Ashley Folladori, Director of Investor Relations for JAXUSA Partnership
This year, JAXUSA Partnership is celebrating 27 years of successfully supporting economic growth in the Jacksonville region. Last year, JAXUSA hit two milestones – 1. It kicked off its fifth five-year funding cycle and 2. JAXUSA hired a dedicated Director of Investor Relations. Ashley Folladori, a long-time member of the JAXUSA team, was selected to step into this new role and create an innovative strategy to engage investors. RDG collaborated with Ashley and the JAXUSA team to develop a plan that included a significant increase in private sector funding commitments. Now a year into her role, Clint Nessmith, principal and co-owner of RDG, had the chance to catch up with Ashley to talk about her experiences as the Investor Relations Director.
CN: Ashley, congratulations on completing your first year in this role. What sort of feedback are you hearing from both staff and investors over the last year as you have implemented and managed this enhanced investor relations strategy?
AF: Relief! While this role did not formally exist before I took over, the job surely did! Our Senior Director of Marketing was working on events and committees, our Business Intelligence Manager was handling data requests and site visit engagement, and our team coordinators were doing their part to answer every day investment questions. But when you have five people trying to do the same job – in addition to their already very busy full-time jobs – it just doesn’t produce the right outcome. Now, our investors have one point of contact they can reach out to about investment, involvement and engagement.
CN: What do you believe is the cornerstone strategy for successfully keeping JAXUSA’s investors informed and engaged?
AF: As obvious as it sounds, communication! We had no management system to track who we were – and more importantly – were not speaking with. Engaging each investor is important, but day-to-day work activities like responding to RFPs, site visits, events and research projects can often get in the way and distract the entire team from communicating with our investors that fund the work we do. This is where I come in. In my role, I’m responsible for ensuring each investor is communicated with and engaged throughout the year. I meet with the JAXUSA president on a monthly basis to discuss who he should be meeting with. I’m working with our project management team on a streamlined industry visit plan to help us touch base with more of our investor companies on a regular basis. And, I track pledge payment information and coordinate with our Finance and Membership departments to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
CN: In this role, you are both reaching out to investors directly and organizing investor “touches” for JAXUSA’s executive staff. What percentage of your workweek do you spend doing both? Is it 50/50?
AF: I would say it’s 60/40. It is true that any personal touch from staff is important to an investor, but I have seen first-hand how impactful it is when the right person from our organization reaches out directly to an investor. And, it doesn’t mean it has to be the president of the organization! We are lucky to have some of the top project managers in the country (in fact, two have been named to ConsultantConnect’s list of North America’s Top 50 Economic Developers), so our investors want to hear from them just as much as our president. We’ve created some new engagement opportunities for investors to connect with the project management team and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
CN: Is there one moment that stands out over the last year that really highlighted for you the value that your position brings to JAXUSA?
AF: Fortunately, there have been a few of those moments! Our president and the entire team have been open to me exploring new opportunities in this role and re-defining what it means to invest in JAXUSA. One of my favorites was the kickoff event we held at a trendy local venue to celebrate the conclusion of our funding campaign and the beginning of our five-year strategic plan-of-work. Previously we had only engaged our investors in boardrooms and at lunch events. So, this was a nice way to celebrate our investors and show them how much we appreciate their support of our economic development work.
CN: You’ve personally had the opportunity to work with RDG on two of the four JAXUSA funding campaigns that our firm has managed. What do you believe sets RDG apart from other firms in the industry?
AF: To me, the main difference is RDG’s level of professionalism. And, your familiarity with our investor base is an added benefit. It’s very helpful when I don’t have to call an investor and ask them to meet with a random person from a firm they don’t know anything about. I can pick up the phone and say ‘can you meet with Clint’, and of course the answer is always ‘yes’. I can also rely on RDG for some benchmarking data even when we aren’t in the middle of a campaign. You’ve been a wonderful resource, especially when starting this role in a re-funding year, and you’ve been able to share some best practices from other organizations across the country.
CN: Last question. If you could give one piece of advice to other economic development leaders as they consider their investor relations strategy for their own organizations, what would you say?
AF: Don’t be afraid to create new opportunities to engage your investor base. You may think you’re doing a good enough job, but take the time to sit down with your team and re-evaluate your strategy. You may be surprised with the innovative ideas you come up with and even more surprised when you see new companies in your community eager to invest in the work you do.
Clint’s Takeaway: A systematic and consistent approach to investor relations and engagement is more important than ever for EDOs and Chambers of Commerce. Demonstrating ROI to private and public funders is a must! A dedicated staff person that can manage communications and orchestrate one-on-one and small group meetings between executive staff and investors can reap huge rewards for the organization.
You can learn more about Ashley by checking out her bio on the JAXUSA website!