Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rose Bowl is about football -- and marketing

When Pasadena staged the initial Rose Bowl Parade in 1890, the civic venture was viewed as much as a marketing gambit as something for the proud locals to do on New Year's Day.

Here's what an early parade backer had to say about the affair:

In New York, people are buried in snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let's hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.

Now, with the unemployment rate rising, housing prices still falling, Detroit imploding and the global economy stalled, the parade and the football game (that first was played in 1902) remain, at heart, a marketing gambit.

Sure, the festivities make for a fun weekend, but they're also supposed to draw free-spending consumers -- as well as media attention -- to Pasadena and Southern California. So how effective are the game and parade when it comes to providing a boost to the economy?

After the 2005 events, the UCLA Anderson School of Management estimated the direct economic impact of the game and parade on Southern California at $189 million. The study also suggested that the Rose Bowl activity also generated $181 million in indirect spending across Southern California.

In November, the City of Pasadena made public some data contained in a study conducted by the USC Sports Business Institute. The study completed in the wake of the Jan. 1, 2008, festivities estimated the economic impact of the game alone on the Pasadena economy at $58.6 million. (That figure included $38.6 million in estimated direct economic impact and another $20 million in indirect spending.)

No one questions the fact that sports is a big business. The Los Angeles Sports Council estimates that sports (including professional baseball, basketball and hockey and such special events as the Rose Bowl game) drive $4.1 billion in economic activity in Los Angeles and Orange County.

But, just as Penn State and USC fans will beg to differ on which university has the better football team, sports-minded economists are quick to argue over the merits of studies that attempt to define the economic impact of big games.

"Independent studies consistently show that there just isn't much of an impact from these events," said Dave Berri, an associate professor of economics at Southern Utah University.

No matter if it's the Super Bowl, Rose Bowl or America's Cup, the result is the same, said Berri, a blogger at the Sports Economist and co-author (along with Martin Schmidt and Stacey Brook) of "Wages of Win," which examines the economics of sports.

David Carter, executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute, admits to wearing Rose-colored glasses. He also acknowledges that economic estimates are open to debate. But he contends that the Pasadena study provides strong evidence of tangible economic benefits within the city limits.

He also points to "intangibles" generated by the millions of eyeballs around the world

that are fixed on Pasadena during the Rose Bowl parade and game. "How do you measure the value of that global notoriety and branding each year," Carter asked. "And what's the inherent value to Pasadena next year," he adds, when the Rose Bowl is scheduled to host both the traditional "granddaddy of all bowl games" on Jan. 1, 2010, as well as the BCS Championship Game a week later?

Meanwhile, as this year's kick-off draws closer, two forces are expected to slow consumer spending.

"The economy is a little bit tougher," said Jack Keyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. "So you might not get the full impact of the Nittany Lions, even though they have a tradition of traveling well to these big games."

"Consumers in general are either traveling less, or, when they do travel, spending less time and money," said Bruce Baltin, a Los Angeles-based senior vice president at PKF Consulting, which monitors the hospitality industry. "Naturally, the recession has got to have an impact this year."

There also could be a bit of "USC fatigue," given that the Trojans have played in four of the last five Rose Bowl games -- and the fact that this year's game isn't for all of the BCS marbles.

-- Greg Johnson

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Recruiting strategy pays off for Tennessee

Business partnerships, TVA efforts help Tennessee land projects
By G. Chambers Williams III • THE TENNESSEAN • December 20, 2008

What makes a German automaker and a Michigan-based solar energy company interested in spending, collectively, more than $2 billion expanding major operations into Tennessee?

Beyond the millions of dollars in incentives, state officials said the key to landing two major projects in the past six months has been the result of a years-long effort to position the state among businesses as having an inventory of TVA-powered industrial sites, combined with an available work force and a company-friendly climate.

Hemlock Semiconductor Corp.'s decision this week to build a $1.2 billion polysilicon plant in Clarksville, following Volkswagen's announcement in July that it would spend $1 billion on a new auto-assembly plant in Chattanooga, brings new, much-needed jobs to Tennessee at a time when companies here and across the nation have been cutting their work forces.

"Since Governor Bredesen came on board in 2003, he and I have been very serious about improving the state's business climate and competitiveness," said Matt Kisber, the state's commissioner of economic and community development.

Bredesen's approach to economic development was to create a "jobs cabinet," comprising officials from different state departments to work together in the recruitment of new industry, Kisber said.

That included a close working relationship between the economic-development and revenue departments, something Kisber said is lacking in most other states, so that business prospects could be assured that state incentives promised in the recruitment effort would eventually be funded.

Tennessee's recent successes show that the state is doing something right, said Mark Arend, editor of Site Selection magazine, a publication that rates available industrial sites and state economic-development efforts.

This year, the magazine named Tennessee the "most competitive" state in terms of attracting economic development, leading an annual ranking by the magazine that rates all of the states on their successes in bringing new jobs and industry, Arend said.

"These new projects that Tennessee has attracted certainly validate that they are competitive," he said Friday.

Partners are crucial
The state would not have succeeded in its efforts to attract these two new projects without the efforts of TVA and others that Kisber considers partners in the development process, including local governments and the state's congressional delegation.

TVA's own Nashville-based economic-development team, led by John J. Bradley, conceived the idea five years ago to create a bank of ready plant sites in the seven-state Tennessee Valley, and market them to large industries that could bring clean, high-paying manufacturing jobs to the region.

In creating these eight so-called megasites, certified by a South Carolina site-selection consulting firm as being ready for large manufacturing facilities, TVA set the stage for massive new developments throughout the region.

Of the eight sites, five have been taken, and two of those are in Tennessee — the Enterprise South Industrial Park in northeast Chattanooga, where the Volkswagen plant is under construction, and the Commerce Park site in Clarksville, where Hemlock will build its plant.

A third Tennessee site is still available, along Interstate 40 in Haywood County between Jackson and Memphis.

"We conceived a strategy of going after multistate and regional-impact companies, and we felt like the first step was to create an inventory of credible sites," said Bradley, TVA's senior vice president for economic development.

The sites were developed with much of the initial groundwork already done in the development process, so that any industry choosing one of the locations would have "a six- to seven-month head start" in getting a plant up and running, Bradley said.

That advantage worked well in recruiting Volkswagen and Michigan-based Hemlock, both of which wanted to get their new factories into production as quickly as possible.

Volkswagen plans to begin assembling a new midsize sedan for the U.S. market at the Chattanooga facility in early 2011, and Hemlock will start construction immediately on a plant to make polysilicon, the key material in solar-energy cells, beginning in 2012.

The Volkswagen plant will have an initial work force of about 2,000 people, while Hemlock will hire about 900, the companies said. But both have the potential of attracting associated industries that could bring thousands more jobs, the companies have said.

Of the five TVA megasites already sold, including the Chattanooga and Clarksville locations, the program has induced $5 billion worth of investment and eventually will bring at least 5,500 direct jobs, Bradley said.

