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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Correlation from Ord, Nebraska: Openness and Economic Development

Mike Knutson draws my attention to Ord, Nebraska, and that town's avidly blogging economic development director, Caleb Pollard. Pollard runs both the economic development agency and the chamber of commerce in Ord, and he still finds time to blog. He runs the community's economic development blog, Ord Sunshine Pumpers, on a free Wordpress account—no fancy domain name or web hosting for these guys!* The blog puts up new posts a few times a week. Pollard uses the blog to feature positive local business stats like this: over the last nine years, Ord has seen 100 new business start... and 78 of them are still operating.

Ord sits in the middle of Nebraska, with 2200 people in town and 4500 people in the county. My hometown of Madison has 6500 people, with 11,000-some countywide. How many new business have we started?

Ord's economic development director seems totally engaged with his community and a broader Web audience, blogging regularly to tell Ord's story.

Madison's economic development director appears to find open communication with the community a tedious challenge. After years of vague, passive-voiced, and occasionally plagiarized monthly columns in the Chamber newsletter, our economic director appears to have given up even that rare writing and hired a freelance-writer to communicate the LAIC's message. So much for authenticity.

Oh yeah, and the Ord economic development blog is open to comments. In Madison, the only major website allowing direct user participation is the Madville Times. LAIC, Chamber, MadisonSD.com, city, county, Madison Daily Leader, KJAM,—not one of them thinks you have anything worth contributing.

Ord Sunshine Pumpers demonstrates that if you want to tell your community's story (or "market" it, as I'm sure our ad-obsessed LAIC board would say), it doesn't hurt to open the doors and let the community tell that story. Ord also shows you need to have a passionate advocate at the helm, a stakeholder, someone who lives in the community who is deeply invested in seeing it succeed, someone so invested that he will write honestly, passionately, and prolifically about what's actually happening in his community.

Hmmm... that sounds so familiar....

Update 2010.08.05: The free blog gets you started, but once you get your Web legs, you'll probably want to upgrade. After a year-plus (and 60K pageviews!) on Wordpress, the Ord Sunshine Pumpers moved up to a domain of their own, OrdNebraska.com. Pretty slick!


  1. Thanks for the love. It is easy to be open and transparent when we can - other times we're bound by confidentiality to keep our trap shut, but the community understands it.

    It's too bad your local ED office doesn't see the power - I know the challenge of bringing in new young people to rural communities, and they *expect* a community that is accessible and transparent. If you can bring them into the process, you've created your *tribe*, as Seth Godin calls it, to spread your message far and wide.

    Want anecdotal proof? In 2009, of the 12 on my Chamber of Commerce board, 10 of the 12 were under 45 and 2/3 of the 12 were women. This year? We're younger, more diverse and ready to kick some arse.

    I know this - Ord benefits from this openness and connectivity. Unfortunately, it sounds like at Madison's expense.

  2. I wanted to ensure that all of your Madville Times readers were aware that the Madison Area Arts Council website is completly open for user comments, suggestions, and best of all content! We're actively building a unique Arts & Cultural resource for our growing and vibrant community, so join us, share a little bit about yourselves, and show us what you got! Best of all, like all of our programming efforts, its free and open for our community. Check us out at www.madisonareaartscouncil.org

    Chris Francis, President, Madison Area Arts Council

  3. Boo-yah, Arts Council! And you're bringing David Allan Evans to town?! That rocks!

    Thanks, Caleb, for dropping by, and for the great example. We'll keep trying to catch up!


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