Telling Sanford and Lee County’s Story

January 29, 2024 | Written by: Campbell Wheby

When the Sanford Area Growth Alliance was established nearly ten years ago, Sanford, Broadway and Lee County had experienced more than a decade without a major economic development win, and many of our key economic indicators were neutral or trending in a negative direction. The top marketing priority for the SAGA team was to establish a brand for Sanford and Lee County and communicate it clearly and frequently to key target audiences.

Utilizing both in-house talent and outside experts, Sanford and Lee County began to tell the story of a well-centered manufacturing community with a strong local talent pipeline, ready sites and buildings, and local government agencies that were “open for business”.

And the effort paid off!

Beginning in late 2019, and spanning a period of less than two years, Pfizer, Bharat Forge, Astellas and Abzena announced new capital investment of more than a billion dollars and the creation of more than 1,200 new, well-paying jobs. SAGA’s strategic paid marketing and the earned media coverage associated with these announcements firmly positioned Lee County and Sanford as a place where leading global brands can successfully and sustainably manufacture their products and deliver them to the world.

Today, SAGA’s marketing and communication challenges are different than they were a decade ago. As traditional media channels evolve and adapt to the digital age, previously reliable means of communication rapidly become obsolete and ineffective, and it is imperative for SAGA to adapt to these changes as well, if we are to maintain and build upon the marketing momentum we’ve worked so hard to generate. Furthermore, as SAGA’s membership grows, effective communication among and between all our stakeholders is critical to sustaining the community support for our mission.

Recognizing that effective communication does not happen by accident, SAGA has recently invested in a dedicated staff member to craft and deliver our myriad internal communications, as well as assist in strategically sharing our economic development story with a global audience. Campbell Wheby became SAGA’s Communications Coordinator in November of 2023, and she has made an immediate and clearly discernable positive impact on both the efficiency and effectiveness of SAGA communications.

Campbell is uniquely equipped to tell the story of Sanford and Lee County as only a lifelong resident could. Her firsthand experiences with our local public education system offer a distinct advantage when communicating accurately with current and future employers about the strengths and opportunities of that component of our local talent pipeline, and she has an insider’s knowledge of all the “hidden gems” that make Sanford and Lee County such a unique and wonderful place to live and work.

Effective communication in the digital age sometimes seems to be more art than science, and Campbell’s dual majors of communications and music from UNC-Chapel Hill have helped prepare her to tackle the task from both angles. Her artistic flair is evident in her graphic designs and the almost lyrical prose she pairs them with, and her deep understanding of social media dynamics has dramatically enhanced our digital media reach and effectiveness in just a couple of months on the SAGA team.

With your continued input and engagement, coupled with Campbell’s skills, talent and leadership, we look forward to sharing the stories of all our members and stakeholders, and further leveraging our community’s hard-earned and well-deserved brand to attract additional new capital investment and good jobs to the community.

Jimmy Randolph, CEO