Firms seek reliable power
TVA's strengths as a power provider helped land both of the Tennessee projects, Bradley said.

But it wasn't just the lower costs associated with TVA's electricity compared with other utilities nationwide, he said.

"Cost is always important, but it's not the most critical issue," Bradley said. "These companies are more concerned about reliability and capacity. If they had to shut down temporarily because of a blip, that would be very expensive to them."

TVA's reliability has been at "99.999 percent for nine years in a row," he said. "We sell that. Capacity is also important. We're building for the future and keeping up with our capacity, and there are not a lot of other utilities doing that."

Another key to Tennessee's success has been how well it takes care of existing business, Kisber said.

"Prospects talk to the people already here," he said. "The history of this department had been recruitment, but now we have put as much emphasis on existing industry. That pays off, because two-thirds of new jobs come from expansions by existing companies. We call it the customer-service attitude."

As for recruiting new industry, Kisber's team has a policy of listening to the company first to determine its needs, then tailoring the state's approach to the needs of that particular prospect.

The companies tell Kisber that such an approach is unique, because most states just say, "Here's what we have to offer," he said.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Iredell feeling NASCAR struggle

By Bethany Fuller | Statesville R&L

The economic downturn, dwindling sponsorships and the Car Of Tomorrow have all been blamed for the layoffs plaguing the local motorsports industry in recent months.

For fans around the world, it's been a nail-biting experience to see if their favorite NASCAR team will survive. It's too early to know what the long-term fallout will be, but the decline of one of Iredell County's biggest industries is going to pack a big punch during the coming year.

Mooresville, known as Race City USA, will absorb the heaviest blow to its work force and economy.

Russell Rogerson, economic developer for the Mooresville-South Iredell Economic Development Corporation, said it would take a comprehensive study to determine an exact dollar amount.

Motorsports is a $6.5 billion industry in North Carolina, with the Charlotte region accounting for $5 billion of that figure.

More than 700 racing-related jobs have been lost in recent weeks and more layoffs are possible in 2009, according to the N.C. Motorsports Association.

Layoffs have been announced at Hendricks Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc.

And Gillett Evernham Motorsports in Statesville let 65 employees go in November when the team decided to scale back its Nationwide Series operations because it didn't have enough sponsorship in place to run the full Nationwide schedule.

Mooresville has 120 motorsports-related companies, which provide more than 2,000 jobs. Other businesses from catering companies to car detailing businesses have customers who work at the race shops.

As a "rule of thumb, if you look at a dollar spent on the community that dollar will turn over two to five times," Rogerson said.

'Money buys speed'

Former Penske Racing South President Don Miller said NASCAR and other professional sports are cyclical in nature, meaning it's not unusual for the field to thin out a little and then build back up.
"I think what you're seeing right now is a major course correction for the sport," he said. "The fact that it all happened at the end of the season was dramatized. It's no single one person's fault. This sport has gotten way out of control."

Sponsorship is a big deal, Miller said. A Sprint Cup team needs from $14 million to $21 million to operate and be competitive.

"If they won every race, they still couldn't afford it," Miller said. "Money buys speed."

DEI had to scale down from four to two cars because of dwindling corporate sponsors. The result of that is a reduction in work force, which included high-paying jobs such as fabricators and painters.
Sponsoring a Sprint Cup or Nationwide car or a speedway can be a good marketing strategy.

It is one Lowe's Companies Inc. considered when it signed its sponsorship contract with Speedway Motorsports Inc. for the Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord in 1999, Lowe's spokeswoman Chris Ahearn said.

At the time, Lowe's was trying to expand nationwide, and the televised race coverage offered a national marketing avenue.

Lowe's announced earlier this year that it was extending its sponsorship contract with Lowe's Motor Speedway for one year to re-evaluate its marketing value, Ahearn said. The speedway is owned and operated by Speedway Motorsports Inc.

"It really is a matter of evaluating all of our marketing opportunities to make sure we are getting the most for our dollars," Ahearn said.

Lowe's has separate sponsorship contracts with different motorsports ventures. One is for the race teams it sponsors, such as the No. 48 Sprint Series car with Hendricks Motorsports.

Ahearn said the company has a multi-year contract with Hendricks Motorsports for the No. 48 car, currently driven by three-time Cup winner Jimmie Johnson.

"What you see in the layoffs is just the tip of the iceberg, and you know what the iceberg did to the Titanic," Miller said. "Every time a team like that goes out of business, it hurts a lot of little businesses all over Mooresville."

Help for displaced workers

State Rep. Karen Ray (R-95th District) owns BSCI Energy Impact Systems, which supplies roll-bar padding to the racing industry.

Her business hasn't felt a big impact at this point, but she's bracing for it.

"The season has ended right now, and purchases are slow now anyway," she said. "All supporting industries have a concern because the NASCAR teams are a viable part of this region. We want them to succeed for a lot of reasons."

Naturally, job loss of this magnitude is going to have an impact on Iredell County's economy, said Mooresville-South Iredell Chamber of Commerce president Karen Shore.

The N.C. Motorsports Association has formed a Motorsports Employment Task Force to help people who have lost their jobs. The task force is trying to assist displaced workers sign up for unemployment and health insurance.

"Most times when you are told you lost your job, I think people have to go home and settle in and gather their thoughts," Ray said.

Because most motorsports employees are highly skilled, Ray and Miller suspect that it won't be hard for them to find new opportunities in the area.

"There is a big difference between a guy who is a body man at a body shop and a fabricator at the race shop," Miller said.

A good fabricator makes around $60,000 annually, Miller said.

Rogerson said he's been working with the N.C. Department of Commerce to help race teams find ways to diversify in different sectors, such as aerospace.

"We've been out and looking," he said. "There is quite a bit of technology. There is some very high tech testing and skill sets. The technology involved in motorsports is incredible."

A silver lining?

Ray said she believes that the motorsports industry and supporting industries will recover. Team and business owners know how to tighten their belts when they need to.

The positive part of the shake-up, she said, is that some of the naysayers around Mooresville will now realize how vital motorsports is to the area.

"The jobs of racing can't be offshored," she said. "You aren't going to go to Europe to build a stock car for NASCAR."

NETWORKS revamps its marketing plans

By Rick Wagner
Published December 26th, 2008

KINGSPORT — Sullivan County’s joint economic development effort has revamped its marketing plans for 2009.

But it may not be done quite yet.

The group remains focused on a rifle approach of targeting selected prospects rather than a broad-based, shotgun approach.

However, NETWORKS officials are still seeking input for what areas should be targeted in its rifle sites, so to speak.

Jack Lawson, director of economic development for the NETWORKS — Sullivan Partnership, outlined the in-progress marketing plan at the December NETWORKS board meeting.

After the presentation, he handed out questionnaires seeking input from board members on how NETWORKS should prioritize its marketing efforts, including revamping the NETWORKS Web site and targeting of specific clusters such as automotive and pharmaceuticals.

