Future of Economic Development: Immersion Video

Monday, August 14, 2017

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From the CEO's desk


Future of Economic Development: Virtual Reality

In 1995, the internet was still far off in people’s minds and there was no clear consensus on whether the mainstream consumer would even use the internet. Four years later, advertising companies and real estate companies were using the internet to bring their products and properties to the consumers. Today, virtual reality adoption is traveling the same trajectory. This technology—known as immersion economic development—will disrupt the economic development industry and give elite communities who use immersive video a clear advantage in business and workforce attraction.

Communities want site selectors, business owners, and workers to experience their community. An often repeated statement among economic developers is that, “If people come to our community and see for themselves, they will stay.”   Economic developers are proud of the communities they represent and they want to show others. But it is difficult to bring everyone to a community–virtual reality technology removes this time and space barrier. With a full-immersion experience, anyone can step into your community–from any location in the world.  It is the ultimate “try before you buy” experience.

In an October 9, 2014 article from Pew Research, respondents were asked about human interactions in a gigabit world: “As the boundary between being “here” and being “there” shrinks, respondents predict that people will be able to experience faraway places, sounds, and smells without actually being there.”


We will experience communities through virtual reality.

Simulations and gaming are used every day for training and education. MBA classes frequently use simulations to teach company leadership, inventory management and marketing. Medical students train in real world simulations to hone their skills and learn from mistakes. Real estate companies walk prospective buyers through showcase properties to build interest. People are comfortable with virtual reality, and communities who promote themselves with immersive video experiences can leverage the technology and gain the attention of the early adopters.

Imagine the sophisticated economic developer who brings the community to a potential business owner. Instead of having the company team fly into a community, the community comes to the company board room. In today’s competitive business attraction climate, large companies will request virtual reality experiences to narrow down the prospective communities. We will experience communities through virtual reality.


Virtual reality technology is advancing quickly.

In the simplest application, a user can purchase a headset that attaches to their smartphone and instantly have a VR experience. For tens of thousands of dollars, instead of hundreds of thousands, communities can create a full immersion video tour of their community. This VR tour travels with the economic developer who can then bring the community experience directly to businesses and investors.

Whether the economic developer is standing on the floor of a tradeshow or in a boardroom full of site selectors and business owners, the community will be present. The economic developer doesn’t need to talk about the far off place known as home, instead the community comes alive and everyone can fully immerse themselves.


Elite communities will use immersion video for promotion.

Gaining the attention of business owners and site selectors requires hard work, strategy and persistence. When applied properly, economic developers can get an opportunity to present their community in front of an interested audience. This presentation is the moment to set the community apart. A full immersion video presentation will draw the prospective investors into a community in ways that slideshows and brochures cannot.

Elite communities who recognize the potential of a video immersion tour will use this technology to set their communities apart from other communities. Large, multi-billion dollar companies, will request a virtual reality tour from prospective communities. Communities that demonstrate their sophistication with virtual reality will gain the attention of site selectors and business investors. I don’t say this lightly.  Communities who harness virtual reality early will be rewarded by gaining the attention of large companies and site selectors who are interested in the technology and immersion experience.  

Virtual reality is not new technology. Science fiction, gaming and entertainment have educated people in the possibilities of immersion videos. Most people have participated in some simulation and are familiar with the experience, but until recently, the technology was complicated and out of reach for most consumers. As with any technology, the quality of VR goggles has increased and the price has decreased. Suddenly, producing and viewing immersion videos has become reachable for the average consumer.  This is good news for communities wishing to quickly gain market share in the emerging world of immersion economic development.

Too often I have witnessed smaller communities with small marketing budgets struggle to compete with large, urban markets who have access to large budgets and expensive marketing firms. No longer. The parameters and boundaries of the immersion economic development opportunity will not be defined by marketing budgets but instead by the vision of the community leaders. Forward looking communities will employ this technology to show their sophistication and progressiveness. Forward looking communities will become elite promoters.

Elite communities will no longer be defined by available resources. Instead elite communities will be defined by the visionary economic developers who are willing to use innovation and technology to introduce their community to the world.


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