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Integrating Technology into Economic Development Processes

Economic development plays an important role in ensuring the vitality of a community both now and in the decades to come. While there are many tried-and-true best practices that have been used successfully for decades, technology can make the process more effective and efficient.  

The problem is that navigating the many technology options on the market today can be overwhelming. In this blog post, we’ll summarize a few important technology categories and explain how they can be applied to your economic development processes. Armed with these insights, you’ll be able to identify the type of technology that would best fit your needs and navigate the vendor landscape like a pro.  

1. CRMs and Marketing Automation Systems 

CRMs and marketing automation technology may not have originally been designed for economic development, but this technology can be extremely useful. The level of sophistication varies depending on your needs and budget.  

At the heart of a CRM is the ability to develop a database of contacts and log activity associated with those contacts. Most will include reporting features so you can track the ROI of your outreach efforts. Some include automated outreach tools, and others require a separate system (a marketing automation platform) to send automated emails.  

Use this technology if you need help with any of the following:  

  • Keeping your contacts and outreach activity organized so any team member can quickly check on the status of conversations 
  • Saving time when compiling reports on your outreach activities to present to key stakeholders, like your city council  
  • Automating email communications with your communications and/or leadership team’s approved messaging to stay top-of-mind with prospective businesses as you slowly build the relationship over time  

2. GIS Platforms 

Geographic information systems (GIS) are already a staple in many communities. These mapping platforms range from highly custom systems to simple mapping tools. Some operate independently while others are integrated into other technology systems, like an analytics or consumer intelligence platform.  

The primary benefit of a GIS platform is the ability to visualize data on a map. Some things are just easier to understand when visualized. Zoning, available real estate, water/utility districts, and even the presence of consumers who meet certain criteria can all be mapped in a GIS system to show current and prospective businesses at a glance where their opportunities lie.  

3. Consumer Intelligence Technology  

Recruiting and retaining businesses in B2C industries requires presenting insights into the most important factor that drives their performance: customers. Consumer intelligence platforms use data from many different sources to present a snapshot of consumer dynamics in local markets.   

Today, many consumer intelligence platforms use GPS data from mobile devices to provide aggregated insights on visitors to specific places, which is useful when seeking to understand who is visiting an area and where they are coming from. These platforms also often include demographic reporting, psychographic (lifestyle) reporting, and more. They may also include more sophisticated analysis tools, like modules that allow you to assess whether your market is the right fit for a specific brand.  

4. Commercial Real Estate Listing Platforms 

Having a strong understanding of your local commercial real estate market will allow you to have more productive conversations. Platforms that list commercial real estate come in two varieties: free public listing websites and paid listing platforms. While a free account is a great start, consider purchasing a license for a paid platform to get the most insights into your market.  

This technology is ideal for the following situations:  

  • Avoiding manual compilation of available real estate in your market to save time 
  • Validating information provided by brokers as a smart system of “checks and balances” 
  • Keeping track of the going rates in your market for commercial real estate rents 

The Bottom Line 

The technology categories outlined above are just a few of the many examples of innovative tools that can make the economic development process more efficient. By using technology as a resource to complement your tried-and-true processes, you can maximize your time and ultimately be more effective.  

Looking for an economic development technology platform for your community? Consider Buxton’s SCOUT platform. This user-friendly system combines GIS, consumer intelligence, and even activity logging features into a powerful portal. Customize it further with add-on modules for sophisticated analysis.  

Journey Awareness Persona Economic Development/Elected Official City Government