—for every $1 spent in the program, $20 goes back into the community. And 70% of users agree that Open Rewards has influenced them to shop local.
“It is a great solution to invest in a technology tool with a familiar program model and digitize it. It's crucial that the investment we're making remains local. So that we’re not just giving out $20 that is spent at Amazon or in a neighboring city, but rather being reinvested back in the community.” Sydney Yeseta, Assistant Manager for Economic Development from Lancaster, CA
Catalyzing support for local economic development
Changing communities (and changing departments) can make it challenging to support our local economies. Finding the right tools and strategies, such as increasing access to resources, developing workforce initiatives, localizing your goals and incentivizing community spending, can provide a catalyst to empowering our local businesses.
To learn how Bludot can help empower meaningful local economic development for your community, you can schedule a demonstration here.