Week of June 26, 2000
  Editor's Choice Web Pick
   of the Week

IndianaINsites: A Savvy New Site Hits the Info Highway

Ladies and gentlemen, start your search engines:

There's a strong new site that's revved up and ready to go out of Indiana -- IndianaINsites (www.indianainsites.com). This one comes from the Indiana Dept. of Commerce. And, unlike too many online offerings from economic development players, this is a high-powered one with considerable potential value for corporate users. It's chockfull of the kind of things needed by expanding companies who might be interested in Hoosier State locations: project-specific info, delivered fast, and with a zero BS factor.

The Indiana Dept. of Commerce, of course, has its own web site (www.indianacommerce.com). IndianaINsites, though, is a totally different breed of online cat. It's a password-protected site specifically designed for companies and consultants, who can go online, specify their business expansion requirements, and then search the state for locations that match those needs.

And the site is refreshingly free of the sort of relentless boosterism that often overwhelms communicating what an area really has to offer. Instead, IndianaINsites recalls that famous line eternally repeated by that icon of catatonia, "Dragnet's" Sgt. Joe Friday: "Just the facts, ma'am."

Lt. Governor Joe Kernan, who's also director of the Indiana Dept. of Commerce, tipped us off to this site with an e-mail. (No, we don't suck up to high government officials here. But, yes, we do try to listen - and if humanly possible, to respond -- to anyone who seems to care enough to know who the heck we are.)

"This new site will significantly reduce the amount of time companies spend researching possible sites for expansion or relocation," Kernan said. "It will enable us to provide better service to officials in key industries, including plastics, distribution, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing."

Only online since June 1, IndianaINsites certainly seems to have ample potential to make Kernan's assertion a reality.

How It Works

Here, briefly, is how the site works.

The home page for IndianaINsites.com has three major options: companies and consultants; communities; and utilities.

The communities and utilities options are for organizations that fall under those groupings and are participating or want to participate. For corporate users, the companies and consultants option is your pick to click.

Clicking on that option takes you to the "inquiry form," which is exactly that.

The form's initial screen asks for a project classification, site type, contact information and industry type. If you use the site, however, here's an important tip to note: At that point in the process, the company/consultant has the option to check a box marked "confidential to the system" -- which, the site says, will hide the company's contact name, phone and email address from any other users. (As always, you're operating at your own discretion with any sites we review on these pages. However, if we might be so bold as to offer a little advice, you'd likely be well-advised to choose the confidentiality option - unless, that is, you just inexplicably enjoy spending days sorting through mountains of unsolicited entreaties from folks whose identities remain a blurred, baffling mystery.)

The form's second page solicits more specifics on the site type that users have specified on the first page (e.g., existing facility, greenfield location, office, industrial, etc.). There's also a fill-in option in which users can specify any special needs for the project.

Users can then click on any of Indiana's 92 counties to which they wish to send their inquiry. Users can select multiple counties. Or, if they wish, they can check "all," which will send the inquiry to the whole state. (Again, we advise a more focused approach for the time-challenged - which these days includes almost all of us who are employed.) This part of the site also offers a handy "shopping cart" list on the left-hand side of the page, which enables users to keep track of which counties they've selected.

Finally, users are presented with a "company inquiry entry page." This gives users a second look at what they've done and gives them the option to edit any of the fields. Once the user has approved the form, he or she clicks on "finish." At that point, the system assigns a user password with which the company/consultant can log onto the system to view responses.

Keeping Up with the Project

IndianaINsites is also nicely set up to enable corporate users to keep a finger on the pulse of their site search. A "Company Main Screen" greets registered user companies when they return and log on to the site. The top left-hand corner of that page displays community folders. Those folders are links to projects that have been started with an area in the state. To the right of those folders is a section that displays any messages from any communities with which the company has already started a dialogue. To the right of that section is a portion of the page that helps make community responses much more manageable. That portion displays only new responses to the company's initial inquiry. You're saved the time of separating new responses from old.

Designed by South Bend, Ind.-based Shamrock Net Design (www.shamrocknetdesign.com), the site is also very cleanly laid out. Clutter is noticeably absent. The accent is, correctly, on functionality. And that makes for a site on which navigation is fast and smooth.

A Bit 'o Full Disclosure

We should add a few caveats here.

First, in the interest of full disclosure, we should note that the e-mail from Kernan also include a press release that - honest to God - we only fully read after we started this review. In that review, the Indiana Dept. of Commerce notes that it's going to advertise the new Web site in "Site Selection" (as well as in "The New York Times" and "Business Week").

While that's certainly great for us, it's certainly not why we're reviewing this site. Moreover, it's not why we're giving it props. We're resolutely of the grizzled old school here. We write primarily for readers. Oh, we're certainly happy to have our advertisers, with which we probably wouldn't exist.

But we definitely wouldn't exist without readers. That's our audience, and we cleave to the old jazz cats' axiom: Respect your audience if you expect them to even think about respecting you. Sometimes, though, the quality of what an advertiser is doing happens to coincide with what we perceive as reader value. And this is one of those old-school scenarios.

Responses May Vary,
But Site's Aim Is True

Secondly, while we genuinely think IndianaINsites is solid and we greatly admire its hype-free approach, there's simply no way to know what users will get back from the economic development groups and utilities that respond. The good ones will stay on target and on task: That is, they'll get you the information you need for decision-making.

But just as sure as that icon of cool, James Dean, hailed from Marion, Ind., you can be sure that some groups won't get it. Users will almost certainly run into some sites and organizations that spend way, way too much time telling you how great they are and way, way too little time telling you how they can help satisfy your business requirements.

That's simply the nature of the world, though. Nothing much will likely ever completely change that. The smart players, though, will continue to rise to the task.

And the bottom line on IndianaINsites is that it's a very solid online idea. Like a Reggie Miller jumper from the top of the key, its aim is true.



©2000 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.