Lawson and Keith Wilson, chairman of the NETWORKS board and publisher of the Kingsport Times-News, said the results will be compiled and presented for possible inclusion in the NETWORKS draft marketing plan.

Setting priorities

NETWORKS, a joint effort of Sullivan County, Kingsport, Bristol, Tenn., and Bluff City, is asking what percentage of its marketing should go toward automotive parts and components and a list of other industries: metal products, plastics, telecommunications, electronics, printing, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, aviation-related industries or other suggested industries.

“It was sort of a follow-up to the strategic plan we did last year,” Lawson said. “We don’t have that big a budget so we have to be careful where we put our money.”

More than half of NETWORKS 2008-09 marketing and travel budget of nearly $193,000 goes to the Regional Business Alliance, a regional umbrella marketing organization.

Richard Venable, chief executive officer of NETWORKS and a former Sullivan County mayor and former Tennessee state House member, said NETWORKS wants to work closely with others marketing the region. More here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Saving The Industrial Heartland

Joel Kotkin, 12.18.08
Inspiration from Kalamazoo.

You would think an economic development official in Michigan these days would be contemplating either early retirement or seppuku. Yet the feisty Ron Kitchens, who runs Southwest Michigan First out of Kalamazoo, sounds almost giddy with the future prospects for his region.

How can that be? Where most of America sees a dysfunctional state tied down by a dismal industry, Kitchens points to the growth of jobs in his region in a host of fields, from business services to engineering and medical manufacturing. Indeed, as most Michigan communities have lost jobs this decade, the Kalamazoo region, with roughly 300,000 residents, has posted modest but consistent gains.

Of course, Kalamazoo, which is home to several auto suppliers, has not been immune to the national downdraft that has slowed job growth. But unlike the state--which he describes as "a hospice for the auto industry"--Kalamazooans are already looking at expanding other emerging industries, including advanced machining, food processing, medical equipment, bioscience and engineering business services. Unemployment, although above the national average, is more than two points below the horrendous 9.3% statewide average.

As Kitchens notes, this relative success came through often painstaking and laborious work, a marked departure from the "magic bullet" approach to economic recovery that often dominates Michigan and other rustbelt states. In the past, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has touted ideas about developing "cool cities" to keep young people from bolting to more robust locales and, more recently, on the promise of so-called "green jobs" tied to sustainable energy.

"People don't want to talk about 'blocking and tackling,'" Kitchens suggests. "You keep your head down and keep pushing. It's not sexy but it works over the longer term."

For his part, Kitchens never much embraced the idea of coolness--a "cool Kalamazoo" effort even received $100,000 from Gov. Granholm as part of her strategy of promoting "creative urban development" as a way to keep talent in the state.

Of course, this gambit failed miserably almost everywhere, even before the recent economic meltdown. Nearly one in three residents, according to a July 2006 Detroit News poll, believes Michigan is "a dying state." Two in five of the state's residents under 35 said they were seriously considering leaving for other locales.

Kitchens does not express much faith either in Granholm's latest gambit, developing Michigan into a green energy superpower. After all, states like Texas and California have a wide lead in these technologies and other areas, notably the Great Plains, possess a lot more wind and biofuel potential. And in terms of low-mileage "green" vehicles, the Big Three lag way behind not only the Japanese but even some European competitors.

So instead of believing in reincarnation or finding some miraculous cure, Kitchens believes places must rely on exploiting their historic advantages. In the case of Michigan, those are assets like a powerful engineering tradition and a hard-working and skilled workforce that can be harnessed in fields outside the auto industry. In addition, the area enjoys a cost of living significantly below the national average and far less than those in the coastal states.

"There's no easy way to get out of the trouble the region is in," Kitchens suggests. "You can't make it by trying to be 'cool places' or be the green capital. Instead we have to focus on who we are, a place that has a great tradition of advanced engineering, and take advantage of this."

So far this approach has paid off, leading to the creation of some 8,000 new jobs over the past three years. The region has focused both on bringing in new companies as well as helping existing ones expand. Perhaps most importantly, it has also raised a $50 million venture capital fund from local investors to help launch fledgling entrepreneurs.

The region also boasts an extensive set of business incubators, which seek to leverage the engineering skill of those just out of school or those who have left bigger companies.

The Kalamazoo experience shows one way out for not only Michigan but also other struggling Midwestern industrial hubs. Another promising example can be seen in Cleveland's recently developed "District of Design," which seeks to capitalize on the regions historic strengths in specialty manufacturing. It is all about taking advantage of the embedded DNA that exists in these once wondrously productive places.

This approach can even revive the residues of the automobile industry. There may be widespread and deserved contempt for the top management of firms like General Motors, but industry veterans repeatedly point out that the region--most particularly the area around Detroit--retains an enormous reservoir of engineering talent, which could provide the linchpin for regional recovery.

One recent sign validating this was the opening of a new $200 million Toyota research and development center in suburban Detroit. The key reason for making the investment, noted Japanese Consul-General Tamotsu Shinotsuka, was Michigan's "abundant human resources." If you are looking for "resources" who know the business of building cars and engines, locating in Michigan has certain logic.

Of course, this talent pool long has been available to the Big Three. However, as retired automotive engineer Amy Fritz has suggested, they have been ill-used by top management. American engineers, the British-born and educated Fritz suggests, are not inherently less talented than their Asian or European counterparts. They tend be more innovative but their creativity is often stifled by the short-term oriented management priorities of their bosses.

"With or without a bailout, the Big Three as we have known them will not be the same," writes Fritz. "One or two could disappear. Others will no doubt shrink. However, the intelligence that exists within the engineering and industrial talent of Michigan remains. This is what the country should look to save from extinction, not the mediocrities who have ruled from highest management."

Indeed, even in a future with a shrunken Big Three--and perhaps the extinction of at least one of them--the industrial heartland does not have to die. Nor does it have to become a permanent "hospice" for failed once-great companies. The way to a long-term prosperous future cannot be built by depending on the administrations of Washington or the political clout of the United Auto Workers.

Instead, Michigan, and much of the industrial heartland, should build a strategy that taps into culture that once made it the envy of the manufacturing world. These people are the key to any recovery, the ones who can both transform fading companies or start new ones. As the late Soichiro Honda once told me, "What's important is not gold or diamonds, but people."

This is the basic lesson of business that the current leaders of the Big Three, most Michigan politicians and perhaps too many on Capitol Hill have forgotten, or perhaps never learned. The industrial heartland may be down but as long as the talent and will is there, it is far from out.

If you do not believe it, take a little trip up to Kalamazoo, which may be quietly showing how to take the Great Lakes toward a new and brighter future.

Joel Kotkin is a presidential fellow at Chapman University and executive editor of He is finishing a book on the American future.

State of the Year Award: Michigan

by Bill TrĂ¼b

The dovetailing of 10,000 new jobs and nearly $14 billion in corporate investment leads to a blowout victory for Michigan, our 2008 State of the Year.

