This project won an Award of Excellence for Best Business and Investment Attraction Strategy in the Small Community/Region category at the Economic Developers Alberta awards ceremony on April 9, 2015.
The County of Grande Prairie’s Economic Development department approached nine10 to help coordinate a new national and international campaign to promote economic development in the County and wider Peace Region. The project involved several challenges:
- Educating potential investors and site selectors about the unique opportunities in the County
- Placing the County “on the map” for potential investors who potentially knew nothing about the region before engaging with the campaign
- Sharing the County’s real stories and images in engaging ways
- Dispelling myths about the region’s apparent remoteness or lack of amenities and modern conveniences
- Focusing the narrative on the County’s four core industries of Commerce, Energy, Forestry, and Agriculture
- Communicating the quality of life appeal of living and working in the County
Working closely with the County’s Economic Development officer, nine10 helped to develop a campaign to promote the County as a regional hub servicing large areas of Northern Alberta, B.C., and the Territories. The region is economically very strong, maintaining this status even through the 2008 recession. The amount of opportunities for business here are disproportional to the size and placement of the region. In fact, Grande Prairie was ranked the Entrepreneurial Capital of Canada for three years running by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), winning over cities like Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto.
However, for many potential investors and site selectors, the region was not yet on the map. Research revealed that those uneducated about the region and its economic benefits would often dismiss it as being “in the middle of nowhere,” and look to larger, more familiar centers to set up shop.We knew this could not be further from the truth, yet, it was the most damaging perception the County had to overcome to attract more business here.
Developing the Strategy
The best way to address the problem is simply to attack it head-on. Built on the concept that life in the County is as dynamic as any other modern community, and highlighting the many transportation networks connecting the region to the wider world, the campaign’s theme became “Middle of Everywhere.”
Several strategies were taken to overcome apparent myths and educate prospective investors about the region’s opportunities:
- Acknowledging that the national and international audience would struggle to know much about the County, maps and engaging infographics became a central pillar of the campaign.
- Addressing the need to stand out in often overcrowded contexts of economic development conferences and other settings, a very strong visual identity was embraced so that the County’s ED materials would be easily recognizable.
- Knowing that investors and site selectors require impartial information, third-party experts were commissioned to provide supporting documentation and research.
- Understanding that the next steps toward a meaningful exploration of investment opportunities involve direct relationships, specific calls to action were developed to encourage the audience to connect with the County and the EDO personally.
Creating the Logo
nine10 wanted to the logo to symbolically represent:
- A middle, or a center, to correlate with the Middle of Everywhere theme
- Economic activity (import, export, money in, money out)
- The idea of direction, of a compass
After exploring a number of concepts for the logo, we arrived at the arrow icon. The inward and outward arrows of the icon represent the inputs and outputs of a thriving economy. The arrows also highlight the “Middle of Everywhere” theme.
The outward arrows represent exports and production. In another context, you can see them as the growth and expansion of our region and the businesses and communities contained within.
In the negative space you will find arrows pointing inwards, representing imports and raw materials. It can also be viewed as an influx of investors, activity and families into our region.
The icon is a symbol of being central, or “in the middle”; it is a hub, connector, or a prime target for site selectors.
Each corner of the icon represents one of the pillar industries in our region: Energy, Agriculture, Forestry and Commercial.
Several print pieces were created to tell this story, including a large overview booklet to highlight the quality of life and work in the region. Each of the four key industries was also highlighted in short, punchy one-pager brochures, perfect for handout in tradeshow contexts or as part of customized info packages.
Since the County’s ED goals focus on increasing commercial development, a longer, more detailed brochure was created to highlight the commercial development opportunities in the County.
Advertising in targeted publications, such as trade and investment magazines, allow the campaign to target specific audiences in the ED world.
Customized Info Packages
Packaging materials were developed so that information packages could be customized to the client and presented in contained folders. Custom USB cards were developed to provide additional background documents and custom info packets, such as up-to-thedate site selection maps, third-party reports, videos, photos, etc.
Recognizing the need for an independent online resource to provide a strong Economic Development overview, nine10 built a custom website focused on the County’s ED strengths and core industries. The site is built to modern web standards providing a powerful experience from mobile to desktop. The site features strong photo, video and infographic assets, and provides several accessible resources for potential investors. It is structured to encourage easy contact between potential investors and the County’s ED department. The website can be viewed at middleofeverywhere.ca.
Photo / Video
Recognizing the need to show, rather than tell, about life in the region, a strong emphasis was placed on original photo and video assets that mix images of landscapes, rural and urban living, as well as working in and around the region. Harnessing the power of the County’s long-running annual photo contest, dozens of images have made their way into the materials taken by real County residents.
Five custom videos were also produced by Mike Reeves of Grande Prairie’s Velocity Video as part of this campaign. These assets are presented prominently in the website and via distribution on custom USB sticks.
Though the campaign is relatively new, early results have been very promising, with positive feedback from both industry peers and investors. On April 9, this project won an Award of Excellence for Best Business and Investment Attraction Strategy in the Small Community/Region category from the Economic Developers Alberta. In addition, the new materials have been driving interest and generating leads in excess of expectations. With a solid foundation in place, the next steps include promotion of the existing materials across various mediums to spread the word.