While most cities and neighborhoods streamline their business retention and expansion strategy to focus on supporting their current businesses, some cities are looking further ahead. Building relationships with your local business leaders and developing a strategy for community engagement are key pillars to the foundation of an economic development strategy.
However, as your businesses grow and community needs become more apparent, it can be easier to encourage new business and developments to break ground when you can provide the land they may need. We spoke with Lilibeth Leon, the Existing Industry Manager in Gallatin, Tennessee, on how they keep pace with their explosive growth.
Focusing on business retention and expansion in fast-growing Gallatin
Gallatin, like the greater Nashville area, has experienced remarkable growth in recent years, with a 66% increase in population over the past decade. They have roughly 50,000 in population, with a historic downtown district that draws visitors and residents alike.
Lilibeth and her team of 2 work closely with 80-90 companies, primarily distributors and manufacturers, to promote economic development in the region. Recently, Facebook moved their data centers into the region, a decision that was partly made on their ability to use the renewable energy from the Tennessee Valley Authority Region. Lilibeth’s team is really focused on connecting their workforce to great jobs.
“We really care about getting great jobs into our communities and that we also have the workforce to be able to support business success.” Lilibeth Leon, Existing Industry Manager, City of Gallatin, TN
Providing new and existing businesses with the tools they need to grow
A big part of their strategy is to bring amenities that are attractive for the employees of other industries they are focusing on bringing to Gallatin. Not only does this help Gallatin to be a more attractive hub for key businesses, but these amenities also build a high quality of life for their existing residents.
Another key facet of Gallatin's business retention and expansion strategy is the acquisition of property. The city recognizes that having land under its control offers significant advantages when it comes to enticing businesses.
Owning property that can be tailored to the specific needs of prospective businesses provides a competitive edge, enabling Gallatin to more quickly and efficiently accommodate business expansions.
“The city does not have any land right now that we own, and it's easier to control what companies come into your community if you have a piece of land that you own that you can sell for them to develop on.” Lilibeth Leon, Existing Industry Manager, City of Gallatin, TN
Launching a CRM in-line with their business retention and expansion strategy
As Gallatin builds towards these goals, they went through a review of technology to find the right tools. Their adoption of Bludot, a specialized CRM designed for business retention and attraction, has been a game-changer.
“We have been using Bludot for months now and it’s such a fantastic tool. Before using Bludot, we were using Sharepoint and Excel files. It was difficult to share files and information with each other and keep each other updated. So this has helped us provide a lot more transparency amongst our team and insight to our business community.” Lilibeth Leon, Existing Industry Manager, City of Gallatin, TN
Bludot seamlessly integrates with the city's strategy, offering a suite of features such as email synchronization and collaboration tools—like surveys. These tools enhance transparency, streamline communication within the team and provide deeper insights into the local business community.
“We created these different labels because it has saved us a ton of time to be able to segment out the different partners that assist the work that we do. When we email surveys out, we can choose to pick a label like community partners to reach out to that group. Also, with any incentives, it's easy to segment the potential expansions group to let them know all the resources we have.” Lilibeth Leon, Existing Industry Manager, City of Gallatin, TN
By using a CRM for government, Lilibeth is able to use Bludot to build business profiles and keep new communications and notes within that profile, rather than an email or Excel file. For their expansion and acquisition goals, they’re able to track all potential new businesses or property they are interested in acquiring in the project management tool. Similarly, Bludot’s communication tools allow them to send out emails and surveys to targeted groups, such as sharing resources with the potential expansions group.
“I always keep Bludot open on my computer and use it multiple times a day, I read new updates on business activity and throughout the day, if we have a phone call or meeting, I update each profile with that activity.” Lilibeth Leon, Existing Industry Manager, City of Gallatin, TN
Bludot's real-time updates and project management capabilities have been instrumental in Gallatin's efforts to attract, retain and facilitate the growth of businesses. It’s also been extremely helpful to build succession plans for the department. When Lilibeth joined the team, she was able to view previous emails and notes that her predecessor had left.
“The visibility and transparency of Bludot to be able to sync your email and collaborate was so helpful. With me being a new team member, I was able l to read the history of relationships and see where things were left off and what each of these businesses had going on which really helped me as I ramped up in my role.” Lilibeth Leon, Existing Industry Manager, City of Gallatin, TN
The future of Gallatin’s business retention and expansion strategy
Looking forward, Gallatin's EDA has exciting plans for the future. By exploring the possibility of land ownership for future development, they’re able to look more deeply into challenges such as building attainable housing. And with tools like Bludot, they’re able to tell their story more effectively through the use of reports and charts.
If you’re looking for tools to grow your economic development strategy, schedule a demo today.