April 15, 2014. AdvantageWest, the regional economic development organization serving Western North Carolina, announces the launch of a new website, AdvantageWest.com, with features targeting the unique needs and interests of an array of users, from site selectors and advanced manufacturers to entrepreneurs, food producers, natural product companies, and filmmakers.
Featuring responsive, mobile-friendly design, the new site serves as a platform for showcasing the strategic advantages of doing business in the western part of the state, while also providing a sense of the region’s beauty, culture, and tradition of innovation.
“AdvantageWest’s program of work focuses on the region’s unique economic drivers of advanced manufacturing, entrepreneurial funding and development, filmmaking, and agribusiness,” says Scott T. Hamilton, president and CEO of the nonprofit organization. “We have designed this website so that anyone associated with those industry segments will find essential information to help them achieve business success here in the mountains.”
With information from around the world available at the touch of a button, it is critical that economic development organizations such as AdvantageWest have a robust and information-rich website, says Hamilton, adding that portions of the site can be translated to Spanish, German, Mandarin and Japanese.
“In many ways, this website is the gateway to our 23-county region for businesses seeking to expand or relocate. By understanding the unique needs of the industry segments we target, we believe that with this website we have created a competitive advantage for Western North Carolina.”
FEATURES AND BENEFITS OF THE NEW ADVANTAGEWEST WEBSITE, ADVANTAGEWEST.COM
The new AdvantageWest website is divided into distinct sections designed to appeal to the unique needs and interests of AdvantageWest’s focus areas:
Section: Site Selection
Focus Area: Advanced Manufacturing
Target Audience: Site selectors and community economic developers
One goal of the Site Selection section of AdvantageWest.com is to serve as the first stop for a company wishing to expand or relocate to the region. “Collectively, our economic developers at AdvantageWest have worked for decades with site selectors from around the world,” says AdvantageWest President & CEO Scott T. Hamilton. “We know what they’re looking for: information oninfrastructure, transportation systems, incentives, the workforce, and of course, available properties. All of this is available quickly and easily, in one location, at the click of a button.”
The website includes profile pages of the 23 counties in the AdvantageWest region and an interactive map of the region with optional layers to illustrate broadband infrastructure, airports, railroads, colleges and universities, hospitals, and even state and national parks.
Section: Entrepreneurship/BREC (Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council)
Focus Area: Entrepreneurial Funding & Development
Target Audience: Entrepreneurs and investors
A unique feature businesses will find in the BREC (Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council) section at AdvantageWest.com is a tool called eLaunch, which helps connect the region’s entrepreneurs to essential resources. This service – never before available in one online location – assembles information for entrepreneurs and small businesses seeking, for example, access to capital, assistance with prototyping a new product, or networking opportunities in the region. The database is searchable by industry segment as well as location, such as county.
Another interactive tool, BRAIN-Online, is an easy-to-use, web-based platform that connects accredited members of Blue Ridge Angel Investors Network with high-potential startups in Western North Carolina.
“We are tremendously proud and excited about developing and offering these new online tools,” says Hamilton. “Our entrepreneurial funding and development initiative, Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council, has long been recognized for connecting entrepreneurs with essential resources. Both eLaunch and BRAIN-Online take those efforts to a higher level. The speed and ease of use will help BREC serve more Western North Carolina entrepreneurs each year.”
Section: Western North Carolina Film Commission
Focus Area: Filmmaking
Target Audience: Film Industry
“Whether you’re a major motion picture studio, a TV director or documentarian, a commercial photographer, or a music video producer, one of your biggest needs is the perfect location for your project,” says Hamilton. “Our website allows you to search our Reel-Scout™ database, which covers the entire 23-county region. And if you have a business or private location that you’d like toadd to our locations database, there’s a place to do that as well.”
The film section also provides information on crew support, incentives and permitting as well as ongoing updates on casting calls and events, such as film festivals and special screenings. An extensive list of films and other projects shot in Western North Carolina is also available on the site.
Section: Blue Ridge Food Ventures
Focus Area: Agribusiness
Target Audience: Food and natural product entrepreneurs and small-batch producers
So, you have Grandma’s secret recipe for spaghetti sauce. Friends say you should take it to market. But where do you start? Can your big idea become a viable business?
“That’s just the first of many, many questions that aspiring food and natural product entrepreneurs have when they approach Blue Ridge Food Ventures,” says Chris Reedy, executive director of the 11,000-square-foot agribusiness incubator and shared-use production facility started by AdvantageWest. Other concerns include insurance, licensing, packaging, nutrition labeling, and compliance with the complicated maze of federal, state and local regulations.
“Our new website aims to answer those questions up front, providing information to help potential startups understand the unique requirements of a food or natural products business before they even walk through the door,” Reedy says.
For would-be Blue Ridge Food Ventures clients and consumers alike, there’s also a list of some of the products made at the facility, currently or in the past. “People are always surprised to learn that some of their favorite artisan food and natural products, caterers, and food trucks use our facility,” says Reedy.
Already the website has attracted the attention of several businesses across the country that are seeking co-packing facilities. “Because we are a unique resource, Blue Ridge Food Ventures has always drawn interest from outside of the region. But it’s already clear that the new website will bring even more business to Western North Carolina,” says Reedy.
Other AdvantageWest.com features
Even if you’re not a filmmaker, food producer, entrepreneur or economic developer, there’s something of interest at AdvantageWest.com.
The site addresses quality of life in Western North Carolina, with an overview of the region’s colleges and universities, healthcare institutions, cultural offerings, and more. There’s also a section on AdvantageWest’s efforts to build the green economy in the region.
“AdvantageWest’s events e-newsletter is one of our most popular communication tools. Our new online Event Calendar augments our regular e-newsletter, providing information for months ahead,” says Hamilton. “We hope visitors to our news site – whether from within our 23 counties or halfway around the world – will find valuable information that will lead to improved economic wellbeing in Western North Carolina.