Promote a Place or Place of Business via Web

If you are trying to do economic development for a small community, you need a website. If you are a small business in a small community and trying to attract business from outside of your community, you are de facto doing local economic development and you also need a good website.

About half of all small businesses lack a proper website and only have a Facebook page. The small town I live in is also very much on Facebook and mostly not on the World Wide Web.

A lot of the local organizations in my small town only have a Facebook page, not a website. Many that do have a website are done by local individuals who don't know really know how to do a good business website.

That fact is a driving force behind my creation of Eclogiselle. I hope to help people help themselves and also provide services to an underserved market: Small community development.

In December 2017, I posted a question on Cyburbia about GIS and economic development and got some good feedback. Part of what I was told was that the following information is absolutely essential for a website if you are trying to do local economic development:
  • Telephone number for who to contact for more information
  • Who are the top employers or some notable employers in a region
  • What is the basic mix of inudstries in the area
  • Basic snapshot of the labor market (labor force, unemployment, and jobless rate)
  • List of local utility providers and links to their contact info (this is especially important for people looking for sites for industrial developments)
  • A map of your location in relation to the rest of the region or the state
    You may have randomly popped up on some site selector's radar but they've never actually heard of Rocky Mount, NC. You better quickly show that you are right on I-95, not far from Raleigh, and just a few hours from Hampton Roads or Charlotte, or Richmond. Don't expect the site selector to go to the added effort of opening a new browser tab to find that info themselves.

Some of those bullet points will not directly apply if you are doing a website for a local small business, but I highly recommend that you make sure you have good contact info on the site and also a good map showing where you are in relation to pertinent details, like the nearest Interstate, prominent landmarks and local tourist draws.

I posted that question to Cyburbia because I had applied for a job as the Executive Director for the local Main Street program in my small town of about 16,000 people. So we are talking a local non-profit with one employee and very limited resources whose mission is non-profit economic development for the town.

In other words, they intend to serve the interests of the community even though they aren't a government office. They are not a for-profit developer.

I have a Certificate in GIS and I knew it would be a challenge to create a good map to serve the economic development interests of this town, but I had the background to try to put together the right info and the right technical resources to make that happen. I spent more than 2.5 years learning about the area so I could figure out what details to include in a map and also researching freely available technical resources to be able to legally create and publish a good map with no funds and all that.

That map finally got put together and put up on my mockup site just a few weeks back. Here are some screenshots from the mockup private website I was working on and the map I created:

My mockup landing page

My map, landing page view

My map, the actual page

In spite of what local movers and shakers told me for more than two years, I don't expect to ever actually get that job. Instead, I plan to translate my mockup site for the local Main Street program into content for a personal blog called Pedestrian Coast.

I also hope to use what I have learned to benefit other small communities in need of solid technical resources while working with significant limitations in terms of things like time, money and locally available skills and expertise. That's why this site exists and I hope to turn it into a viable business serving the underserved niche of community development in small communities.

Although this site -- Eclogiselle -- is about placemaking, not about promoting a particular place, I used those same ideas to design this site and made sure a map showing my intended service area and talking about what I am trying to do here is prominently displayed on the landing page:

Featured Post (Permanently "Pinned")

This page is intended to make it possible for you to develop your own site completely for free if you have no funds at all to put towards this currently. It is also intended to offer additional options at various price points for people who can afford to spend some funds on such an endeavor, but not much.

Since the goal of this project is to provide resources for doing economic development to people and communities who are likely to be very poor and otherwise suffer from a raftload of limitations, the resources here will be designed to offer both completely free options as well as low-cost solutions so people can wade in starting wherever they are now.

Here are is a recipe for how to create your own website that can be followed completely for free or followed on a budget:
  • Use BlogSpot, not Word Press, to set up a 100 percent free website.
    • I recommend you go with one of the four recent templates because they are mobile optimized.
    • Keep it clean and don't fill it with fluff.
    • Add links to your social media to signal things like "I'm online regularly" or "Here's the latest news and gossip."
  • Use Stamen Maps to create a free open source map under a Creative Commons license.
Yes, you can add a custom domain name to a BlogSpot site (I recommend NameCheap). Yes, you can add paid services to it, such as a .com Email address to go with your custom domain.

Most maps on this site will be developed under a Creative Commons license and can be freely re-used elsewhere with proper attribution. Yes, that means you can edit maps from this site to customize them for you needs -- just makes sure you give proper attribution. (Yes, I wll do a page specifically about using the maps from this site.)

You can also hire me to help with setting up your website or doing the map work. (I am still developing a price list, but you are welcome to contact me with a proposal.)

In addition to running my own sites for around twenty years, I have done a bit of website work locally in the small town I live in. I am still developing my price list, but you can see more info here and here.

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