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Posted August 8, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Web tools will get a hard look from EDC

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Social networking could draw new businesses and help the local economy.

Just don't expect to see the Winchester-Frederick County Economic Development Commission on Twitter.

"There's a lot of other EDOs and economic development groups that are doing it," said Patrick Barker, the EDC's executive director. "Clearly a lot of people are already knee-deep into the social media outlet."

EDC staff discussed the best ways to get their "arms around" the issue and also attended an all-day webinar on social media tools, Barker said.

"It can become a very time-intensive operation and we didn't want that to be the focus," he said. "Our biggest marketing tool is our Web site, so we were sort of looking at what part of social media can enhance people getting to our Web site."

Free tools such as SlideShare, LinkedIn and Picasa can do just that, Barker said. SlideShare allows users to share presentation files such as Powerpoint. LinkedIn is a social networking site geared toward professionals. The EDC also may look at using YouTube, blogging and RSS feeds.

EDC staff opted against using tools like Twitter and Facebook because they would require too much time and resources, Barker said.

The EDC plans to use social media to create more awareness of the community for its target audience of developers and corporations as well as for its future work force, Barker said.

"So many of our young professionals, this is their go-to device for understanding what's going on out there," Barker said.

The EDC would monitor the sites over the next year, he said. For less important sites, the group would shift its resources to other areas, he said.

"But currently this has some strong potential to be an additional communication portal for us for the folks we need to talk to about potential business relocations and potential new expansions," Barker said.

The EDC remains steady in terms of business inquiries, Barker said, and the agency is "right in line" with activity it saw a year ago.

Expansions are going well, he said, while relocation activity has been "very positive." This week, Barker said two businesses revisited the area and the EDC was alerted to two new expansions.

"Not characteristic of every week, but obviously a real positive sign," Barker said.

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