The call for entries for Business Facilities' second annual State of the Year Award sparked a palpable excitement within economic development agencies across the United States. As the American people—most with dignified stoicism undercut by genuine, legitimate concern—grapple with the unfolding financial crisis, state-level economic development offices relished this opportunity to showcase their wide-ranging economic successes during the past year. They submitted data for their five largest projects (measured by total capital investment and by creation of new jobs) announced between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008. The Business Facilities editors analyzed and tabulated these numbers using a predetermined formula to determine 2008's State of the Year. The resounding winner—bolstered by nearly 10,000 new jobs and, most notably, one jaw dropping, multi-billion-dollar business partnership—is the crown of the Midwest: Michigan.

Top 5 Project by Company investmentsA dual-peninsula poised along four of the five Great Lakes, Michigan's triumph is a well-deserved accolade for a state that recently has been linked to unflattering headlines pertaining to the struggles of the U.S. automotive sector—a long-standing pillar of the state's economy. But those headlines don't portray the complete picture of Michigan. More here.

City unveils fruits of branding effort

By Caroline Boyer

How do you describe a place that is full of history but growing, with people who are honest, hard-working and genuine?

Shawnee may have found the best way to convey that in the phrase “Good Starts Here.”

In the coming months, Shawnee will unveil its new brand, symbolized by this phrase, designed to capture all of the city’s best and most unique attributes — everything that sets it apart from and above its neighbors in Johnson County and the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The city’s new “brand” is accompanied by a new logo, a tree to symbolize the city’s deep-rooted heritage with its branches growing and stretching toward the future. Elements of the brand will be rolled out slowly in the coming months, with a new flag already on display at City Hall and a link to on the city’s Web site. The brand, and all the information gathered during its creation, will be used by all city-related organizations, including the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce, the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, and the Economic Development Council.

Since finalizing the brand just two weeks ago, some of the information has already been used, said Carol Gonzales, city manager.

“There have been at least two specific times that I can think of that we’ve forwarded it to developers, people looking at Shawnee,” she said. “So it’s great, great data for us.”

Shawnee officials decided to make moves toward creating a brand after a “leadership summit” in the fall of 2006. It was decided the city needed to do something more to stand out from its neighbors.

“To me the biggest, coolest thing about the whole thing is that everybody came together and identified this as something we wanted to work on,” Gonzales said. “I don’t know that many communities work together like that.”

Gonzales pointed to a one of her favorite quotes describing Shawnee gathered during the branding process as indicative of Shawnee’s place among local cities: “Shawnee is humble in the face of praise.”

“We’re just good people and people are working hard and don’t think about selling ourselves, and in this competitive environment, we’ve got to,” she said. “And this is a real genuine way of coming together and providing a way now of marketing ourselves. We have to be creative and use it, and use it in some cool ways.”

The city hired North Star Destination Strategies to help create a brand in late 2007, and the firm quickly began researching the community, conducting surveys with Shawnee residents as well as others in the metro area to define the city’s identity.

After a year, North Star found that adjectives people most often used to describe Shawnee were friendly, historic, homey and clean. Describing the character of people in Shawnee brought out phrases like hard-working and down-to-earth.

Asked who Shawnee would be if it were a famous person, some popular responses were John Wayne, with high values and an overall sense of fairness; Benjamin Franklin, healthy, wealthy, wise, progressive and frugal; and Henry Fonda, someone who relates to everyone and is comfortable in his own shoes.

Those asked to describe Shawnee to someone who has never heard of it came up with answers that included: “It’s a city that gets together and gets things done together.”

North Star also created a community profile for Shawnee, putting residents into 12 “life mode” groups based on lifestyle and life stage, taking into account occupation, income, living arrangements, lifestyle and media patterns. Most residents — 54 percent — were classified in the “High Society” group, made up of affluent and educated family households.

Residents also were classified as “Upscale Avenues” (13 percent), those with prosperity and success earned from years of hard work; “Solo Acts” (12 percent), educated, working professional singles who enjoy city life; and “High Hopes” (8 percent), those seeking the American dream of home ownership and a rewarding job.

Survey responses all indicated Shawnee’s parks and trails were among its best attributes, and that Shawnee Town was widely known and identified with the city.

So the goal or the brand was to communicate that Shawnee was for people who appreciate genuine quality, where a heritage of nourishing new beginnings continues today, so that every day offers a fresh opportunity. The brand supports Shawnee’s image as the best affordable suburb of Kansas City, as BusinessWeek named it in 2006.

The goal of using the new brand also is to overcome a lack of awareness that Shawnee is a vibrant, growing community with a trailblazing heritage, not a small, aging community.

Gonzales said the city was working on the graphics of the new brand and would slowly incorporate it into all city documents, even putting it on city vehicles. However, that doesn’t mean the city seal, featuring a covered wagon, will go away; it still will be used on official city documents.

But the new brand will be everywhere else, bringing a uniformity to every organization within the city.

“The biggest power of it is that we begin to develop this image for Shawnee, and no matter where you go, whether you go to the chamber (Web) page or the city page, you know you’re in Shawnee,” Gonzales said. “We all have the same message and the same professional look and feel. We’re sharing the same cohesive message about who Shawnee is, what makes it unique and special.”

Sunday, December 21, 2008

City places economic hopes on designers

Genevieve Bookwalter - Sentinel staff writer
Article Launched: 12/18/2008 01:35:35 AM PST

More than 1,000 design professionals live in and around Santa Cruz. Their average income is almost $83,000, many of them work alone, and they cater to clients over the hill and around the world. These are the people that city leaders hope to tap to build a new economy for Santa Cruz.

Enter the Design + Innovation Center, a new nonprofit funded partially by the city's Economic Development and Redevelopment Agency to bring these designers together and, ideally, inspire new businesses that will help boost the city's flailing budget.

"It's all about creating jobs, it's all about developing the economy," said Matt Guerrieri, the center's interim executive director.

And Guerrieri said results from a recent survey, conducted by the center, provided details about the city's designers that left him optimistic that his center could complete its charge, even in the middle of a recession.

As the city's traditional industries leave and Santa Cruz residents shun many big box and chain stores, city leaders are turning to designers -- Web, video game, architectural and other -- to inspire an economic revival.

All say the city needs a turnaround as soon as possible, as they have been forced to slash $7 million from the budget this year with cuts including law enforcement, social services and the Harvey West Pool, among many others.

Design, said Santa Cruz Economic Development Coordinator Peter Koht, is a
"significant industrial center that exists here." Tapping it immediately in an attempt to boost city coffers makes sense, he said. The city's contribution to the center includes $92,000 from a federal grant, and $15,000 from the city's Economic Development Marketing Fund.

The Design + Innovation Center survey of more than 250 designers found:

• More than half work in graphic or Web design.

• More than 75 percent wanted more networking and other events with fellow designers.

• About 75 percent wanted help and advice with business development.

• Most wanted access to more clients than what they have found in Santa Cruz.

• The average salary was $82,800.

