How To Attract & Grow Businesses like the Economic Development Corporation in Clay County

Whether you represent a well-established community in an already thriving area or work for an economic development group in a place that is up and coming, the business of attracting new business is hard. Toss in the additional work needed to help existing local businesses succeed and things can get really complicated–especially when you are working with limited resources and a team of two.

However, at its core, attracting new companies to set up shop in your city and, as result, spurring the local economy, may not be as complicated as you think. It simply requires a baseline understanding of the existing economic and demographic conditions, and the ability to easily share that information in context with the right people.

mySidewalk's Jill Applegate and Kylie Greischar interviewed Bill Garrison, President of the Clay County, Florida Economic Development Corporation, about how he is using mySidewalk to quickly access data and communicate insights to recruit new and support existing businesses in his community. Garrison is using data to inform and tell a story that promotes the benefits of growing a business in Clay County.

Use Data to Tell Your Story

As the President of the Clay County, Florida Economic Development Corporation, Bill Garrison has one goal: “To promote a high quality economy in Clay County, Florida.”

“And, I mean, that’s a simple statement. Obviously covers a lot of territory,” Garrison said. “But through various efforts — marketing, recruiting businesses, collaborating with universities for workforce development, all those various things fall under this big umbrella…and you can’t tell that story unless you have data, and this is where mySidewalk comes into play.”

The Power of Shareable Insights

Garrison says most of his data needs come in two forms.

First, Garrison must be responsive to requests for data and trend analysis from businesses in his community. He estimates that he gets 10 to 15 requests a year from businesses in the county wanting data concerning business and workforce trends.

“I get requests mostly from the healthcare sector,” Garrison said.

The new J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Women and Infants Pavilion opens at St. Vincent’s Clay County this August. Garrison is working to grow the local health care industry in Clay County and believes it is key to this community’s future economic development. (Source: Jacksonville.com)

The new J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Women and Infants Pavilion opens at St. Vincent’s Clay County this August. Garrison is working to grow the local health care industry in Clay County and believes it is key to this community’s future economic development. (Source: Jacksonville.com)

“We have a large healthcare sector here in Clay County–we have three hospitals. And what they’re looking for, most of them are looking for trend analysis. So, to validate their decision to put a new hospital or whatever it may be, they want to know the demographics to support it.”

Second, Garrison proactively recruits businesses that correspond to his population’s skill sets. He knows that if he can recruit the right businesses to Clay County, the workforce living there may not need to commute to Jacksonville for work. In order for Garrison to know which businesses he should pursue, he needs to be able to access data that tells him about workforce availability—more specifically, the types of education received, employment industry by home location, age of residents, and commute distance

“We have a high commuter rate… We have a lot of people who live here and they go to Jacksonville to go to work,” Garrison said.

A company that’s considering moving to Clay County… They want to say, ‘prove to me that you can provide 1,000 degreed employees in this skill set’ and that’s kind of an extreme example. It could be 100. It could be 50… It becomes my inventory; it’s what I’m selling to the outside world.”

Garrison is using maps, like the one below, to provide more information about the workforce in Clay County. These maps are simple to create and share with local businesses seeking more information or outside companies he is trying to attract. (Be sure to interact with the data in the map below including opening the toolbar and viewing the charts—note that Clay County is outlined in brown but the map is viewable by census tracts)

What does workforce availability look like for the Clay County area?

Balancing Your Work With a “One-Stop Shop”

With roughly 40 businesses paying annual dues to the EDC, Garrison must work to ensure the development of a diverse business community and attempt to bring in companies that can provide jobs relevant to the skills of the people living in the county.

Green Cove Springs (a member of Clay County), Florida (Source: Jon Dawson)

Green Cove Springs (a member of Clay County), Florida (Source: Jon Dawson)

As a new customer to mySidewalk, Garrison is hoping to perform simple analyses for his own knowledge, while also sharing maps that are easy-to-understand, building credibility, and attracting new companies to Clay County.

“We’re always looking for better sources of data, a wide range of data,” Garrison said.

“… And so the thing that I was sold on [about mySidewalk]: One-stop shopping for a lot of data, which is what I do… I spend a lot of time aggregating data, finding reliable sources, and here it was in one place.”

The work Garrison is focused on in Clay County is no doubt complicated with many moving pieces. However, by simply gaining a better understanding of his community using readily accessible data and having the ability to easily share the insights he discovers, Garrison is able to make stronger, more confident decisions on behalf of the Clay County economy.


mySidewalk is a data tool for people who want to understand places. With the ability to instantly answer thousands of community questions, mySidewalk makes it easy for anyone to use data to make better, more confident decisions. To learn more, visit our home page, or request a demo here.

About Clay County, Florida Economic Development Corporation

The Clay Florida Economic Development Corporation provides concierge service for companies who want to re-invest in expansion in the county or relocate their companies to the region. To learn more about their work, visit their website

About the Author

Jill Applegate recently graduated with degrees in Spanish and Political Science from Kansas State University. Jill is currently working in the Dominican Republic on the DREAM Project, an initiative that provides more than 670,000 hours of education to more than 7,0000 children in 27 different communities.