WEDA Member Success Story
Monday, July 31, 2017
Goshen County. Big Land. Open Opportunity.
In 2015, Goshen County decided to embark on a new target market study to assist in economic development efforts. With the last study conducted over a decade ago, it was time to gain a better understanding of the current position of the county, strengths, weaknesses and how to diversify for a better economic future.
Ashley Harpstreith, CEO of Goshen County Economic Development Corp., answered our questions about the process and results of the study.
WEDA: How did the process work?
AH: Once we decided to complete a new marketing study, we reached out to the Wyoming Business Council and began discussing funding options. They helped us to secure grant funding. We initially submitted the grant in June of 2015, and had $50,000 in funding by the fall.
WEDA: Who did you choose to complete the study for you?
AH: North Star. They did an incredibly thorough job that began with taking the time to really understand our community and our county. The research phase took eight months and the amount of time they spent allowed this to become an incredibly thorough and detailed study, rather than a high-level overview.
WEDA: How long did the study take to complete?
AH: It took fifteen months in total, with the research and planning phase accounting for more than half of that time.
WEDA: Who participated in the study?
AH: We involved every entity that touches our organization. We did a good job of getting a 360-degree view of our organization with the help of outside input. Focus groups were also held ad that allowed different entities and the general public to participate. To gain community feedback, I spent over 250 miles driving within Goshen County alone. The participation and involvement of our community helped this to become the comprehensive study it is.
WEDA: What did the study focus on.
AH: First, we wanted insights into what our strengths and weaknesses are. We wanted to know where we shine, where we need to improve and what our target markets should be based on our current strengths. Next, it became important to spend time on the creative branding of Goshen County. Before we could really focus on prospecting, we needed to have an identity that matched how we felt internally. North Star helped us to achieve this goal and our new, fresh look has been well-received both in and out of the county.
Finally, we needed an action plan. Ideas without implementation are insufficient. We needed to know how to take our strengths and leverage them for economic development and what steps would be required to do so. Our marketing study concludes with seventeen clear action steps that we have already begun implementing.
WEDA: What are some of those steps and how long will it take to complete them?
AH: We have a PowerPoint presentation that I have been sharing that lists out all of the action items but, for example, one of them, is the design of a new website. We have already started to work on it and that could take around three months to launch. We believe it will take around two years to complete every action item on our list and are working diligently towards achieving those goals.
WEDA: What are your goals for the action steps?
AH: We want to bring target markets into our house and completing these steps will help us to do so.
WEDA: What are the biggest benefits of completing a study like this?
AH: It was very realistic and reaffirming of who we are. We needed to see how people perceive us so that we could position ourselves within their perception. After all, perception is reality so by seeing ourselves from the outside perspective, we can understand where we are at and create a strategy to move ourselves into the right position. It also gave us a clear game plan and strategy to begin attracting companies within our target markets. Eventually, we want to see new industry come in and uplift the whole community.
WEDA: What do you want other economic development leaders to take away from your experiences?
AH: People should know that planning grants can be a useful tool and that the Wyoming Business Council is available to help them access those funds. Also, there is a lot of strategy in recruitment with economic development and it is important to have community buy in.