As a result, Guerrieri said, he is putting together workshops and events where designers can meet and develop ideas together. He sees the center working in step with NextSpace, the downtown co-working business founded by City Councilman Ryan Coonerty and former Economic Development Director Jeremy Neuner; and the live-work project planned at 2120 Delaware Ave. Ideally, he said, entrepreneurs that meet at his events can start out renting cubicles in NextSpace -- where the center also is housed -- and once they grow, move to Delaware Avenue.

Steve Weisser, executive producer at Compass Rose Media in downtown Santa Cruz, said he is optimistic the center would succeed.

"We're so isolated here, just to find out that these resources are out there and there are other people like you out there is really, really helpful. I had no idea," Weisser said. "I look forward to it expanding and becoming more useful to everybody."

Contact G. Bookwalter at 706-3286 or

Don't cut travel, economic development team urges

The last thing Iowa should do during an economic downturn is keep its sales force home, state economic development leaders said Thursday.

The Iowa Economic Development Board agreed to send Gov. Chet Culver a letter Thursday asking that the agency's business development team be allowed to continue traveling to other states and nations to sell Iowa's business opportunities.

"You won't do business unless your salesmen are out there selling," said board member Toby Shine, president of Shine Brothers Corp., a scrap-iron recycling business in Spencer. "When business is bad, that's when your sales team really hits the street."

Last week, Culver announced steps to shave $77 million from the state's current budget, including reduced out-of-state travel. On Thursday, he made another round of cuts, saying he would order agencies to slice their spending by $91.4 million.

Shine said he is concerned that a delay of a week or two in approving travel could hinder Iowa's ability to compete for development projects that create jobs and attract investment in plants, offices and equipment.

The trips range from meetings with business executives to industry conventions that provide leads to new projects.

The agency's total budget for travel is about $700,000 this year.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Official - Biotech wave could make big splash here

December 14, 2008

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Maryland's top economic development official foresees biotech companies soon will begin to pop up in Washington County in a big way.

"I do, if we define 'soon' as in the three- to five-year period," said David W. Edgerley, secretary of the state Department of Business & Economic Development.

Washington County is "certainly one of the strategic counties to watch in the economic high-growth, quality community sectors," Edgerley said Wednesday.

Frederick County is another.

That neighboring county will be Washington County's rival as biotech companies move out of the Interstate 270 Technology Corridor toward less expensive land to the west, officials said.

Both counties are scrambling toward an economic development plum - the region's first "accelerator" - a second-stage incubator that would nurture existing young biotech companies as they expand and would attract others.

Officials in Washington County also are looking at large tracts, particularly east of Hagerstown, where they might build an industrial park for biotech companies, said John F. Barr, president of the Washington County Commissioners.

Bringing biotech firms here is "a vital interest of this community," Barr said. "I think most of the business leaders feel Hagerstown and Washington County are a viable option.

"We've got land available, infrastructure available and, of course, we're always looking for higher paying jobs. And that industry obviously offers that with a bright future."

Close and less expensive

Montgomery County is king of Maryland's prime biotech realm, which stretches from the suburban Washington, D.C., area north to Baltimore.

The area contains 84 percent of the state's more than 370 biotechs. Montgomery County alone has 60 percent of them; Frederick and part of Washington County have 16 percent.

"Montgomery, Frederick County, right down to D.C., that whole area is ranked like No. 2 (in the nation) for the number of biotech firms concentrated in one area," said Timothy Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission. More here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Leaders Pledge to ''Think Regionally'' About V-W

Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, Chattanooga City Mayor Ron Littlefield, and Tom Edd Wilson, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, came together Friday to announce plans for initiating a regional effort to maximize benefits from the Volkswagen project and other economic development opportunities.

"Citizens in our region don't think twice about crossing state or county lines to go to work or shop or buy a house," said Mayor Ramsey. "We all stand to benefit from economic development projects that locate anywhere within our region, and we can achieve the greatest benefit from these opportunities if we work together on issues like workforce development, transportation, and the like."

"We won Volkswagen through effective cooperation," said Mayor Littlefield. "I believe the best way for us to weather the current economic uncertainties is to broaden the circle of that cooperation to include public and private entities throughout our region."

The focus on regionalism was the first of eight "lessons learned" from a recent trip the Chattanooga Chamber coordinated to glean best practices from Greenville, South Carolina's experience since BMW established an automotive assembly facility there in 1992.

"First and foremost, we learned that BMW brought tremendous economic benefit," Tom Edd Wilson said. "But that benefit was not automatic. Many of the leaders we talked to in Greenville felt that they had learned the importance of regional cooperation the hard way. Others pointed out that their area did not effectively plan for the kind of growth that has occurred. I hope we can learn from the challenges they identified for us."

The expedition to Greenville engaged 100 community leaders from the Tri-State Valley, which includes Chattanooga-Hamilton County as well as nearby counties in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. Participants included public officials, businesspeople, and educators. The group was divided into four study tracks: K-12 Education; Higher Education & Workforce Development; Industrial Development & Physical Infrastructure; and Relocation Marketing, Community Assimilation & Quality of Life.

Each of these study tracks included presentations and tours led by Greenville leaders who had direct experience with the impact of BMW over the last 15 years. On the last day of the learning expedition, attendees participated in facilitated sessions to document the major lessons they had learned and brainstorm recommended next steps. Jim Kennedy of Kennedy, Coulter, Rushing, and Watson served as the overall facilitator for the Greenville sessions and worked with Chattanooga Chamber staffers to draft and refine a report of the expedition's findings entitled, "Applying Lessons Learned from Upstate South Carolina to the Tri-State Valley."

The report, which was presented Friday at the Chattanoogan Hotel to over 200 community leaders representing a variety of disciplines from across the Tri-State Valley region, focused on eight major lessons:
  • Think and act regionally.
  • Prepare for changes in education and workforce training.
  • Be transparent in hiring.
  • Pay attention to minority involvement.
  • Create effective communication channels.
  • Bridge the cultures.
  • Prepare for growth.
  • Calibrate community expectations.

The report also offers suggested starting points in each of these areas based on recommendations developed during the Greenville Expedition. As a next step in the process, Mayor Ramsey and Mayor Littlefield plan to work with the Chattanooga Chamber to convene regional leaders to begin defining the parameters for regional cooperation.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Smaller Southern cities target retirees


Attention retirees, smaller cities throughout the South want you.

Six Southern states have marketing programs identifying some of their less populated counties, cities or towns as "certified retirement communities."

These are not gated subdivisions bristling with new homes. Rather, they are cities and towns eager to lure the growing 55-and-over adults and their money.

Certified retirement communities claim to have the right mix of affordable housing, proximity to medical care, a relatively low cost of living, and recreational and cultural opportunities for retirees who are staying active longer.

But it remains to be seen if this is a trend other states will follow, or if these programs are just quick-fix marketing campaigns that fall short of producing long-term, sustainable interest in their towns. The marketing programs only spotlight the positives of each city, making them just one of many sources of information a retiree should use if they decide to relocate.

