The state of Virginia has long been a national economic leader through consistent commitment to business-first values at all levels of Government. For decades, Virginia has been in the top 10 across many indicators reflecting economic health and prosperity. In 1995, the Virginia General Assembly created the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) to foster increased expansion of the Commonwealth’s economy through a business-first focus, easy access to domestic and global markets, and our talented and educated work force. The belief is that this expansion is necessary to help raise the standard of living for all Virginians.
With its proximity to the Pentagon, and large number of military facilities within the state, Virginia is home to a significant number of defense contractors. As the global marketplace expands, so do opportunities for these businesses to diversify into new international markets. The Going Global Defense Initiative offers assistance, resources and tools to facilitate this diversification for Virginia’s Defense Contractors. Exportvirginia.org is a web property where many of these tools and resources can be found. VEDP envisioned adding an online Virginia Defense Directory where these contractors could promote their products and services to international customers.
With the reduction of federal funding to defense contractors, the VEDP sought to create an online directory where prospective clients from across the globe could browse to find a Virginia defense contractor who could meet their specific needs. BlueSkyPhoenix, teaming with Perigee Labs, was chosen to create this solution.
The directory enables contractors to input their pertinent information, including an overview of their company, contact information, images, videos, and .pdf files. All information is searchable in a number of ways, and individual profiles can be printed as needed. Content is submitted for approval by VEDP representatives, while contractors maintain their own information, making changes periodically on an as-needed basis. VEDP also has the ability to track usage of the website to measure their Return on Investment.
Each vendor is able to enter their company information using a form which is housed as a customized profile in the system. The profile allows for textual content such as languages spoken, keywords, industries served, along with the ability to upload and then present documents and video. The profile also features a contact form so interested customers can quickly reach the vendors.
Having considerable experience implementing advanced and faceted search for a number of web properties, we were able to design and build a search mechanism for VEDP utilizing the metadata from each company profile. Our team worked closely with VEDP to identify the appropriate filter types, and then added those search controls to an “Explore The Directory” page. From here, users can choose from a number of different filters which instantly brings up the appropriate query results.
As VEDP had previous experience with WordPress, the platform seemed like a great choice for the project, especially since it had many options for handling the desired functionality (such as options to build heavily customized input forms and search results). By creating a custom post type with defined keywords, we were able to easily implement the robust “Explore The Directory” search functionality. WordPress also allowed us to take advantage of a powerful translation plugin that can translate page content into dozens of languages on the fly. It was no problem incorporating a custom, responsive design using the powerful theming of WordPress.
The staff at Virginia Economic Development Partnership has been signing up defense oriented vendors at an excellent pace and the database continues to grow. This new custom profile and search service fits quite well with the latest initiative enacted by Governor McAuliffe to support the Virginia International Trade Alliance (VITAL) which aims to increase international trade for a variety of Virginia based corporations and organizations.
“Helping Virginia businesses sell their manufactured goods and services abroad is one of our most effective business expansion strategies, and this (VITAL) initiative is designed to do just that,” said Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones.