Mobile workforce is riding national broadband initiative. Are you ready?

The Eisenhower Interstate System began on June 29, 1956 and has touched every citizen in the country either directly or indirectly. Many historians regard the interstate system as one of the greatest achievements of the last century.  In this century, the National Broadband Initiative is shaping up to be of similar importance. And, just as the interstate brought people and businesses to communities so will the National Broadband Initiative. Mobile entrepreneurs and workers across the country are settling in location with access to high-speed Internet to start businesses or work in home offices. Is your community ready for the migration of people into or out of your area?

  • According to the American Community Survey data (2012), there is a national trend of workers who are working from home offices:
  • 3.3 million people (not including self-employed and volunteers) consider their home office as the primary place of work.
  • Telecommuting increased 79.7% for the period of 2005 – 2012.
  • In 2011-2012 telecommuters increased while total workforce declined.
  • Telecommuting increase during the recession as people left the stale workforce to pursue other opportunities.
  • Self-employed incorporated individuals increased 17.6% during the period of 2005 – 2012. These are small start-up companies that will continue to emerge within the next five years.

Convinced yet? The American workforce is quickly changing in culture. The college graduates and new workers are comfortable working at home on Skype meetings or communicating via LinkedIN or Twitter. While many argue this group of workers’s interpersonal skills may be rough, their social media savvy and networking skills are exceptional. They are comfortable and productive working in home offices.

Is your community providing the necessary environment to attract or retain the mobile workforce? The lifeblood of the mobile workforce is a reliable broadband connection. In response to this need, there is a global movement for improved broadband connections. In the United States, the National Broadband Initiative is transcending political parties and moving into state policy. If your community hasn’t already, it will soon become part of a regional project to improve your broadband speeds. I recommend finding out who is advocating for broadband in your area and support them.

Do you have a branding and advertising awareness strategy? The mobile workforce lives online and travels the information super highway. If you don’t have a social media or website strategy aimed at attracting and retaining the mobile workforce, your community will out on the migration. The mobile entrepreneurs are doing their community visits online. If you don’t exist online or don’t look appealing online, you will be passed over.

If you are uncertain how to proceed to attract the mobile workers, try attending one of our webinars. Golden Shovel Agency excels in advising communities on the best way to build their community brand and launch an effective social media strategy.  Contact one of our representatives today!

Posted in Community Branding, Community Development, Economic Development, Economic Gateway, GateKeeper, Golden Shovel Agency, Golden Shovel Spotlight, Rural Broadband Initiatives | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Just Show Up! Economic Development For Those Who Are In The Game

A small economic development agency in rural Minnesota was explaining to me how they received their first serious inquiry for a new business from their website.  The economic developer excitedly explained how happy they were that we had provided them with a polished look and a social media strategy to keep pushing out their community assets.  I was excited for them and glad they were seeing the benefits of an online presence.  The website and social media strategy had been in place for over a year without any serious inquires, but now the online efforts had paid off.

That same week I had a similar conversation with a economic developer in a much larger city.  We talked about the benefits of putting together an online strategy for his community. Unconvinced, he said, “I don’t really buy into the website and social media ideas. We are using our conventional channels–you know networking.”

While the second strategy may be acceptable to the economic development director and his board, I think they are missing one important strategy. Economic developers have no way of knowing exactly when or where entrepreneurs will start to create and expand.  And, speaking from experience, when an entrepreneur starts to solidify a company idea, they begin researching. Today’s research begins on Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. When an entrepreneur begins to search, your community just needs to be present. Your community loses 100% of the business inquires that never see you.

In the case of the small rural community with the new business moving in, their success story is rooted in the fact that their community was online. They just showed up so to speak.  When the company began looking for an area to expand, they were in the search results.  Step one for ANY successful gameplan: Just Show Up!  The company didn’t expand in ANY of the communities that were not present in their search results.

