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Rowan County commissioners vote to fund marketing initiative

SALISBURY — On Monday, the Board of Commissioners agreed that Rowan County has a positive story that needs telling.

What took some discussion was how and through whom the $80,000 task would be financed, with the Rowan County Economic Development Commission eventually approved to act as the campaign’s fiscal agent.

The discussion followed a February presentation and proposal to the county from a group called the Growing Rowan Marketing Initiative. The group of county residents and professionals wanted to paint a more positive image of the community across digital and social media.

Currently, top web searches for county resources bring up old and outdated information, said commissioners Chairman Greg Edds. He said it is time to do something about it.

“Do we have a right as a community to talk about the good things that are going on? Most of us believe the answer is yes,” Edds said. “… Organizations, counties, municipalities all across the United States market themselves. This is not ground-breaking.”

No commissioners would contest Edds’ statement, though Commissioner Craig Pierce said that allocating more money to the Economic Development Commission “makes no sense.”

He said the organization has an existing fund balance that could easily cover the proposed costs.

“If you’ve got $150,000 of taxpayer dollars already which you haven’t spent, why do you need some more?” asked Pierce. “If it’s going to be part of your organization and you’ve got the money, why aren’t you funding it? Why are you asking us to give another $80,000 when you’re sitting on twice that much money?”

Mike Miller of the Miller Davis Agency answered Pierce’s question.

“Mr. Pierce, the target audience for this isn’t to recruit business,” said Miller. “… The EDC’s function, as it’s set forth, is to recruit companies and businesses here. This is to recruit people and families here.”

There would be no overlap of services, he said.

Rod Crider, president of the Economic Development Commission, said County Manager Aaron Church and County Attorney Jay Deese advised financing the task through his organization. This would get the process moving through an established entity rather than “a nonprofit group that really has no organizational standing,” he said.

Miller said the Growing Rowan marketing effort will bring together many facets of the area: arts, tourism, education, businesses and more, each working to share the other’s message of good work and forward motion.

The focus would be on social media and digital marketing, he said: the “biggest bang for the buck.”

“On average, it costs $2.50 per 1,000 (impressions) to get your message in front of somebody when it comes to digital and social media marketing,” he said.

By comparison, he said television advertisements average $28 per 1,000 and radio, $18 per $1,000.

The proposed $80,000 will be spent on things like brand strategy and development, digital asset development, digital media placement, public relations, and administration and accounting services, said Miller. He said it will also provide for research, coordination and content development.

With a more defined budget, the commissioners approved the allocation of funds to be handled through the Economic Development Commission as proposed.

“As far as advertising, I really agree that we do need to do this,” said Commissioner Judy Klusman. “The return on investment, I think, is going to be incredible when people finally start to see those numbers.  Personally, I think this is something that we can’t ‘not’ do.”

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