Project: Economic development marketing program for Vidin
C a s e S t u d y
Economic development marketing program for Vidin
The Bulgarian Technical Twinning Program has allowed the municipality of Vidin, Bulgaria, and the city of West Carrollton, Ohio, USA to work together on economic development projects in Vidin. As a result of this partnership, we have initiated the following economic development projects:
n Creation of an Economic Development Marketing Program for the municipality of Vidin.
n Development of an industrial park for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
n Support of business exchanges between Vidin and the Dayton Metropolitan Region, Ohio, USA.
These projects are important to Vidin's future because of the ongoing economic restructuring in Vidin and Bulgaria. This case study describes the first of these economic development projects: the creation of a marketing program that will promote Vidin's potential as a good place to live and do business.
The municipality of Vidin faces a high level of unemployment (25%). Vidachim, a large chemi cal and tire factory, closed two years ago, leaving almost 5,000 employees without jobs. In addition, Vidin has suffered significant negative economic impacts as a result of the conflicts in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Serbia, located 30 kilometers (20 miles) to the west, was a significant trading partner. The general economic restructuring in Bulgaria has also reduced revenues and opportunity for economic growth for Vidin's citizens.
As a result, there has been significant outmigration of Vidin's workforce and increase in social tensions among citizens. We need to attract outside investment to the Vidin region to provide work for our citizens, and to provide tax revenues to fund local government operations.
Before undertaking the Economic Development Marking Program, Vidin had general market ing information about the municipality but lacked marketing information specifically targeted to respond quickly and effectively to potential investors. We also needed to be proactive in our marketing to raise the visibility of Vidin as a good place to establish a business. A major new bridge crossing of the Danube River is expected to be built within the next few years, which will provide a road and railroad connection between Western Europe and the East. Vidin is strategically located along this trade corridor, and has an opportunity to market itself globally as a manufacturing and distribution center.
As part of the Economic Development Marketing Program, we developed our business Web site in close cooperation with our West Carrollton partners. Mariela Valkova, Head of the Department of Regional Development and Public Policy and Vidin's Coordinator for the Twinning Program; Evgenija Nacheva, Head of the Vidin Mayor's Office; and David Humphreys, Director of Planning and Economic Development, West Carrollton, lead the team working on Vidin's Web site. After discussing the goals, our partners proposed a draft outline for the Web site. West Carrollton's Economic Development and Planning Director, David Humphreys, studied approximately 50 Web sites in the Dayton area as a basis for the proposed outline.
Through a series of meetings conducted during visits to Bulgaria and the United States, the team gathered information that would later be useful in preparing the Internet-based and print marketing material. The Vidin teams met with representatives from the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce; the Montgomery County, Ohio, Economic Development Depart ment; the Dayton Regional Development Alliance; the Ohio Department of Development, the U.S. Commercial Service; the Dayton Small Business Development Center, and economic development officials from various municipalities in the Dayton area. Bill Murphy, Vice President of Marketing for the Dayton Regional Development Alliance, accompanied the West Carrollton team to Vidin to advise on the preparation of marketing materials.
The design of Vidin's Web site incorporated the following considerations:
n The site's main goal is to be user friendly, so that business representatives can get all the information they need while sitting in their offices.
n The site allows the user to establish all needed contacts online, as well as to specify an agenda and arrange for accommodations during their stay in Vidin.
n The Web site is in both Bulgarian and English and includes business information on transportation networks, proximity to larger Bulgarian and European cities, population, energy distribution (prices and infrastructure), telecommunications, water and sewer (prices), and wastewater treatment plants.
n The information-based site design provides summary information leading to increased detail.
n The site achieves fast access times by limited use of graphics and animation.
n The site is designed and maintained by a team of municipal employees, allowing for timely and inexpensive updates.
n West Carrollton's Web site now features a link to Vidin's business Web site.
n The site uses maps to illustrate Vidin's geographic location and proximity to major markets.
n The information on the Web site focuses on the appropriate infrastructure for water and for river and road transport, and on the construction of the bridge across the Danube.
n The site promotes the Danube border region of Vidin, Zaichar, and Kalafat, and the projects in this area that need funding.
n The site presents the following information on the municipal economy: major employers (in table format), contacts for some municipal companies and links to the sites of others, and available lots and agricultural lands located along the E-79 international highway and European highways No. 4 and No. 7.
The Vidin-West Carrollton Twinning Partnership has been on a fast-track schedule. In just over a year the two teams met, oriented themselves to the economic development issues, agreed on a plan of action, created a business Web site in both Bulgarian and English, developed a printed marketing profile, and completed one of the business exchanges. Some of the more important tasks involved in creating the Web site were:
n April-May 2001: Study Web sites and printed marketing materials in the Dayton area
n May-June 2001: Design the Web site
n June-July 2001: Collect information, including an inventory of municipal lots and buildings
n July 2001: Discuss the Web site design
n July-September 2001: Review and revise Web site information
n September-November 2001: Develop the Web site
n September 2001: Include a section on Vidin in West Carrollton's Web site
n December 2001-January 2002: Do a final review of the Web site and upload it on the Internet
n May 2002: Produce a list of potential business users and promote the Web site.
As of this writing, the Vidin and West Carrollton teams still have two working exchanges planned, which will be used to firm up the methodology for driving investor attention to the Web site and effectively distribute the printed marketing material. It should also be noted that the work done as part of the Twinning Program is just the beginning of an ongoing marketing effort.
Even though the Web site has just been completed and has not yet been permanently posted for Internet access, a number of direct and indirect benefits of the Vidin Economic Development Marketing Program are already obvious:
n As a result of compiling the inventory of municipal sites and buildings for the Web site, Vidin staff is in a better position to respond quickly to investors with basic information about an individual site.
n The process of compiling the information and creating the Web site has led Vidin to focus on the most strategic sites to market.
n Vidin staff has gained valuable contacts and experience in networking with private businesses in the municipality.
n Vidin municipal staff has continued to build networking relationships with their economic development colleagues in national and regional organizations.
n As a result of the three visits to West Carrollton, Vidin has obtained a high level of visi bility in the Dayton metropolitan area, which may lead to further business exchanges and increased opportunities for economic development.
The marketing products that we produced under the Vidin Economic Development Marketing Program are ready for distribution. More work is needed to "drive" investor traffic to the new Web site. With these new marketing products, Vidin is well positioned to actively solicit new industrial development and respond to investor inquiries in a timely and effective manner, and thereby capitalize on the economic opportunities that will result from the ultimate con struction of the new Danube bridge.