Local News: Linton updated on business development (7/11/17)

The Linton City Council received an update on its marketing campaign.

Linton Mayor Wilkes said Kristy Lewellyn has been hired to focus on the city’s business development and marketing as an independent contractor.

“With the (city’s) comprehensive plan, that was one of the things they suggested. One of the plans was that we needed a business development coordinator,” Wilkes said. “I’ve been trying to follow the plan the city has.”

Among the top priorities have been tearing down the old GE building — which has been completed, as well as get an industrial park started, deal with sidewalk issues and work with the flooding issues — all of which are in the works.

“And this business development coordinator is one of the things I think we need,” Wilkes said. “I think Linton has a unique opportunity if we continue to promote what we are doing, and that’s why I have hired Kristy Lewellyn.”

Lewellyn addressed the council, provided five key areas of focus she has while serving the city 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Her priority has been promote the city, attractions and efforts throughout the region and state utilizing online resources.

“These are the five areas of focus the experts — the city planning experts, the economic development experts — told us we absolutely have to do if Linton is to move forward and progress,” Lewellyn explained.

Lewellyn said her first area of focus was search engine optimization. Essentially, the goal was to make good news and positive information about the City of Linton one of the first hits when you search for Linton, Ind.

When she first came on as the business development coordinator, the first pages of a search were saturated with negativity, so she began pushing positive content to bury the negative, she explained.

“I finally found the City of Linton’s website 285 listings down,” Lewellyn explained.

Now, one of the top hits when searching for Linton online is the city’s website. Lewellyn noted she monitors the search optimization daily.

The second area of focus is content marketing.

“That’s basically creating editorial material. It’s kind of like advertising, but people don’t realize you’re advertising because what you put out there is positive, it’s beautiful, it’s good-feeling. It’s good community vibes you’re putting out there, and that helps create a brand,” Lewellyn said.

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Lewellyn credited this push for helping the city be recognized as one of the Top 10 places to live in 2015.

“That’s only because we started getting noticed, and everything we started putting out there was positive,” Lewellyn said.

She said this year from June 5 to July 5, Linton’s Facebook pages had more than 87,000 views, which does not include the views of content shared to other pages across social media. When content is shared to social media, Lewellyn said oftentimes it is picked up by groups and news organizations from around the state. She noted she also uses community calendars and other social media platforms.

“I spend time making sure there is enough content out there with the word ‘Linton’ that we stay relevant and at the top of the search engines … When you do enough content marketing, the perceived value of the location goes up and the value of the people goes up,” Lewellyn said.

Lewellyn said she also focuses on business development, which includes monitoring state and local trends, as well as contacting businesses almost daily.

She explained site locators for businesses looking to relocate or expand throughout the area utilize online resources to locate available sites. Among recent success, Lewellyn noted, was bringing Huckleberry Hill Winery and ProMark Solutions into the city, as the businesses were able to search for the city to find it would be a good fit for them.

In addition, Lewellyn said she has been working to reach out to local businesses to get a better understanding of what the city needs.

“In the last two months, I’ve contacted 180 businesses in the region. These range from 5,000 employees to mom-and-pop pizzerias and said, ‘What’s needed in the area? What’s happening with your business?’ Because of doing that, it led to dealing with workforce development,” Lewellyn said.

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Business development led to her coordination in the area of workforce development and training, she explained.

“I attend a lot of meetings, study the trends, meet with training facilities, visit training facilities, to find out what can we get for training right here in Linton? A lot of our young kids can’t drive an hour to vocational school. Can we bring them here?” Lewellyn said.

In an effort to make the answer to that question a yes, she said she is in talks with Ivy Tech Community College, the Battery Innovation Center and Radius Indiana to bring those opportunities into the city, while coordinating with the mayor.

The fifth area Lewellyn said she has been focused on is being available all day, every day to post announcements about the happenings within the city.

“Whether it’s a safety issue for the residents, if it’s with the utilities, I’m contacted and told to put this out there,” Lewellyn explained.

Lewellyn said the city has already seen results, including increased revenue. She used Sunset Park as an example, noting recently it was at full capacity. When people stay in the area, often times they are fueling up and eating in the area too. She has also seen the social media push bring people from all over the state to local attractions, such as Redbird State Recreational Area.

“With mom-and-pop businesses, 58 to 60 cents per dollar spent stays in the community. This keeps local dollars here,” Lewellyn said.

City council member Linda Bedwell expressed some concern about tasks which could be handled by city employee Sue McDonald, such as details about work orders or building rental. Dale Knotts noted a city employee wouldn’t be available at midnight to answer questions which flow in via social media.

“I talk to Sue several times a day,” Lewellyn noted.

Mayor Wilkes stressed social media is here to stay and is currently the best way to keep the city’s name in the light.

“The enthusiasm she (Lewellyn) has is what we need,” Wilkes said.

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