Courier Staff Writer
The overhaul of the Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation’s website isn’t just about making it look nice, it’s to provide a comprehensive overview of Ottumwa for potential businesses.
OEDC’s website launched two months ago, but OEDC Executive Director David Barajas Jr. had been preparing for the redevelopment for more than a year. OEDC worked with Golden Shovel Agency, a website design and development company out of Little Falls, Minn.
“The big part of what we’re trying to do is that the website becomes the main marketing tool to retain and attract high-quality businesses to Ottumwa,” Barajas said.
When companies are looking for communities to settle down, they hire site selectors, who then go to economic development corporations to find the perfect fit.
“It was important for us, as we were putting this website together, to make sure we have the information on there that site selectors are looking for,” Barajas said.
People are looking for information that they can find right at their fingertips without a lot of digging, Barajas said, and their old website, which he called “cumbersome,” wasn’t equipped to respond so quickly.
“We had an abundance of information just all on one page,” said OEDC Initiative Manager Megan Framke of the previous OEDC website.
The website also provides site selectors the chance to look at available buildings and sites. OEDC — as well as communities across the state — uses LocationOne Information Systems (LOIS) to map the area.
“Instead of driving here, they can see where these sites are in reference to highways, to railroads, whatever is suitable for the business,” Framke said.
The Iowa Department of Economic Development uses LOIS to match companies with potential communities. Working with the state to map Ottumwa means they will better be able to find the best fit for potential companies.
“With websites in general, it’s only as good as you’re able to keep it up,” Barajas said. “Somebody can build a pretty website, but then it sits for months before it’s updated.”
The first time someone comes to a website and sees it’s updated on a regular basis, that’s sending a message to potential clients or companies that “we’ve got things together here,” Barajas said.
On the other hand, if a website is stale and not updated, it can send the wrong message about OEDC — and Ottumwa in general — to those companies, he said.
“The website is an opportunity to speak volumes about the way we do things here in Ottumwa,” he said.
Not only does OEDC want the website to attract businesses to Ottumwa, it wants to retain them by updating the website with quality of life issues.
In the future, Barajas would like to see business testimonials on the website, of small and large business owners discussing anything, from workforce to quality of life issues.
Framke said social media plays a huge role in attraction and retention as well.
“A lot of people use Facebook to stay in touch with what’s happening in Ottumwa,” Framke said, especially those who grew up in the area have since moved away.
With the 11 initiatives Barajas and Framke tackle every day, as well as attracting and retaining businesses, they have a lot on their plate.
“As we move forward with these initiatives, it’s important to have partners, because we can’t do this ourselves,” Barajas said of the five local companies who helped OEDC launch the website: MidAmerican Energy, Alliant Energy, Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, Cargill Meat Solutions and John Deere Ottumwa Works.
“We want to make sure the website is attractive to the eye, but more importantly that it will provide information to the audience this is for,” Barajas said. “It’s set up for site selectors, but also people looking at our community. An engineer or doctor who is deciding if they want to move their family here will come to our website.”
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