Economic Development Online


Using online resources to provide information about a city’s economic development possibilities is an effective way to disseminate data to developers. This relatively inexpensive method allows the city to place important community facts and figures on a Web site for all to see. Some may see this as an impersonal way to introduce the city, but it does have a wide reach and can be a first point of contact. The city can also shape their Web content so that it has more of a personal touch by adding stories and anecdotal information. Selecting the most important data, and not putting up an abundance of hard statistics, can make the site more appealing as well.

Focusing on a few important sets of information that detail the positive development potential of a city will provide clarity to viewers. City officials should determine what these items will be and place them front and center online. It is also wise to provide links and downloadable reports for items that are ancillary to the highlighted information. The following is a description of the different types of information a city may want to include on its economic development website.

Demographics

Statistical information such as population, median income level, age levels and education levels could be valuable to developers. Some might also want to know a city’s population trends or projections and regional or county population statistics. Much of this data is available through the U.S. Census Bureau. Cities should update their information when the Census Bureau releases projections or after completing a special census.

Workforce Statistics

Many developers will want data on the city’s workforce, including available workers, unemployment and underemployment rates, education attainment, age breakdowns and average wages. It is also helpful to detail local universities, colleges and training centers that can assist in developing skills for the workforce. Iowa Workforce Development will be helpful in obtaining some of this information. Cities can also conduct laborshed studies to compile needed statistics.

Quality of Life

An often overlooked but important aspect of economic development is the quality of life a city can offer. City services, including parks, trails, libraries, aquatic centers, historic sites, golf courses and community events, can play a major role in attracting or retaining businesses and residents. Listing what the city and region has available in this regard can make a community stand out. A list of schools in the area, pre-K through high school, will be valuable as well.
Infrastructure

Along with its quality of life, a city can boast of the infrastructure it has in place. Transportation statistics such as access to highways and proximity to railroads, airports, water ports and urban centers will be useful to developers. It is also helpful to detail the existing utility infrastructure, including area service providers and the current capacity of the various services. Any plans to expand or improve utility services should be noted.

Available Sites and Buildings

The location of available development sites and buildings is another feature to provide on the city’s economic development Web site. This list should also include data on the size of each site and/or facility, listed price, existing utility services and amenities, and proximity to transportation hubs. Past uses showing the capabilities of the site or building will also be valuable. Other items to consider listing are parking areas, additional available land, zoning classification and any future planned infrastructure improvements. Providing a map of the available sites and buildings is also beneficial.

Communications

Connectivity to the Internet and broadband capacity are important factors for many businesses when deciding where to locate a facility. Describing what is available in the city for online and mobile phone usage is helpful. Any future upgrades should be detailed.

City Development Programs

Information on the city’s economic development programs will give developers an idea on how they can partner with the local government. Tax incentive programs, tax rebate policies, development grants and the like should be specified.

While selecting what content to include on the city’s economic development page is important, it is also critical to display the information in a way that is attractive, both in the look and delivery. Viewers should be able to find the site easily, access desired information quickly and get an idea of what the community is like.




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