Posted: September 09, 2019 by Kelly Murphy-Redd
What Do Companies See When They Land In Your Community?
First Impressions Matter.

A site selector or a CEO of the company, who has your community on the short list for relocation, is arriving soon to explore your community. What do they see when they arrive? Have you looked at your community through their objective, tough and appraising eyes?

The first thing they probably see is the airport in which they land. Okaloosa County’s airport is attractive, clean and easy to navigate. It’s certainly not the largest airport you will ever travel through, but it makes a good impression. There are airports that do not.

Our EDC will have made arrangements to meet the visitors and plan a comprehensive visit that includes site visits and meetings with pertinent stakeholders such as utility representatives, CareerSource Okaloosa Walton, education representatives, etc.

When our visitors leave the airport, they can go directly to one of our nine municipalities. What are the roads like? What is the traffic like? The traffic would depend on the time of day and the destination. When they arrive at their destination, what is the overall impression? Is there a well-designed, professional, welcoming sign that is actually visible?

What are the first buildings seen? Are they older, rundown and in need of updating? Are the parking lots pitted with potholes? The landscaping should be professionally installed and maintained in an attractive manner. Are there weeds growing up everywhere on the right of ways and medians?
When you drive into town, does it look like the businesses care about their image and the overall image of the community? A coat of paint does wonders for a building. Landscaping makes a huge difference. There are many buildings that do look rundown with weeds in front and a hodgepodge of signage.

Signage in a community is important. Many communities have sign ordinances that are supposed to keep a community from looking cluttered and trashy. So many businesses today are playing the “I have more signs than you” game. Another banner and tacking more and more signs to your building doesn’t really help you. It just clutters the area and customers are overwhelmed with all the “noise.” Our visitors probably see an overall mess of shapes, words and images.

Many visitors will want to see the industrial park in Fort Walton Beach. Our EDC has been working with the City of Fort Walton Beach to upgrade and update the park. It has been sliding into an overall look of neglect. Our EDC and the City previously enlisted the support of a consultant to determine the issues and the best course of action. The tenants of the park have been meeting and are cooperating with each other to bring the park back to a condition where they can be proud to reside there and proud to show the park to potential companies seeking relocation.

Everyone needs to think of their part in presenting the community in a good light. Okaloosa County cities need to remember they are functioning as gateways into the county. Each “entrance” into each city needs to portray a pride and vibrancy that will make a lasting first impression.

Maintaining our buildings and landscapes is a form of pride and respect for the community. We each function as ambassadors for our community. This self-respect and community pride will translate into more jobs and more customers for all.