Saturday, November 14, 2009

Upstate group hopes to triple visits from economic development prospects

By Mike Ellis
Friday, November 13, 2009

ANDERSON — Hal Johnson III thinks that by 2015 his marketing organization can triple the number of economic development prospects that visit the 10-county Upstate region each year.

“Actually I’ll be extremely disappointed if we only have 120 prospects coming in per year,” said Johnson, the president and chief executive of Upstate Alliance.

The reason he is expecting such a dramatic increase is today’s roll-out of a targeted industry study that identifies the most likely types of companies that would locate in the area. About 150 business and community leaders came to Tri-County Technical College to hear about the proposal.

“This is the most targeted marketing strategy in the world for marketing agencies,” Johnson said.

Advanced materials, automotive, biosciences and the energy sector are the four target industries that Johnson’s organization has identified as a result of the study.

South Carolina Commerce Department Secretary Joe Taylor was in Anderson on Monday at a meeting with county economic development and real estate officials. He said target market studies were a waste of resources and he would advise economic developers to pursue “anyone who is breathing and has a driver’s license.”

When asked about that, Johnson said his group’s study narrowed down a small number of industries so that targeted Web sites and individualized messages could be made. But Johnson said the core message of the study is to build awareness of the region.

Burriss Nelson, Anderson County’s interim economic development director, said the study would help him identify specific companies to go after.

“There’s some stuff already on the radar screen, things we may have some contacts with already,” Nelson said.

He also said Anderson County has 11,000 unemployed people so his staff is doing everything it can to bring in any type of company.

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