Currently, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, and North Carolina have state-supported retirement community programs, with North Carolina's in early development.

West Virginia's program is privately run, with state involvement. Kentucky stopped its marketing program due to funding cuts, but a handful of that state's cities still promote themselves as certified retirement communities. The origins of Mississippi's program dates back to the mid-1990s.

There is no national program for certified retirement communities, and there's no standard certification process. Rather, each state sets its criteria which are generally based on factors including the availability of affordable housing, tax breaks, continuing education, health care, emergency medical services, public transportation and even performing arts and sports. The American Association of Retirement Communities does give a seal of approval for cities and developments it deems worthy, whether or not they are in these programs. More here.

Five-county region sees relative advantage in Einstein name

by Cathy Bugman/The Star-Ledger
Sunday November 30, 2008, 9:33 AM

California has Silicon Valley. North Carolina, the Research Triangle.

Now some in New Jersey would like the central part of the state branded Einstein's Alley.

Trying to capitalize on Albert Einstein's ties to Princeton, where he lived in his last years, a group has launched an aggressive marketing campaign to lure high-tech industries to the five-county region of Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Monmouth.

"We want to help the economy in New Jersey," said Lou Wagman, co-executive director of Einstein's Alley, the nonprofit launched two years ago at the suggestion of Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.). "And we're starting to have success."

Rive Technology, a start-up company focused on the refining industry, looked at three states before deciding to open a laboratory in Monmouth Junction, Middlesex County, last summer.

"The big thing I got from Einstein's Alley was a recommendation on a Realtor who found me a place within 10 days of starting the search," said Larry Dight, senior vice president for research and development for Rive.

He said the group also put him in touch with contacts at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the New Jersey Entrepreneurial Network. In addition, Einstein's Alley linked him to key researchers at Princeton University.

Rive started moving in last month and expects to start the new year with a 10-member staff.

Einstein's Alley also is focused on aiding entrenched technology companies with expansion plans. Hutchinson Industries, a rubber manufacturer in Trenton, came to the state capital 25 years ago with three employees. Today, it has 450 on the payroll.

"Einstein's Alley helped us expand and grow," said president Pascal Seradarian, adding that the company now has six manufacturing buildings.

Montgomery Township late last month planted a sign at Route 206 and Orchard Road, proclaiming that area of Somerset County a "high-tech corridor," the eighth town to do so.

Others are East Windsor, Lawrence, Princeton Township, Franklin Township (Somerset), South Brunswick, Trenton and West Windsor.

"We are proud that our location, quality of life, open space and cultural diversity attract both corporate leaders and their employees to Montgomery," said Mayor Cecilia Birge, who has a family link to Albert Einstein. Her grandfather, P.Y. Chou, a leading Chinese physicist, worked for a time in the 1940s with Einstein at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Princeton Township installed two signs on Washington Road and along Mercer Road adjacent to the institute two months ago.

"It's to promote the region as a tech-based area and a good location for technology companies to locate to," said Robert Kiser, township engineer. He said Einstein's Alley contacted the township, and the township committee "was excited about it."

"People who live here will certainly benefit from it because of the employment opportunities it will bring," he said.

James Hughes, dean of Rutgers University's Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, praised the effort.

"New Jersey is severely under-marketed," he said. "Our image has taken a hit. During the current decade, a governor has resigned, a number of public officials have been indicted. Other states are trying to brand themselves and market themselves in an aggressive fashion. New Jersey hasn't. And we do have unique assets. The state should be marketed and it deserves state money."

In the 1980s, the Route 1 corridor was marketed to a certain extent and in the 1990s the Hudson waterfront was promoted as "Wall Street West," he noted.

"We need something equivalent to that in this decade," Hughes said. "The effort would be a step in the right direction."

Walter Geslak, chairman of Montgomery's Economic Development Commission, agrees.

"In these tough economic times, any way we can differentiate ourselves by attracting good-paying jobs will help us," he said. "There's no out-of-pocket cost to the township. What do we have to lose?"

Katherine Kish, who co-directs Einstein's Alley, described the effort as an exciting initiative.

"It's actually kind of sexy," she said.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Economic planners market Myrtle Beach for the future

If the goal is to always bring more business, industry, and development to the Grand Strand region, then members of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation think they have a plan to accomplish their goal, and more.

Thursday morning, the firm announced its plans for a new website, slogan, and marketing campaign aimed at attracting new business development to the area.

The new slogan will be “Building For The Future,“ and MBREDC President Hugh Owens says that means changing what the firm feels are pre-existing notions the outside world has about Myrtle Beach and the surrounding area.

“We are constantly building here,“ Owens said. “We are open for business, and we’re not solely a tourism and resort destination, but we are a good place to operate business from.

“To learn more about the firm and what it plans to do, and you can check out the newly-designed wesbite here.

Loyalty, passion for a community linked to economic growth

New Gallup Study Explores Link between “Emotional Connection” and Economic Growth

MIAMI — A new Gallup study explores the link between economic growth and residents’ loyalty to and passion towards where they live. According to the “Soul of the Community” study, the qualities that make people love where they live include social offerings (such as entertainment venues and places to meet), openness (how welcoming a place is) and community aesthetics (such as physical beauty and green spaces).

The first-year findings of the Gallup study, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, surveyed 26 communities where Knight Foundation’s founders owned newspapers. “This is a new way of looking at how engaged residents create successful communities,” said Paula Ellis, vice president for strategic initiatives at Knight Foundation. “The data provide new insights to leaders focused on improving the long-term economic well-being of their communities beyond the immediate challenges of the financial crisis.”

Warren Wright, managing partner for Gallup said: “The study is especially important in the current economic crisis because beyond addressing immediate needs, communities will have to make smart choices to direct resources to areas that have the greatest impact on engaging the community.”

The communities vary in population size, economic levels and how urban or rural they are. Gallup randomly surveyed a representative sample of nearly 14,000 adults from Feb.1 through April 27, 2008, by phone. The following communities were included in the survey: Aberdeen, S.D., Akron, Ohio, Biloxi, Miss., Boulder, Colo., Bradenton, Fla., Charlotte, N.C., Columbia, S.C., Columbus, Ga., Detroit, Mich., Duluth, Minn., Fort Wayne, Ind., Gary, Ind., Grand Forks, N.D., Lexington, Ky., Long Beach, Calif., Macon, Ga., Miami, Fla., Milledgeville, Ga., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Palm Beach, Fla., Philadelphia, Pa., San Jose, Calif., St. Paul, Minn., State College, Pa., Tallahassee, Fla., Wichita, Kan.

The study measured residents’ emotional connection to where they live and compared that to the communities’ GDP growth over the past five years. The findings show a significant correlation. Over three years, the researchers will analyze the trends to prove whether emotional connection drives economic growth, or the other way around.

Within a smaller microcosm, such as a company, Gallup has been able to show that increasing employee emotional connection will indeed lead to improved financial performance of the company.

