MORRISON – After several months of work, Whiteside County’s economic development office is days away from launching its new website.
Although it is a county undertaking, the site carries a Northwest Illinois logo and clearly markets the region. The website aims to send a message that the area is self-reliant.
“We have to take advantage of the entire region’s assets to make ourselves more competitive,” said Gary Camarano, Whiteside County economic development director. “We have five interstates, five railroads, an intermodal system, a film office and workforce development programs that continue to grow.”
TrueJob Inc., based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was hired to set up the website. The emphasis is on getting as much information as possible on the site.
“Surveys tell us that 75 percent of the people interested in the region go online before they contact us,” Camarano said. “If the information they want isn’t there, they’ll probably go to another city.”
Another objective is to connect job hunters with the region’s employers. The county will continually update a job board that highlights the area’s manufacturing base.
Job seekers and businesses will have easy access to quality of life information, an important economic development component. Recreation opportunities, food maps, wineries, breweries and cost-of-living perks will be promoted.
Research tools such as an economic dashboard are easy to navigate. Businesses can find key demographics, including industrial and labor force statistics.
“We use numbers to state our case that Northwest Illinois is close to Chicago and well-connected to national and international markets, but it offers a more affordable business environment,” Camarano said.
The cost of business is broken down, complete with available economic development incentives. Regional businesses will be profiled under a Success Stories tab.
Whether it be a community or an economic development group, it can be difficult to do promotions without a regional focus, said Daniel Payette, executive director of the Blackhawk Hills Regional Council.
“Regions, to some extent, are always a little arbitrary, but once you define it, you start to tell a story,” Payette said. “All effective presentations and pitches tell a good story, and if it’s compelling, businesses are more likely to go to a region.”
Blackhawk Hills, based in Rock Falls, is a nonprofit organization that provides services for Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, and Whiteside counties. Its scope of regional services includes community planning, development assistance, natural resource conservation and protection support, and grant writing and administration.
The web developer has a few loose ends to tie up, so a launch date hasn’t been set in stone.
A link to the economic development website will be available at whiteside.org when it is launched.