SWED unveils new branding effort to lure businesses

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Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development Inc. is increasing its public brand presence as businesspeople and taxpayers demand greater efforts toward growing the local economy.

For more than 40 years, SWED has been the community’s economic development entity and has been financed by governmental and business contributions.

The group’s successes and prospects became political fodder in last year’s County Executive race, with newly seated County Executive Bob Culver seeking to create an economic office of his own.

SWED has launched a new website at swed.org, replacing the previous, somewhat clunky, site with a trendy presentation that places the Salisbury business community in a most positive light.

“With all organizations, you have to look at yourself and ask: Are branding yourself properly? Are you changing with the times? Are you meeting the needs that are out there in the community?” said John Allen, the Delmarva Power regional vice president who chairs SWED’s board.

SWED has been headed for more than 20 years by its Executive Director, Dave Ryan, a Salisbury native who has worked not only to attract new businesses, but to retain the ones that are here.

“Dave does a tremendous job,” said Allen. “Now we are reaching out further, trying to broaden the scope branching out, trying to grow the reach of SWED ─ not only to help businesses that want to start here but to help businesses to stay here.

“With the economy on an upturn, Dave’s work is going to be even more integral in getting businesses to come here and helping businesses to stay here.”

“Success Comes A Little Easier Here” is the title of a video SWED produced to tout the business environment amenities that exist in Salisbury and Wicomico County.

The presentation contains an all-star cast of successful business leaders who represent the immediate potential and future of local economic growth.

Kevin Bernstein of LWRC International, whose family launched the local microwave components field in Salisbury 40 years ago through K&L Microwave, speaks at length about what makes the community special.

“It’s not just the beaches and the water, it’s the quality of life,” he says in the video.

Then, switching to business, he says: “We see future growth in all of our product lines. As we look at ramping up operations, we look at the stability and quality of our workforce. That lets us invest in local people and know that we can grow together with them.”

John Knorr of Southern Boys Concepts, the proprietors of Evolution Craft Brewing Company and a string of popular restaurants, praises the workforce as well as the customer base. He and his brother, Tom Knorr, have grown their micro-brewery to a major operation in just the last decade.

Michael Barnas, vice president of AH Pharma Inc., discusses the support his large agricultural company has received.

Representing the small start-ups is Amanda Weaver, a photographer who specializes in weddings and has become an advocate for all things Downtown Salisbury, says on the video that the local spirit is a plus.

“That sense of community over competition; because when one of us thrives, we all thrive,” she tells the camera.

The video ends on a smile-inducing note with Salisbury Mayor Jake Day, County Executive Bob Culver and Delmarva Power’s Allen, saying the words “Salisbury-Wicomico-Economic-Development.”

Allen, wearing his trademark bow tie in the video, said recently on “One on One” on PAC 14 that the website and video were needed.

“When folks are looking at websites now, they want something that’s interactive. Videos are important to have on websites. In formulating the plan for the new website, the video was important,” he said.

He added that what he likes most about the presentation is that the participants “share from the heart.”

Allen said SWED isn’t seeking to compete with County Executive Culver’s goals for growing local business.

“(SWED and the county) do work together and we have. We are supported by the county,” Allen said. “Again, the message becomes, how do we do what we do ─ and do it better? A lot of times we’ve suffered by being in the background and not really touting what SWED does, because we do things methodically and without a lot of fanfare.

“Then people begin to question what you do: ‘What are you doing? I don’t hear a lot about what you’re doing,’ ─ that’s where the new branding campaign will help,” he said.

“With the county executive and the governor being on posters (together) and saying ‘We’re open for business,’ that shows it is truly a collaborative effort. We have to work together. We have to do a better job of communicating our efforts.”

Dave Ryan said he supports the collaboration.

“We don’t operate in a silo. We seek partnerships throughout the community, throughout the state of Maryland, and the country,” he said in an interview on “Chamber Chat” on PAC 14. “We have a small organization, but our wingspan is fairly broad, thanks to those partnerships.”

Ryan said Salisbury is a breeding ground for entrepreneurship.

“If there ever was an entrepreneurial community, it’s Salisbury,” Ryan said.

“All four schools of Salisbury University are endowed by a private individual or an entrepreneur. Think of the microwave sector that grew: We can trace the roots of that right back to the founding of K&L Microwave, they were a start-up company. Think of the spin-offs from the founding of Perdue Farms in 1920.”

Ryan said that spirit is revealed through the many business plan competitions held annually at SU. “There are hundreds of business plans being discussed and tested and debated,” he said. “Even ‘Shark Tank’ has been here the last two years.”

Ryan said the community is his most important selling point.

“It’s all about the fabric of community,” he said. “That’s what makes us special. Let’s create an environment where people want to live. Let’s create a community where people want to work.”

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