The study finds that it generally takes at least three to six years for residents to feel highly engaged in their community. However, there are actions that communities can take to engage residents early after they have moved in. Focusing on helping new residents connect to others in their area can enhance their connection and make them want to stay and say good things about the community.

The study found that in some of the larger communities such as Miami, Philadelphia and Detroit, the key emotional connector was openness (the sense of welcoming to diverse people). “This is important to know in a large city that has struggled to achieve its full potential in attracting diverse newcomers,” said Matt Bergheiser, Knight Foundation program director for Philadelphia.

In Tallahassee, social offerings are key. “With two major universities, and as Florida’s state capital, we have many opportunities to create more social offerings for our residents,” said Mike Pate, Knight Foundation program director for Tallahassee. “The proposed arts and entertainment district in the Gaines Street corridor is one example. These data serve as another important call to action.”

Knight Foundation community program directors are sharing the study’s findings with community leaders and citizens. They hope to use the data to help create transformational change in their communities.

Gallup and Knight Foundation will conduct the second wave of the survey in spring 2009. The additional data will help show the impact of the economic crisis on emotional community-citizen engagement.

Complete results of the Soul of the Community survey are available online at

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Marketers Pounce on Social Networking, But Users Shy Away

Social networking sites keep reaching new milestones. In fact, according to a new survey by industry research firm IDC, 54 percent of the United States online audience now acknowledges having used some form of social networking sites (or, in IDC's shorthand, "SNS") -- up from 43 percent not even a year ago. But if you think that level of penetration represents a tremendous marketing opportunity -- well, you'd be wrong. Most users of social networking, according to IDC's survey, hardly pay attention to ads on social networking sites -- a sentiment confirmed by dismal clickthrough rates. More here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Rise of the Megaregion

Megaregions -- rather than nations -- have become the natural units of the global economy. How is a megaregion defined? Tim Gulden at the University of Maryland's Center for International and Security Studies has used nighttime satellite images of the earth to identify "contiguous lighted areas" that include at least one major metropolitan area. Examples? The Boston-New York-Washington corridor and the Shanghai-Nanjing-Hangzhou triangle. Megaregions are the lit-up regions that produce more than $100 billion in goods and services. 1.2 billion people -- 18% of the global population -- live in the world's 40 megaregions. Combined, they produce 66% of the world's economic activity and 86% of new patents.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ohio's job outlook: Ready work force helps, but rust-belt image hurts

Posted by Tom Breckenridge/Plain Dealer Reporter November 23, 2008 07:58AM

Gov. Ted Strickland's favorite four-letter word is "jobs."

To bring more of them to Ohio, Strickland wants to brighten a business climate that corporate leaders say is too costly, over-regulated and short on skilled workers in key occupations.

The governor is sympathetic. Last month, he issued an executive order creating the Ohio Economic Growth Cabinet. Ohio's largest departments must collaborate and streamline to promote business prospects.

The order came less than a month after Strickland and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, who doubles as Ohio's economic development chief, unveiled a strategy they say is designed to boost jobs, incomes and productivity.

And how would they do that? By "purposefully redesigning" Ohio's business climate, according to the strategy they've dubbed OHIO, for "Ohio, Home of Innovation and Opportunity."

What follows are factors that influence whether business invests in a state. The Plain Dealer evaluated Ohio in each area based on published research and interviews with economists, business-development experts and state officials.

The bottom line: A ready work force and heartland location lure business, but a high-cost, rust-belt image hurts. More here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) recently announced the top economic development websites at its Annual Conference in Atlanta. The award-winning websites are impressive and their results are noteworthy. These best-practice websites are models for economic development organizations to follow.

Top Special Purpose Website by Population

• Population 200,000 or more:
NV Energy
• Population 200,000 or more: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
• Population 50,000 to 200,000: Upstate Colorado
• Population 50,000 to 200,000: Ascension Economic Development
• Population 50,000 or less: City of Winter Garden, FL

Top General Purpose Website by Population

• Population 200,000 or more:
Enterprise Florida Inc.
• Population 50,000 to 200,000:
Blount County ED Board, TN
• Population 50,000 to 200,000: Denton Economic Development Partnership, TX
• Pop. 50K to 200K Hon Mention: Ames ED Commission, IA
• Pop. 50K to 200K Hon Mention: Development Authority Cherokee County, GA
• Population 50,000 or less: Siskiyou County ED Council, CA

How to Get Started With LinkedIn

More and more business professionals are using social networks to build relationships, meet new contacts, and market themselves. For the uninitiated, however, diving into the virtual meet-and-greet can be daunting. Where to begin? For first-time users, the answer is LinkedIn. Developed specifically for business, the site doesn’t run the risk of blurring your professional life with your private one; and with more than 25 million users, it serves virtually every industry and profession.

Joining a network like LinkedIn is simple, but turning it into a powerful networking tool takes a bit of savvy. Here's how to set up a profile, build a network, and put it all to work — without social-networking anxiety.

More here.

Also view, Four Ways Social Networking Can Build Business

Economic poaching: Bagging Bay State biz

Finally, the state of New Hampshire has gotten aggressive in recruiting Massachusetts businesses.

The state Division of Economic Development has long wooed out-of-state businesses. But the approach was too subtle, too traditional. Now the division has launched a clever initiative to directly target Massachusetts-based businesses for poaching.

Called "Open Invitation," the initiative involves contacting hundreds of Bay State companies and offering their owners limo rides from the state border to a Common Man restaurant, lunch with state business recruiters, tours of possible relocation sites and tickets to a Manchester Monarchs game or Cannon Mountain.

And, as they say in sales, "that's not all." The state has created a wonderfully informative Web site,, that makes the case for relocating businesses from Massachusetts to New Hampshire. On the site are lots of data, including a lengthy comparison of business costs and quality of life factors.

This is not your typical marketing pitch. The division is careful to include all sorts of measures by which business owners would want to compare the two states, even ones in which Massachusetts beats New Hampshire.

That lets business owners know they aren't being snowed by a fancy sales pitch; they are being informed of the facts. And the facts are that New Hampshire has a higher quality of life and is a less costly place to do business.

The icing on the cake is that the initiative is almost entirely financed by New Hampshire businesses, such as Public Service of New Hampshire, that have an interest in seeing more companies recruited here, which is an approach we have advocated for years.

Kudos to the folks at the Division of Economic Development for putting together this creative new pitch and doing it in partnership with interested businesses. That is the kind of innovative thinking too seldom seen in government.

Economic poaching: Bagging Bay State biz

Finally, the state of New Hampshire has gotten aggressive in recruiting Massachusetts businesses.

The state Division of Economic Development has long wooed out-of-state businesses. But the approach was too subtle, too traditional. Now the division has launched a clever initiative to directly target Massachusetts-based businesses for poaching.

Called "Open Invitation," the initiative involves contacting hundreds of Bay State companies and offering their owners limo rides from the state border to a Common Man restaurant, lunch with state business recruiters, tours of possible relocation sites and tickets to a Manchester Monarchs game or Cannon Mountain.

