CLEARFIELD – Clearly Ahead has increased its marketing efforts to bring new industry to the area using cutting edge media formats and strategies within the economic development arena.
According to Chief Executive Officer Rob Swales, Clearly Ahead (formerly the Clearfield County Economic Development Corporation) is a very small operation, but it prioritizes personal outreach to local companies and a vastly different marketing strategy to appeal to out-of-area prospects.
“We use market analysis and research to determine which industries to focus on and what resources specific industry sets need to make our area unique and competitive,” Swales explained.
The idea is to target specific markets that are a fit for what Clearfield County has to offer instead of just blindly approaching industries.
“We are mirroring what major metropolitan areas do with their marketing and recruitment strategies,” Swales said.
For example, the Commerce Park, located near Interstate 80, was evaluated to see if it was suitable for the food industry. A thorough analysis was done on both the site and the region to see if there was a matching suitable workforce and infrastructure amenities.
Two years ago, it was approved as a certified site for food or beverage manufacturing business sectors.
Since then Clearly Ahead has targeted specific shows and events regarding the property. They attend trade shows and special events where representatives can physically see and talk to potential businesses.
“We are getting this area in front of food and beverage manufacturers as well as to other industries identified in our market research.”
Having a certified site reduces the risk of site selection for prospects and decreases the time needed to get a plant operating.
One thing often overlooked in industrial development is “speed to market,” which is the shortest amount of time taken to get a plant up and running. Having a site ready with the necessary certifications and connections, cuts through the time the manufacturer needs to get up and running.
The more done in advance for the company, the easier it is for the company to determine if a site is right for them.
“We are the only place in PA to have a certified site,” Swales said. “This gives us an advantage.”
Certified programs are used heavily in the south, so Clearly Ahead took this approach to create a strength to differentiate Clearfield County from the rest of Pennsylvania markets.
Recently, Clearly Ahead has contracted the services of Development Counselors International, a marketing firm with offices in New York and Denver, to assist with lead generation and to promote its brand.
“I wanted to use a company they (targeted industry leaders) are comfortable with,” Swales said.
Now Clearfield County is represented in the same rooms as Chicago, Dallas, the Carolinas and other metropolitan areas for major growth prospects in the food industry.
This more aggressive effort through the marketing firm’s lead generation services helps further identify the best targeted approach.
The company also assists with online efforts, including social media and advertising with exclusive content to help businesses determine if this area is right for them.
“We are getting weekly demographic data on businesses looking at our information,” Swales said.
Additionally, Clearly Ahead creates exclusive e-newsletters, using other proprietary databases to engage targeted groups, and real estate brokers. This one-page newsletter is sent electronically with up to three bulleted items that are of interest to potential customers.
This information includes any new companies moving into the area because businesses may be able to partner with a supporting industry, as well as showcasing shovel-ready sites or facilities.
This is what happened with the Pennsylvania Grain Processing ethanol plant and Continental Carbonic Products.
Continental Carbonic Products uses the carbon dioxide created by the ethanol plant to manufacture dry ice. Promoting the CO2 opportunity of PGP to prospects is an added asset to the county and ultimately led to the attraction of the Continental Carbonic Products facility.
“We have to look at what makes our community different from the others and take advantage of unique infrastructure, regional assets and spin-off opportunities,” Swales explained.
“Most of their research on you is done before you ever speak or meet them face to face. They scout you out first.
“This is why lead generators are so vital. If they do a search and we pop up. This makes us very competitive to opportunities that are otherwise untapped or unknown.”
Clearly Ahead Development is a private, non-profit, membership organization serving the community to create growth and opportunity in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.