Just ask Ottumwa Iowa:

“We are confident that the web and social media solutions provided by Golden Shovel Agency will be a significant economic development marketing tool for us to utilize as we move ahead aggressively into the future.” States our client Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation.

Here is an economic development agency that is not only “just showing up” they are in the game to win!  So I ask you, “When are you going to show up and use social media as your game plan to success?”




Posted in Community Branding, Community Development, Community Profiles, Economic Development, Economic Gateway, Economic Growth, Economic Toolbox, Entrepreneurship, GateKeeper, Golden Shovel Agency | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tomorrow’s Workforce is on Social Media Today

One of my daughters loves mysteries.  She is fond of games I make up where items are hidden around the yard and she is given a map or clues to find those items. She has become quite adept at this game and has learned there are some places that I won’t hide items anymore. She is learning how to eliminate unproductive locations and how to maximize her searches to places she knows I frequent. For example, I don’t climb trees well anymore nor do I venture too far from the deck or patio. She has learned, in a simple way, that certain hiding places have a higher probability of success for her. And, I am certain, if I used the same place 73% of the time she would regularly check that location.

The job of an economic developer is not unlike the quest of my daughter. Economic developers are tasked with uncovering potential employers and finding employees for existing businesses.  In short, economic developers need to build a network of people and be able to leverage relationships. Some of the most productive economic developers I know are able to quickly connect people to jobs, employers to land, and uncover funding.  Yet, many economic developers aren’t leveraging the most fertile grounds: social media.

According to a Pew Internet study, 73% of online adults now use social media sites.  Facebook usage is up from 67% to 71% in 2013 and LinkedIn is up from 20% to 22%.  More importantly, the people using these sites are the very users that economic developers should be trying to reach. These are the creative class that Richard Florida has talked about.  These are the future entrepreneurs who will build the next set of fortune 500 companies.  These are the future philanthropists. Yet, in many ways they are being ignored.

I just talked to an economic developer last week who was adamant that his community wouldn’t benefit from using social media channels. He argued, “We are really not chasing those people.” So let’s take a look at “those” people and see if the demographics match the interests of growing communities.

Facebook currently is comprised of a diverse mix of age groups.  Facebook users tend to log in frequently throughout the day looking for updates. LinkedIn is very popular with users who have a higher income and typically are college graduates.  This is really the place of professionals. These are the people who are looking for jobs; looking to start families; and build companies. These are the very people economic developers need to be in regular communication.

It is no surprise that communities are facing a retirement crisis. The baby boomers are moving out the workforce at an alarming pace. Their replacements have arrived and they are interacting on social media everyday. We as economic developers have been invited to the party; it is time we showed up.

Don’t let the facts get in the way.  Take some time to plan out your 2014 social media strategy. More importantly, take some advice from my daughter and go where you will find success.






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Economic Developers: Social Media Resolutions for 2014

2014 is shaping up as a year of social media.  Small signs of recovery suggest that communities will be fighting for attention more than ever. I am convinced this will be a year for communities to establish their social media channels.  Many communities have waited for the right time: 2014 is the right time.

Whether you are community who recently jumped into the social media world or an advanced social media user, here are some suggestions to help your 2014 social media impression become even more polished:

1. Review your 2013 posts

To move forward, first begin by looking back.  What posts drew attention last year?  Take a moment to look at the analytic tools available to you.  In your Google Analytics, look for trends.  Did you have a particular day where traffic was higher than expected?  What was the content for that day?  Where did the traffic come from and was it picked up by a blog or website that helped send traffic your way?

Look at your Facebook insights?  What posts generated “likes” and “shares” from your followers?  Are you using Hootsuite?  If so, the reports in Hootsuite can be very revealing and will help you see what type of content generated traffic.

If you don’t have Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, or Hootsuite, then the first suggestion is to set up tools so you can review your success this year.

2. Consider adding a page for your community on Facebook

Many communities started with Facebook before pages were allowed.  Thus, they have created an account and have used Facebook as a personal account. Facebook pages are rich with tools and features that allow communities to attract more followers. These features are not available to user accounts.

