Economic Development: It’s Everyone’s Job
by Dixie Johnson
Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce
This article was published in the “Community Perspective” column
of The Sheridan Press, February 21, 2012.
There’s a fresh new approach to economic development in Sheridan – one that involves the entire community in a focused, cohesive effort.
Economic development in Sheridan has traditionally been thought of as the purview of a single organization – initially the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce, later evolving into SADA and ultimately to the present-day Forward Sheridan. Other entities and organizations, including the City of Sheridan, Sheridan County, Sheridan College, Downtown Sheridan Association, and many others, provide ancillary services that support economic development efforts by maintaining infrastructure and other elements of overall community vitality.
In the spring of 2011, these community organizations and several others came together with the Wyoming Business Council to answer the following questions –
– What are the resources (financial, expertise, volunteer) each of these organizations can bring to bear on economic development?
– What role should each organization play in economic development based on those resources?
– Where are efforts being duplicated?
– How can these organizations work together to create a seamless, cohesive economic development process?
The Economic Development Task Force (EDTF) began holding monthly work sessions to address these questions, developing a detailed process flow document to define focus and guide lead development and follow-through. For example, leads related to growth or attraction of businesses in the retail or hospitality industries are now directed to and followed up by the Chamber of Commerce. Leads related to professional services, manufacturing, technical services or entrepreneurial ventures are directed to and followed up by Forward Sheridan.
Jay Stender, executive director of Forward Sheridan, says the new approach was overdue. “Our elected officials and their constituents who invest in economic development want to know that their dollars are being spent effectively and not being wasted. They want to see cooperative effort, product and actions, not just chit-chat. This team approach will allow us to react flexibly to potential leads.”
The EDTF revisited the recommendations of past economic development studies and identified specific target industries on which to focus their near-term efforts. Forwad Sheridan and the Wyoming Business Council lent expertise in helping EDTF members to identify key marketing messages to appeal to those target industries. From regional fiber connectivity and low taxes to award-winning schools, and boundless recreational opportunity, all key messages converged to a central theme: the appeal of Sheridan to new and existing busineses is not that it has any one of those assets; rather, Sheridan has all of those assets. You want it? Come and get it all – in Sheridan.
To get Sheridan’s story out to prospective businesses, the EDTF created a series of marketing materials to carry this theme and key messages. These materials include a promotional brochure containing economic and demographic information about Sheridan, a smaller “calling card” for community members to provide to interested businesses, a full-page advertisement in the Wyoming Business Images magazine distributed by the Wyoming Business Council, and a tabletop display for use at trade shows and conferences.
All materials carry a “quick response” QR code that when scanned with a smart phone takes the phone’s owner directly to the promotional brochure. In the future, the EDTF plans to expand the QR code destination to include information on business-ready buildings and building sites.
In order for this economic development program to have the broadest possible reach, we need community members to get involved. If you will be traveling to a conference or trade show this year, contact Dixie Johnson at the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce to find out how you can help us share Sheridan’s economic development story with the broader world.
Posted in the following categories: "Community Perspectives" Articles, Economic & Business Development