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May 2002
Marketing “Charlotte USA” Requires More than Just Advertising!
By John Paul Galles
     Throughout my tenure in the business development arena, I have witnessed many instances in which local communities assemble coffers of marketing dollars to increase national awareness and recognition in order to attract new and bigger businesses to their local community. They spend millions of dollars in national publications and specially targeted economic development journals touting the attributes of the local marketplace. While those monies often succeed at raising awareness and building their identity, the gains are seldom immediate and require long-term commitment. Too often, national advertising and promotional campaigns overlook the engagement of local and regional business owners, managers, executives and their employees in support of that activity. Absent support from area businesses, workers and entrepreneurs, the efforts are not sustainable and lack the necessary momentum. It is essential that the entire business community become ambassadors in such a national marketing campaign.
     The Charlotte region is fortunate to have the Charlotte Regional Partnership in place. Mike Almond is a first-class economic development executive. The organization’s economic analysis, conducted by RoperASW, lays a foundation for encouraging economic development. The Partnership’s Board of Directors, and particularly Johnny Harris, are to be praised for their planning and fund-raising efforts. Bank of America and Wachovia also deserve tremendous credit for stepping up to the table with $2.5 million toward the Charlotte USA marketing campaign. And Luquire George Andrews is more than capable of executing the campaign in an effective manner.
     But just like our defense department has found with military engagements, the economic objectives of this campaign must be clear, focused and sustained in order to succeed. What is the purpose of this campaign? What are the collective components of this campaign? What is its message? Who is its targeted audience? What is the period of time over which the campaign will be conducted? How will the campaign be measured?
     Spending $5 million dollars in advertising should build a brand and an identity that is Charlotte USA. It should also create a buzz of inquiry and investigation that causes others to consider Charlotte among their top locations for relocation or expansion. But beyond that brand identity and the buzz of inquiry, local business owners and executives will be called upon to attest to the quality of life and work in Charlotte as an “attractive” business location. Promoting economic development in Charlotte USA is the responsibility of business owners, managers and executives as well as workers throughout the 16-county region. It cannot and should not be left exclusively to paid advertisements in national business publications and economic development journals and economic development specialists. 
     In other words, marketing Charlotte USA will take a coordinated campaign that uses national and local media as well as local and regional “foot soldiers.” Business people at business meetings as well as at every trade show, conference and exhibition have opportunities to speak up about Charlotte and its balance of location, accessibility and quality of life. We also can boast about our workforce and educational institutions that are willing and anxious to work and contribute to economic development.
     Charlotte is headquarters for no less than eight Fortune 500 companies; Duke Energy, Bank of America, Sonic Automotive, Goodrich Corp., Nucor Corp., SPX Corp., and Family Dollar — and all but two are home-grown. We are fortunate to have a mix of enterprises that represent a spectrum of industries. We also can be proud of the overwhelming abundance of small and mid-sized businesses that are  representative of our community’s desire for entrepreneurial activity, creating jobs, filling niches, and providing an abundance of resources for larger businesses.
     Attracting new businesses to Charlotte is one important path for economic development. Supporting and encouraging new and existing regional business growth is equally important. A coordinated campaign that both attracts new entities and supports existing enterprises is likely to bring the greatest results and produce a return on investment that fortifies the entire region over the longer term.
John Paul Galles is the publisher of Greater Charlotte Biz.
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