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Can Tourism Help Recruit Jobs?
October 14, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
This week, there will be an update on the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism efforts to promote the Saranac Lake area.
Great at developing visitor packages, can tourism organizations, local, county and regional, also be part of an effort to create job recruiting “packages”?
After all, to attract visitors or the businesses to the area isn’t it all about our “experience”?
Based on published reports on proposed local tax increases, we may need to place a greater emphasis on creating jobs.
At first, it may seem that visitor promotion and business attraction are different worlds –and they are in many ways.
But, in terms of marketing where our #1 asset is our quality of life and the experience we offer, are they that different?
Just Plain Space
They say in the business recruitment world, that location is half the battle. We have heard it to: location, location, and location. In the Adirondack Park, it may be even more important due to all the permitting jurisdictions and the time it can take.
Diamonds in the Rough
Commercial or industrially zoned space is hard to come by in our region. They are diamonds in the rough. It is one of the reasons why local government made the effort to create business parks at the Adirondack Regional Airport, in Tupper Lake, Malone, Ticonderoga and a host of other places.
Unfortunately for many reasons, today they are largely more in the rough than filled with diamonds.
Marketing of these areas has been a key problem.
With the announcement of Bionique Testing Labs planned expansion at the Harrietstown Business Park, it may be an opportunity to re-invigorate these efforts.
To do so, we may have to join forces with what might at first seem as a strange bedfellow.
Show Some Interest
When I was trained as an economic development specialist, I went to all kinds of fancy training to figure out how to bring companies to a region. They talked about:
• Economic profiling Basically does your community have what a company needs?
• A One Stop-shop Ever more important today in the world of instant information gratification.
• Community Preparedness
• Marketing In the end, this is probably the most important aspect. If we don’t tell anyone we are interested in new business, how will they know to even ask?
The Giant Gorilla
And one key to this may be not to have some vague message that simply says “We welcome the business world.” We may need a specific message that targets certain businesses. In other words, for example, “biotech” is a very broad term. Is our area really capable of recruiting all parts of this Goliath or only certain kinds?
The Link to Tourism
Isn’t this what we are all hearing today: we need to have targeted messages, know our “customers” and what “appeals” to them?
It is becoming all about the experience and clearly identifying what that experience is – for visitors and businesses?
We have a visitor’s experience we are trying to sell, what is our business development “experience”?
And this is where our king-pin industry, tourism can help us.
Who knows this world of how to create targeted messages? Who has experience with creating simple and easy to understand “packages”? What industry has had to deal with telling its story on-line and in the social media world? Who is constantly trying to bring in new customers to our area?
Our business development efforts are often so underfunded and under-resourced. The need is great, the area large and the resources and our ability to compete with areas outside the Park so limited.
Economic developers are so good at building things.
Tourism organizations have to be good at marketing.
Is there a way to bring these efforts together to create a business development “experience”?
It’s not that economic developers don’t understand marketing; they often have their hands full putting the bricks and mortar together. Often they are 1-2 person offices.
And yes, I know the world of marketing to a company is different than culling a visitor.
But in the Adirondacks is this distinction that great?
What is our #1 asset? Isn’t it or quality of life? Is that not the major pitch for both visitors and business development?
What a great place to visit. It could also be a great place to operate your business. Perhaps these messages can come together.
Maybe it is time to bring the marketing gurus together with our economic development officials. A lot of this communication is going on already throughout the region with state economic councils and on other levels.
Perhaps on the local front we need to do the same.
A Regional Partnership?
We have these beautiful business parks and other commercial and industrial spaces throughout the region. In one way the hard part is over: the permitting process is mainly done, core infrastructure is in and there is local support.
Marketing now seems to be the hurdle. Too many local officials this may not be their expertise. Let’s call on those that know a little about this.
Can we for example:
1. Is there a way that tourism officials - so good at creating appealing messages – can help with an economic message?
2. Can they be helpful in establishing how to get the word out through social media channels? What might it take to create a viable internet presence with key words, links etc.?
3. Can they be helpful in creating basic marketing materials?
4. Establishing a system of follow-through? Tourism officials have become adept at tracking “leads” and converting them.
Again, some economic development efforts are well under-way with this and we can learn from their programs as well.
When I was responsible for marketing the region as an economic developer, I was involved in more than one effort that spent a great deal of money.
It was the local community though that I received most of my leads. An economic profile existed; there was an ambassador team and basic marketing materials.
Perhaps we need to re-engage the community in marketing and lean on some of the tourism marketing experts to help us create a business development “experience package.”
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