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Marketing recommended to grow Med Tech economy

JEFF KEELING and COREY SHOUN • Feb 9, 2007 at 10:09 AM

JOHNSON CITY - Thanks to its strengths in health care, local leadership and quality of life, Johnson City is a "diamond in the rough" that needs some polishing, in the form of effective marketing, to reach its full potential for economic growth.

The fifth objective of a Med Tech economic development plan commissioned by local leaders centers around marketing and "branding" both the Johnson City area in general and the Med Tech economy in particular. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the plan places heavy emphasis on Internet-based publicity and marketing.

The Market Street Services report says leaders must coordinate and beef up Med Tech marketing and upgrade economic development Web sites. It adds that "despite its strengths the community has not experienced an economic boom or significant population influx in decades."

The report references a "New Economy" and states that this area has lacked a "comprehensive, coordinated effort" to promote itself as a competitive place for business in that New Economy. Various online references to "New Economy" mention a "knowledge-based" system and emphasize the importance of learning, flexibility, innovation and production.

Without an organized structure to implement the original 1993 Med Tech Corridor plan, Market Street Services says, a clear marketing approach for the corridor never developed and even local community awareness has suffered as a result.

"If awareness about this initiative is this poor within the community, it will continue to be an uphill battle to sell the concept to those outside of the Tri-Cities region," the report states.

The importance of good Web sites has been rising fast in the estimation of CEOs and site selection consultants as they look to relocate companies, and Market Street Services suggests upgrading and coordinating local Web sites. Some important factors to work on include ease of navigation, raising the community profile and providing accurate, current data.

Some specific suggestions include providing updated information, in downloadable formats, on business costs, quality of life, work force statistics and "industry clusters." Additionally, the Internet should be a forum to promote successes and news stories that promote the Med Tech economy.

At present, the report says, "local efforts of industrial recruitment do not fully meet the needs of Johnson City's Med Tech business community." Injecting the Med Tech focus into overall economic recruitment will require a clear plan, and an organization responsible for implementation.

Beyond the realm of the Internet, the report suggests a united front among the Economic Development Board, Chamber of Commerce, Development Authority and other stakeholders to maximize marketing power. Once the Med Tech "marketing message" is determined, it should be displayed on banners, signs and other noticeable media.

In Market Street Services' implementation plan, a timetable suggests tapping one economic development group with the task of effectively marketing the area's Med Tech assets within the first year. In the second year, a marketing strategy should be developed and implemented, and the EDB's Web site should be revised to be "modern and dynamic."

The key to making the marketing approach work, as well as the other objectives mentioned in articles earlier this week, will lie in how leaders choose to implement their plans. The Market Street Services report follows its economic plan with options for "governance structure," funding mechanisms, a timetable and specific benchmarks for success.

The Med Tech Task Force will publicly unveil the Market Street Services report on Tuesday at the Centre at Millennium Park.

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