To determine if your Facebook is set up as a page or account, look to the left and see if you have a list of “friends” or a list of “likes”.  Facebook users “friend” each other and they “like” pages. Why is this important?

As a page on Facebook, you can create a location for people to “check in” when they visit your physical location. While there are countless other good features available to pages, the “check in” is one of my favorites.

When I travel, I always check my Facebook account on my phone and use the “check in” feature.  This prompts my Facebook account to list all the nearby geographical locations.  I like to check into the local communities that I visit or pass through.  Why?  Each time I check into a community on Facebook it is a vote of confidence for other users to visit the location.  If you do not have a Facebook page, you deny your visitors the ability to give you instant feedback.

3. Ask your local businesses to “like” your Facebook page and likewise “like” your local businesses.

As a community support organization have you encouraged your members to “like” your community resource on Facebook?  It is important to build a following to tap into social media networks.  Make it a point this year to ask your local companies to “like” your page on Facebook. In return “like” them back and help build a network.

Facebook has reduced our degree of separation from six to around two or three.  This allows your community to reach out to potential businesses and new members in ways that were difficult to achieve before electronic “friending”  It is free, and it works.

4. “Check In” often

Give your local businesses and groups the virtual support they need.  Smart phones are everywhere and easy to use. If you haven’t already, install the Facebook app and use it as an extension of your daily activities.

When you attend meetings, visit local businesses, or travel to communities, “check in”.  Let your followers know where you are and whom your frequent.  This builds credibility and activity to help your community grow online.

5. Make your content relevant

Every community I talk to has wonderful stories about their resources and people.  I hear them in every conversation.  The problem is that I am only one person.  Tell these stories online and share the successes with your social media channels.

When a company moves or expands, make sure everyone knows.  When a business promotes a new executive in your area, let everyone know.  If your community hosts a unique event or does a wonderful act of charity, tell the world.  No one can tell your story better, so let people know.  We live in a world of insatiable curiosity; I say feed the social media followers.  You know the saying:

Give a social media follower a “tweet” and they follow you for 30 seconds, give them a stream of “tweets” and they follow you for life.

These are some of the tips that I have found useful for our communities.  Please feel free to share this list with your followers and help to make 2014 the year of social media excellence.

If you have questions about your social media strategy or would like more information, please contact the Golden Shovel Agency team.

Cheers and Happy New Year!


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Economic developers: Are you advertising or assisting?

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are at a crossroads.  All these sites began by sharing information and offering users a tool to interact with peers.  Facebook is the default tool to find old high school friends, stay in touch with friends and family, and share daily experiences with a network of friends.  Twitter has become the most current up-to-date news feed for any topic.  LinkedIn has captured the essence of Facebook in the professional network realm.  All of these social media tools and many, many others are attracting users for their usefulness.  But there is grumblings among social media users: those pesky ads.  Many social media sites are creatively pushing advertising and users are taking notice.  So what does this have to do with economic developers?  Too often economic developers fall into the trap of advertising their area instead of attracting new interest by assisting employers and employees with new information.

Economic developers do not have a mission statement based on shareholder profit.  Economic development authorities exist to build communities and assist companies in relocating or finding employees.  So why are so many economic development authorities simply acting like marketing firms for their communities?  Because marketing companies have convinced economic developers they need to advertise and market or rather buy advertising and marketing ideas.  That is the wrong approach.  People inherently are programed to push away from advertising.  But, people will be attracted to helpful information.

So how do economic developers attract new companies or employees without directly advertising?  Provide information.  For example, are you posting jobs for your local companies on your Facebook, Twitter and Web Page?  This is a great way to engage users and become helpful to the local businesses in your area.  Are you posting events in your area for arts and culture?  One of the biggest attracting forces today for the creative class is the local art and culture scene.  Mobile workers go where they can play as well as work and many creative-types enjoy a vibrant culture.  Be hip!

