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!
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