Posted on: Wednesday - Dec 21, 2016

“We’re with the government, and we’re here to help.”

If you’ve heard Commissioner Boyd give a speech at any event that has taken place the past few months, more than likely you’ve heard that line. While those nine words might conjure some laughter from the audience, Commissioner Boyd continues to include them in his speeches because it’s true. The nearly 100-member team at TNECD works hard every day to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs, but in order to reach that goal, we first need to ensure that all of Tennessee’s 95 counties can compete when it comes to business recruitment and expansions.

There are certainly a number of tools needed in a community’s toolbox to help make it more competitive and having unique, customized marketing deliverables is arguably one of the most important tools on the list. Corporate executives and decision makers often say the internet is the most effective resource in their site selection process because of the ease with which it allows you to visit communities all over the world without ever leaving your desk. A website is essentially the first impression your community makes when meeting potential companies, so you want to make sure that impression yields positive results. By having a website tailored to your county and its advantages, business leaders and site selectors can view the inventory of available sites, thriving industries, workforce and education, quality of life and more with a few simple clicks. But what if your community doesn’t have an attractive, marketable website?

That’s where TNECD’s Marketing Assistance Program comes in. Launched in 2015 and offered at no cost to qualifying communities, the program helped give 12 distressed counties the resources and deliverables needed to gain additional economic development opportunities. Each county received an up-to-date website complete with content, video and photography specific to each community. The program also included a training session that showed each county how to operate, manage and update their website.

Lucas Graham, president of the Cocke County Partnership, was actively involved in the process while Cocke County participated in the program. Citing slight uncertainty and intimidation during the initial phases, due to the fact that he had no prior experience with video marketing, he says the TNECD team quickly put his hesitation to rest by walking him through the process and helping to develop a great storyline. “Positive and creative marketing is something that Cocke County really needed, but never pursued because of funding,” Graham said. “We have a great culture and a tremendous number of assets that few people outside of the county know about. I think this program was a step in the right direction to connect with potential investors that might want to call our county home.

“The production crew did an outstanding job compiling the footage and writing the script. I literally got goosebumps the first time I watched the video and saw our workforce and industries standing proud and showing off their crafts. Along with the new website, we now have plans to promote these new tools on social media, conferences and select television ads moving forward,” added Graham.

On the Lake County team, Marcia Mills, director of the Reelfoot Area Chamber of Commerce, shared similar sentiments, noting that this was something they wouldn’t have otherwise pursued due to the lack of funding. “We would have never been able to afford the website and video we ended up with, so I knew this was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. I’m fairly certain I was the first person to submit our application once I heard about the program,” Mills said. “There is a lot of planning and hard work involved, but the best thing to do is enjoy it and leave it to the professionals who know what they’re doing. If you let them do their job, you will end up with wonderful results.” 

TNECD saw such success from the pilot round that we have decided to launch a second round of the Marketing Assistance Program. This time, we are expanding eligibility by offering the program not only to Tennessee’s distressed counties, but also any county designated as Tier 4 or Tier 3.

Learn more about TNECD’s Marketing Assistance Program by visiting http://tn.gov/ecd/section/marketing-assistance-program. Online application submissions are being accepted now through January 20, 2017, and recipients placed in the program will be notified February 15, 2017.

In the meantime, check out the websites of the counties that participated in the pilot round to see how your county can benefit from TNECD’s Marketing Assistance Program.