I have talked to many businesses who are looking for help recruiting.  As a local economic development agency, help them.  Offer to post job openings to help attract people and fill those jobs.  Businesses appreciate the helpfulness and filling the jobs is a great economic activity.

So look at your social media feeds.  Are you advertising or assisting?





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The Basics Of Social Media For Economic Developers

Spend some time reading social media blogs or any of the how-to-books on social media and you will find a lot of vague and recycled advice on the best way to use social media.  Most of the advice on social media boils down to this: post Facebook status updates, tweet, and do it often and you will be successful.  Nice suggestions but not very helpful to the economic developer trying to attract attention to their area and community assets.

The community developers who are successful in social media exhibit two behaviors:  they communicate often and they provide useful information.  So if you are looking to review your social media or get started, start with the basics.  Here are some simple suggestions.

After setting up your social media accounts, the first step is to be relevant. Don’t fall in the trap of thinking you have to be witty or unique.  Start with your community assets and activities and just start posting.  There is so much information flowing through Twitter and Facebook that people are experiencing information overload.  So give people what they want, relevant information.  You will find better success by trying to give information to your local community first and letting them share with their network to build group of followers.

After you start sending relevant information, repeat it.  Your social media status update will only survive for a couple minutes or hours so keep repeating it.  If you are tweeting about an important community asset or activity, make sure people know about it.  Too often I see people send information once and don’t want to repeat the information for fear of being boring.  The problem is that the users in your network may not have seen the first post so send it repeatedly.  It is more important to get the information out to your users than it is to be fresh.

Set up a routine.  Once you get relevant information flowing in a repeatable manner, you will gain followers.  Don’t let them down by becoming inconsistent.  If your users begin to use your social media stream as a source of information, don’t let them down by not sending regular information.

Social media is really not that difficult, but it is time consuming.  Rather than spending countless hours in strategy meetings or trying to write unique witty status updates, just be yourself.  Send information about your community, repeat it and do it on a regular basis.





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Evolution of Online Economic Development: Iowa Lakes Corridor Site Released

This week the Iowa Lakes Development Corporation ( published their new site which serves as a template for how regional economic development groups can harness the power of visually stunning websites and social media.

As recently as three or four years ago, many regional economic development groups simply used their website as an online brochure. Many economic development corporations viewed the purpose of their website as a tool to communicate with board members and local officials The Iowa Lakes Regional Development site demonstrates how economic development sites have turned from an inward focus to an outward focus. According to The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project,   “72% of online adults use social networking sites”.  It is no secret that people rely on the information highway to digest information, look for jobs, and research locations. Iowa Lakes understands the online user as evidence by their site.

The Iowa Lakes Regional Development site also harnesses the power of stories.  While data may drive business decisions, it is human interest that attracts people to an area.  Spend five minutes on the Iowa Lakes site and quickly one gets a sense of the people, industry and recreation of the area.  The region comes alive through the lives of real people living in the Iowa Lakes Region.

To compliment the website, Iowa Lakes also has a strong presence in the social media universe.  Visit their Facebook page ( and one will find a determined approach to keeping members informed and attracting outside employers and employees.  It is evident that what Iowa Lakes has launched is not just a website but a strategy to attract attention and bring in people and businesses.  Lastly, what differentiates Iowa Lakes from many regional economic development groups is that they are not talking about marketing their area–they are doing it!  Congratulations!


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Can Twitter Trends be Useful for Economic Developers?

People are social by nature.  We enjoy sharing stories or observations and Twitter has become a quick way to express our thoughts.  Additionally, Twitter allows us to have a conversation with “everyone” anytime.  Perhaps you are walking down the street and an event strikes you as funny.  In the pre-Twitter world, you would need to wait to find a friend to share the experience.  Today, you share it immediately via Twitter and the experience is communicated. So how does this immediate conversation assist economic developers?

