Pioneer Valley creative economy gets boost from networking, regional strategy

HOLYOKE - Creative businesses in Western Massachusetts will get help increasing their visibility, recruiting talent, finding appropriate space, borrowing capital and growing under a new partnership announced Thursday at Holyoke's Open Squarecomplex.

The state designated the Pioneer Valley as part of Massachusetts' Creative EconomyNetwork and formally partnered with the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council which is in charge of the effort.

The designation, by itself, doesn't come with state money. But several organizations are planning to apply for state grants.

Big Voodoo Interactive, a company that develops websites for law firms and is based at Open Square, hosted the event. Founder and director of web development James Fitzgerald said he pushed hard to open in Holyoke and not Hartford as his investors wanted. Big Voodoo has 17 employees and is growing.

"We need to be close to the talent that is here and we employ artists. This is an open space, it's called Open Square but it is an open environment. Creative people don't want to be in a closed-up insurance office space."

Fitzgerald grew up in Holyoke before moving away and returning . He said companies like his are a fitting use for old mill space like Open Square.

"I tell people we are still manufacturing," he said. "We're just creating products in a different way."

Helena Fruscio, creative economy industry director in the state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, cited Holyoke as a place that has made creative industries both a priority and as an opportunity for growth. She applauded Holyoke for hiring Jeffrey C. Bianchine, as creative economy coordinator.

"It's a statewide strategy and now we are developing a regional strategy."

Holyoke Mayor Alex B. Morse said the city is really just trying to foster businesses that were taking root on their own.

"Not every good thing starts in City Hall," he said.

Ann Burke, vice president of the Economic Development Council, said more than 15,000 people in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties work in this creative economy, an umbrella a term that encompasses writers, fashion designers, graphic artists, advertising professionals and people working for attractions like the Springfield Museums.

"That's everyone from the web designers here at Big Voodoo to the digital effects artist in Conway who works for (television show) 'Game of Thrones,'" Burke said. "He whacks all the people's heads off."

But she said in some ways the creative industry community here is invisible. A goal is to get local companies to shop locally when they need creative work like a promotional video for a website.

"Don't go to someone from New York or LA," said Diane Pearlman, executive director of network-member Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative of Western Massachusetts. "We want you to call the Academy Award winner down the block. There is a lot of talent here."

DevelopSpringfield, the Fostering Arts and Culture Project in Franklin County, and the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council are among the other groups participating.

Burke said the EDC has already hosted networking get-together for these creative workers.

Original article

Jim Fitzgerald
Director of Marketing
Big Voodoo Interactive

National Online Marketing Firm BIG VOODOO INTERACTIVE

Showcases Cutting-Edge Business Model with Bold New I.D. & Website

NORTHAMPTON, Mass., Feb. 8, 2012 -- Online marketing, branding and web development company BIG VOODOO INTERACTIVE has officially rolled out the red carpet of reinvention, launching its dynamic name and a vibrant new website that spotlights its aggressive, meticulous approach to building and managing websites for attorneys.

Originally opening its doors as Intake Advantage in 2008, BIG VOODOO INTERACTIVE boosts searchability and consumer conversion rates by as much as 50% through customized web development technologies, diligent site-management, relentless SEO strategizing and savvy social media optimization.

With fewer than 5% of law firms actively managing their sites in one of the fastest-growing consumer-competitive markets, BIG VOODOO INTERACTIVE handles every aspect of site-management for its clients, helping each to dominate target legal markets within its geographic region.

For BIG VOODOO INTERACTIVE , both the medium and the method are key to its extraordinary success in converting clicks to cases for lawyers around the country. With seasoned, innovative designers, programmers, writers, account managers, SEO strategists and social media gurus being led by a dedicated, high-energy management team, the company is on a steep trajectory and actively expanding its ranks, seeking out high-caliber professionals to join its cream-of-the-crop team.

Director of Marketing Jim Fitzgerald, who has been with the company since day one, has been a pivotal force in coordinating its evolution into a trail-blazing leader in the art of marketing attorneys online.

"We're in a period of aggressive growth," says Fitzgerald, "and doing what companies in our position are excited to have to do: Hire ahead of sales in order to ensure seamless expansion as new clients are brought on board. We make sure we're well-staffed at every phase of our growth in order to consistently provide comprehensive site-management services to clients. With this level of momentum, we're always on the lookout for top-level professionals to join our outstanding crew."

BIG VOODOO INTERACTIVE currently manages websites for more than 30 thriving law firms and the roster is growing steadily.

The evocative name, crimson logo and colorful pile of pins on BIG VOODOO INTERACTIVE's website capture not only the attention of lawyers seeking game-changing online marketing strategies, they also reflect the organization's lively company culture and expansive vision for a big, bright future.

Within days of launching, BIG VOODOO INTERACTIVE was kicking up a heady cloud of intrigue across the industry, though the idea behind the moniker is more about deftly decoding the enigma of SEO than conjuring esoteric notions of mumbo-jumbo manipulation.

Simply put, BIG VOODOO INTERACTIVE understands how the legal consumer thinks, speaking directly to each demographic, and its intuitively designed, expertly written, expansively branded and rigorously managed websites translate into more conversions, bigger cases and stronger bottom lines for its clients.

According to Fitzgerald, both the name and the approach resonate for everyone, most importantly, prospects. "Attorneys call and say, 'Clearly you guys are thinking differently than anyone else.' They're right, and we have the numbers to prove it."