Presenting the Power of PlaceVR
25 Jul 2019
By Aaron Brossoit, Golden Shovel's CEO
Relationships are key in economic development. A lot of deals come down to a handshake. But let’s face it: this puts smaller, more remote communities at a disadvantage in business attraction since site selectors don’t often have the time and money to visit smaller towns.
When in-person meetings aren’t possible, the right technology can do an excellent job of bridging the communication gap. Virtual reality has been proven the next best method for showcasing community assets and capturing busy site selectors’ attention.
We pride ourselves as being pioneers in harnessing innovative virtual reality technology for use in economic development communication. Our advances were made possible by the trust and investment of bold partners like APEX and Great River Energy.
Brian Hanson of APEX and Tom Lambrecht of Great River Energy are two longtime Minnesota economic developers who helped take the lead in implementing VR technology for immersive FAM and site selection tours. They were willing to take risks and put in some hard work to see our shared vision come to fruition.
I recently partnered with Brian and Tom to present the advantages of Golden Shovel Agency’s PlaceVR technology at the Economic Development Association of Minnesota (EDAM) Summer Conference.
APEX just released a new virtual FAM tour, which we highlighted during the talk. Brian pointed to the video’s value in drawing people in and illustrating the vastness of the APEX region.
He also reported rave reviews from site selectors who experienced the immersive tour and haven’t seen this revolutionary VR platform used before for economic development. One of Brian’s favorite quotes came from a Chicago-based consultant, who commented to his Bay Area -based colleague: “What’s cool is that this innovation is coming out of Duluth, Minnesota.”
Tom noted that the video can be used not just to appeal to site selectors but to showcase sites to other state leaders and stakeholders. He relayed a story about Governor Tim Walz’s positive response to Great River Energy’s VR video. “That technology made an impact on him,” said Tom.
Great River Energy and APEX are using virtual meeting rooms to guide people through their immersive tours in real time. Participants enter the PlaceVR videos and explore the tours together. It’s an incredibly engaging and realistic sensory experience, complete with interactivity and 3-D sound.
Brian and Tom agreed this process of showing the video and interacting with site selectors and other leaders is invaluable because it opens the door to socializing with them and building rapport and long term relationships.
As I mentioned in my EDAM conference remarks, virtual reality has moved beyond science fiction into the realm of what’s actually possible. This is a powerful trend economic developers can’t ignore.
You can count on Golden Shovel to remain at the forefront of this continuously improving technology. As always, we intend to bring the best available tools to the table to assist our clients and their regions in advancing toward the future.