Secret from 022: Optimizing Your Business Community’s Web Presence

Tony Giovaniello, President of the Economic Development Corporation of Shasta County (Shasta EDC), joined us on this month’s episode of Economic Development Secrets. Tony discusses their recently executed Project Hometown, where his organization is encouraging and aiding all the businesses in the community to increase their web presence/development. Read the snippet below to learn how Tony’s team determined this BRE need and what they’ve done to address it.

We have about 17,000 businesses in our county. Those range from multi-billion dollar businesses to the one-man shop who’s doing it part-time in his basement. But they all, in today’s world, need websites. We looked at the websites that were out there and we saw that a lot of them were these single-page websites. They were kind of like online brochures. They weren’t updated.

Then we went out and looked to see who’s hitting those websites and we found that they’re primarily being searched on cell phones and tablets, but yet, they were not optimized for those devices. They were designed around desktops. So there was all this investment out there, but the companies weren’t capitalizing on it.

Then we looked at whether or not these companies were using eCommerce. And we found that a very small number of them were using eCommerce. And as you know, that’s a bigger and bigger part of our economy. I don’t think it’ll ever replace retail, but it’s about 17% of retail sales now. It’s going to continue to grow, so if you ignore it, you’re going to leave an opportunity on the table.

So what Project Hometown does is it, basically, creates a platform where through a partnership with all the web development companies in our town and a spec, kind of a easy, on-ramp spec, at a very, very low cost, we can get our companies online and in eCommerce.

Since we’re doing it for such a low price, it’s hard for the web developers to afford to do it. So we’ve already trained our first cohort of 10 high school students, and they passed with flying colors and created some great websites.

They’re going to actually deploy this service as interns for the web companies. The web companies are going to train them on the job. These high school students are being engaged in the business community and they’re potentially doing work as interns for future employers. So we think it’s a great way to educate our workforce, to deliver this service, and then create some more engagement with our youth and our community.

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