Bluefield, WV – The Bluefield WV Economic Development Authority (BEDA) has been awarded a $50,000 Rural Business Development Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture for the purpose of establishing a Website Development Program to target City of Bluefield businesses in need of a new or updated website.
In response to COVID-19 and the shift of consumers purchasing goods and services online, BEDA conducted a Local Business Website Study which tracked 80+ businesses physically located in the City of Bluefield and found that among them, 43% did not have a website, and 35% had poor quality or minimally functional websites. The data collected showed 78% of City of Bluefield businesses need help with their online presence.
The Website Development Program would provide up to 25 businesses physically located within the City of Bluefield with an updated online presence as well as training and technical assistance to ensure website longevity, potential job creation, and future sustainability. The goal of this program is to accommodate the trend of mass digitalization and provide Bluefield businesses with the resources to meet their customers’ needs – especially online.
USDA Rural Development Acting State Director Alan Harris commented, “USDA Rural Development is excited to support the BEDA efforts to assist small businesses in growing their online presence. We are especially proud that they identified the need locally and developed a program to address the need.”
"COVID-19 has forced many businesses to change their operations and adapt to a new normal for conducting business. BEDA took an aggressive approach to COVID-19 recovery and we are elated to share our new Website Development Program. This program will help 25 businesses in the City of Bluefield create or improve their online presence. The program provides a new or updated website in addition to training so recipients can make changes or update their own website quickly. We are excited to unveil this new program and look forward to the difference it will make in our business community." shared BEDA Executive Director Jim Spencer.
BEDA will procure the services of a marketing and graphic design firm for the implementation of 25 websites, post-training for businesses, and assistance related to grant activities. BEDA staff will provide pre-training for each business owner admitted into the program in order to maximize the benefit of the program. BEDA would ensure the design firm meets certain criteria including but not limited to: being able to design quality sites quickly, agree to teach post-training courses, provide a la carte guaranteed pricing for the selected businesses for any service not provided by the grant, and use a website development platform that will be user-friendly and simple for business owners to navigate and learn.
“The end goal of this project is to set up a manageable website for each business that is easy enough for the business owner to make changes," said BEDA Chairman Bill Cole. "This isn’t going to be a one-and-done attempt, this project is for sustainability so our businesses can walk away with a new skill to grow their business.”
BEDA Board Member and City of Bluefield Mayor Ron Martin shared, “This program will provide business owners with the ability to learn from marketing and graphic design professionals and gain insight on how to capitalize on having a good website and how that affects customer experience, customer retention, and the overall climate and success of a business.”