There are two strategies that each economic development professional should be applying to their Twitter usage.  The first strategy is to understand hashtags and trends.  The second strategy is to effectively use popular hashtags in your tweets to attract users.

So what is a hashtag?  When a person tweets a comment or observation it is become custom to include an identifying tag.  For example, in Minnesota this week people are attending the Minnesota State Fair.  As they try foods or experience interesting events at the fair they are using the #mnstatefair identifier.  This tag is currently one of the top five rankings in Minneapolis/St. Paul.  Nationwide one of the top hashtags is #syria.

By knowing the trending hashtags, economic developers can maximize the effectiveness of their tweets.  For example, an economic developer in Minnesota should be using the #mnstatefair creatively in their tweets.  For example, “On your way home from #mnstatefair? Stop by Elk River for refreshments and great shops.”  The idea is to use the tag to attract viewers because the real power of social media is not the single connection but the network.

Understanding the trends in your area will give you insight into how people are discussing your area.  I use a simple website called Trendsmap (  The online tool allows me to pick any location on a map and see what is trending in that area.  There is a limited free product that is useful, but in order to fully leverage the system you will need to use their premium services.

One thing you will notice when studying trends is that Twitter is dominated by the pop culture (sports, entertainment, politics, etc).  By understanding these trends and how people talk socially, you can reach more people.  Eventually you will send a tweet that will be seen by a friend of a friend of a friend who is looking to start a business or relocate.  That is the name of the game of social media: leverage the network.







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Should economic developers be using social media?

Believe it or not, many economic development agencies aren’t fully utilizing the social media tools available.  If you are still hesitant, allow me to share some further data to assist in your decision.

According to a Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey, social media is a preferred tool for employees and employers:

  • In 2012, more than 90% of employers used social meeting recruiting
  • More than half of the companies used Facebook, half used Twitter, and all of them used LinkedIn.
  • 43% of respondents felt the quality of applicants improved because of social media.
  • 20% said it takes less time to hire when using social recruiting.

The job market today is becoming a very specific niche market.  Employers are trying to narrow the focus for their job search so they don’t waste time and energy during the recruiting process.  Employees, eager to find jobs, are using social media to narrow their search.

So employers and employees are using social media.  How does this affect economic development agencies?  Our local authorities need to be leading they way for employees and employers.  As a local economic development authority, if you are not using social media to proclaim the community assets and attract employees and employers, you are missing a valuable tool.  Additionally, if your organization is not using social media, then your organization is sending the message of being behind the curve.

Our economic growth will continue to be on the rails of technology.  If your organization is not going to embrace and fully leverage social media today, then when?




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Economic Activity on the Rise

US Economic activity is slowly showing positive signs in many sectors.  In Minnesota, my home state, housing prices and construction has shown at least two quarters of growth.  Manufacturing is up nationwide with small gains in factory production, mines, and utilities.

The oil and gas boom is shaping up across the US and this is fueling a wide array of growth: durable goods, electronics, automobiles, business equipment, labor, and parts of equipment and automobiles.  According to Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial Corp in a Bloomberg article, “It’s not going to be gangbusters growth, but it’s at least going to be better than what we saw over the last two to three months.”

The question for economic developers “Is your community positioned to capture the new growth?”  Many cities and counties are relying on previous practices in marketing to showcase their  communities.  However, this new growth has the potential to be a services and digital growth.  Companies are looking for “just-in-time” employees who can work in different locations with flexible contracts.  This growth may be the rise of the home-based worker.

Therefore, your community should be positioning itself online with a professional webpage, updated Facebook page, and an active Twitter feed.  Your community has to be active to gain the attention of companies looking for places to expand and people to hire.  There will be an enormous push in the next five years to keep our labor force full–is your community ready and online?  Or are is your community just hoping for the best?



Posted in Community Branding, Community Development, Community Profiles, Economic Development, Economic Gateway, Economic Growth, External Videos, Golden Shovel Agency, Online Community Development, Rural Broadband Initiatives, Sustainable Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment