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South Bend Region Economic Development Website - St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce

2016 ACE: Award of Excellence

In 2014, the St. Joseph County Chamber underwent a fundraising campaign to raise dollars for its new role as the lead economic development organization (LEDO) for St. Joseph County, Indiana. Initially, we simply housed economic development information on the Chamber website as one of its main menus, occupying about eight web pages. This was adequate but not what we needed to brand our economic development program and sell the business assets of the area. The successful fundraising effort allowed us to invest in a stand-alone website, costing approximately $20,000, and separate from the Chamber site.


Date: December 23, 2016
Organization: St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce
Chamber Website: http://www.sjchamber.org
City: South Bend, IN
Community Peer Group: Major Cities
Revenue Category: $2,000,001 and up

South Bend Region Economic Development Website - St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce

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Synopsis:

In 2014, the St. Joseph County Chamber underwent a fundraising campaign to raise dollars for its new role as the lead economic development organization (LEDO) for St. Joseph County, Indiana.

Initially, we simply housed economic development information on the Chamber website as one of its main menus, occupying about eight web pages. This was adequate but not what we needed to brand our economic development program and sell the business assets of the area.

The successful fundraising effort allowed us to invest in a stand-alone website, costing approximately $20,000, and separate from the Chamber site. To aid in content creation for the site, we talked with our target audience--site selectors, site consultants, those in commercial real estate and business owners--and participated in economic development marketing webinars to learn best practices.

While we researched several web vendors, we made the decision to continue with our Chamber web vendor, Accrinet, because of our existing relationship including support services and familiarity with their CMS backend. We also received additional cost savings in terms of web hosting and licensing fees; a 50% monthly reduction.

Our web strategy called for a responsive, xed-navigation, one-column site to include the typical content such as availability of commercial properties which is pulled from a database we input, economic data, news and information about the area. But we wanted to go a step further to better showcase our region and be a “one-stop” shop for the web user. Because we are a county LEDO, this meant including information about South Bend, Mishawaka and St. Joseph County. We also wanted to stand out more by including primary research, success stories from existing businesses and have an economic development site that actually illustrated beautiful images of the community to sell quality of place.

We designed the look of the site and worked with the web developer to implement it, in addition to having them customize several functions to accommodate our unique primary data needs, such as the commercial construction activity report module, business expansion & new investment report and online economic profile. These custom modules eliminated the need for PDFs, reducing download time. The success stories module was built specifically for us to showcase existing businesses in the region and what is working for them. Also included was an interactive project map visually displaying all recent projects with more than $1 million in investment and a separate interactive map featuring monthly investments.

The custom pieces ranked in the top six of most viewed pages at the end of 2015.

The website with our economic development brand--South Bend Region (southbendregion.com)--launched in late September 2015. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg even tweeted a link to it, giving it props, upon its launch. In addition, St. Joseph County government is doing a new website, and intend to simply link economic development information to our site. It set the standard in our region for what an economic development website should be.

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