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Group to tout Toyota, research campus to attract business to Rowan

By Mark Wineka

Salisbury Post

The second year of a marketing campaign for Rowan County will try to ride Toyota’s coattails by targeting vendors and suppliers of the motorsports industry.

The “Available for Work” branding strategy also will go after companies that do business with Freightliner, promote Rowan County’s connection to the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis and tell the growth story of some existing county businesses.

The Rowan Jobs Initiative will work from a $147,467 budget after spending $221,983 last year in advertising, direct mail, billboards, production costs, photography and professional services.

Dyke Messinger, president of Power Curbers and an RJI member, said the first year’s worth of marketing was “extremely successful,” reaching an audience of site selection consultants and real estate brokers who were previously unaware of Rowan County.

RJI members gave community leaders an update on their work Thursday afternoon at Salisbury City Hall.

RJI grew out of the county’s Committee of 100. It’s a public-private partnership that serves as a marketing arm for the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission.

In 2006, the “Available for Work” campaign had reporter coverage from Site Selection Magazine, the Charlotte Observer, Salisbury Post and News 14 Carolina — coverage leading to more than 2.8 million of what marketing people call “impressions” or hits.

During the year, more than 2,000 site selection consultants and brokers received six different direct mail postcards about Rowan County.

The campaign’s Web site, tied directly to the EDC’s site, saw a 90 percent increase in visits from the EDC’s 26,267 in 2005 to 49,943 in 2006. It eventually led to 89 inquiries or requests that the EDC followed up on last year.

Messinger noted that Internet traffic typically increases 17 to 19 percent over a year’s time, so the marketing campaign could have accounted for at least a 70 percent increase in interest for the EDC.

Web sites usually are the first point of reference for site selection consultants, the people who often work on behalf of companies looking to expand or relocate.

The www.RowanWorks.-com Web site also had links that led to 925 additional hits for Downtown Salisbury Inc. and 1,960 for the Rowan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Three different ads were placed in publications geared to the consultants and brokers.

Mike Miller, chairman of RJI’s marketing committee, said it’s important in the second year to keep the consistent “Available for Work” message in front of the consultants and brokers, while also expanding the message to targeted companies.

Toyota Racing Development has announced plans for a 35,000-square-foot engineering facility on an 89-acre tract off Peach Orchard Road, pending the approval next week of an investment grant from Rowan County.

The company’s initial $22 million operation, meant to support its racing teams, will employ about 40.

The RJI members said Thursday it was important to capitalize on the Toyota announcement through its marketing effort.

Andy Aldridge, a senior account executive for the Lyerly Agency in Charlotte, said few names in the global marketplace carry as much power as Toyota.

“Toyota Racing Development is still Toyota,” he said.

Using Toyota Racing Development’s decision to locate here in the marketing gives Rowan County immediate validation, as will promoting its connection to the biotech campus in Kannapolis, Aldridge said.

Miller said a consistent branding effort takes time, and RJI expects to be working on this campaign four to five years.

The Available for Work campaign uses a sales message that says Rowan County has a great location, a good quality of life, a good business climate and a competitive cost of doing business.

Messinger said it emphasizes that Salisbury-Rowan is an easy place to do business and that the community does what it says it will do — a place that delivers on opportunity.

In 2006, RJI spent $100,968 on advertising. That will decrease to $71,129 this year. Direct mail cost $9,165 last year. RJI will spend $13,337 on direct mail this year.

Professional services cost $105,000 in 2006, but many of those expenses will not be repeated in 2007. RJI has set aside $60,000 for professional services this year. Production and photography also have been cut in half this year to $3,000.

Skip Wood, chairman of the committee of 100, said RJI had had a great partnership with the city and county governments, the EDC and community at large in telling Rowan’s story.

The future of the program depends on that partnership continuing, Wood said.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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