Rural Communities Turn to New Media, Entrepreneurism to Survive
Local First Arizona Foundation received funding on July 29th, 2010, from the Arizona Commerce Authority’s AZ Mainstreet Program to design and deliver technology seminars to local, independent businesses in Florence, Safford and Nogales. In less than nine weeks, over 108 businesses have participated in seminars on Social Media, e-Marketing, website development and optimization as well as the business value of QuickBooks. Local First Arizona Foundation Director Kimber Lanning states: “The businesses are beginning to use social media and e-marketing initiatives to promote their business district as a community, rather than merely promoting his or her own business individually.”
In the two-phase program, Local First Arizona Foundation first asked each of the community’s businesses to identify their specific needs, and then they developed and delivered seminars based on the results of the survey and focus groups. Florence business owners expressed interest in website development, e-Commerce, e-Marketing and QuickBooks. “These workshops are providing businesses with a good overview of how they can use technology to stay competitive,” states Jennifer Evans, Manager of the Florence Main Street Program. “Today, having a web presence and using social media are the norm rather than the exception.”
The locally owned businesses in Nogales chose to focus on using technology to become more competitive with the ‘big box’ stores in their community. They wanted to use technology – in their case, text messaging – to inform their customers instantly of sale promotions and special events.
According to Kimber Lanning, Director of Local First Arizona Foundation, “This program was valuable to these Main Street Communities and rewarding to our team. The mission of the Foundation is to improve Arizona communities. In our seminars, we introduced each of the communities to our sister organization Local First Arizona and encouraged them to join to take advantage of our statewide initiative to promote locally owned Arizona businesses.
In the words of Tammy Mayhew, a Safford business owner, “Who would have thought that the Manor House Restaurant, which has been here since 1953, would ever have a Facebook page? Well, now we do, and we already have over 120 friends and we love the interaction with our customers and community. It gave us a whole new way to market our business and stay in touch with our customers, even when they are not in our facility.”
The grant money from the USDA Rural Development Office was awarded to the Arizona Commerce Authority’s Main Street Program in July 2009. Over 14 Arizona communities are accredited and receive direct assistance from the Main Street Program. These communities are essential to the continued development and creation of new jobs in their locales.
To learn more about the Local First Arizona Foundation visit http://localfirstazfoundation.org/