And, as they say in sales, "that's not all." The state has created a wonderfully informative Web site,, that makes the case for relocating businesses from Massachusetts to New Hampshire. On the site are lots of data, including a lengthy comparison of business costs and quality of life factors.

This is not your typical marketing pitch. The division is careful to include all sorts of measures by which business owners would want to compare the two states, even ones in which Massachusetts beats New Hampshire.

That lets business owners know they aren't being snowed by a fancy sales pitch; they are being informed of the facts. And the facts are that New Hampshire has a higher quality of life and is a less costly place to do business.

The icing on the cake is that the initiative is almost entirely financed by New Hampshire businesses, such as Public Service of New Hampshire, that have an interest in seeing more companies recruited here, which is an approach we have advocated for years.

Kudos to the folks at the Division of Economic Development for putting together this creative new pitch and doing it in partnership with interested businesses. That is the kind of innovative thinking too seldom seen in government.

Changes to Marketing Spending and Strategy Coming in 2009

by Ginger Conlon
The 1to1 Blog

How the current economy is affecting marketing budgets and the customer experience are hot topics right now. So last week I asked readers and LinkedIn members to respond to a brief survey on potential changes to their 2009 marketing budget and strategy. Some results surprised me (I thought that "decreasing our marketing budget" would get the lion's share of votes, but it didn't); while others were expected (a continued shift toward social media marketing).

Nearly 60 people responded to the survey; a few sent comments, as well. I found the comments to be telling.

For example, Tiffany Bentley, national marketing coordinator at Triad Manufacturing, said "I think it would be crazy to cut back marketing dollars in a time like this. This is the time when you need to be top-of-mind more than ever before to keep ahead of competitors who are feeling the crunch [and] cutting back their advertising and becoming less and less visible to their market. These are the times where marketers can really do their jobs. If you get creative and focus on frugality in other areas, spread your marketing dollars out wisely but continue spending (relatively) what you have been spending, and negotiate, negotiate, negotiate with ad rates, your customers will remember you, new customers will find out who you are, and you will come out smelling like a rose and looking like the strongest lion in the pack (even if you are struggling just as much as the next guys)."

While Andy Lorin, senior marketing analyst for Bonasource, said, "Whatever we may think about marketing and its grandiose goals, it's still part of a company's P&L. When the economy is in trouble, it hits the total budget, including the marketing one.... The major issue here is the level of future spending. Mainly, marketing's job is to make an intelligent bridge to any potential spends in waiting. While they're on hold, it's hard to expect any significant marketing surge. Simply, because it'd be an empty shot to nowhere. Once the economy fundamentals have come back to normal along with spending amounts, we may see marketing budgets bouncing back and up."

The survey responses also spoke volumes. About one third of respondents said their 2009 marketing budget would increase, another nearly one third said it would decrease, and close to 40 percent said it would remain unchanged.

Company size played an unexpected role. Nearly 40 percent of small business plan to increase their marketing budget in 2009, but only a quarter of midsize company and 15 percent of large enterprises plan to do so. About a third each of small and midsize companies expects to decrease their 2009 marketing budget, while nearly 40 percent of large enterprises will be tightening their purse strings. Additionally, a quarter of respondents said their marketing budget would increase as a percentage of their organization's revenue, while 34 percent said it would decrease, and 36 percent said it would stay the same. Five percent said this didn't apply to them.

When asked whether they're planning to reallocate marketing resources in 2009, responses were in line with what one might expect. The top three areas flagged for increased spending are social media (69 percent of respondents), email (68 percent), and search (50 percent). The top three in line for cutbacks are print (44 percent), direct mail (33 percent), and trade shows/conferences (28 percent).

Customer engagement is the number one marketing goal for 2009, with nearly two thirds of respondents citing it as their primary objective. Also cited as a high priority for 2009 are lead generation (41 percent of respondents), awareness (39 percent), and branding (35 percent). Based on these goals, I'm not surprised that most marketing budgets are holding steady or increasing.

"Should we really change?" asked Rene Lisi, a CRM and customer experience consultant, in reference to whether marketers will change their budgets or strategy for 2009. "We must avoid focusing on short-term earnings (increased fees in financial services, etc.). We should focus on building trust and service quality."

Click here to view the full survey results.

Regional economic effort key, officials told

EVANSVILLE, Nov 22, 2008 - In the past five years, the counties surrounding the Memphis, Tenn., area at the junction of Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi have begun working together to market the region's work force and amenities.

The cooperative approach of the Memphis Regional Economic Development Council has allowed 52 counties across three states to attract automobile plants and other economic development boosts when in the past the areas had worked alone.

Sharon Younger, an economic development consultant who worked with the region, told a group at the Regional Economic Summit on Friday that she sees similarities between the broader Memphis region and the three-state area of Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois, and some of the same potential.

Before establishing the council, economic development officials "couldn't see past state lines," Younger said.

Younger, who is president of the firm Younger Associates, and other speakers focused on a more regional approach to economic development on Friday at The Centre here, where economic development departments, municipal staff and elected officials gathered for the two-day summit.

Jody Wassmer, president of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, said he saw a lot that this region could borrow from the Memphis model.

"Here, we have various examples of chambers and economic development organizations working together in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois but very little cooperation across state lines," Wassmer said. "They've crossed that bridge, and I believe we can learn from what they've accomplished."

Mark James, founder and CEO of consulting firm ED Solutions, said regional economic partnerships crossing state lines are becoming more common.

During one of the summit's breakout sessions Friday, James pointed to the Texoma Regional Consortium -- a group formed of counties that border each other in Texas and Oklahoma that realize the shared work force between the areas in the two states.

Younger said work on the Memphis council began with an in-depth study of the workforce in the entire region that allowed the larger area to present a more in-depth picture to businesses looking to locate there.

Nick Brake, president and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., said he wasn't sure he saw one large economic development agency emerging from this week's summit.

But Brake said he did see increased collaboration when it comes to understanding the regional work force and cooperation between educational institutions.

"The reality is that our market, our labor market, includes (Vanderburgh, Ind.) County, it includes Henderson County, it includes the 30-mile radius," Brake said. "Site selectors ... look at our labor market as being 450,000 people."

Owensboro Finance Director J.T. Fulkerson said he was encouraged throughout the summit to find that Owensboro and Daviess County were already moving forward with some of the initiatives touted by consultants and those in the economic arena.

But there will need to be a willingness to be aggressive with those initiatives, Fulkerson said.

"It's about innovative thinking and not being scared of changes," Fulkerson said. "You can't be sitting back and just say, 'I'm happy to change.' You've got to be aggressive."

The city and local business groups have already begun the process of developing a brand for Owensboro and Daviess County, and the work on that branding is expected should be shared with the community in the next several weeks.

Eric Stavriotis with Jones Lang LaSalle, a strategic consulting firm, said that in his work as a site selection consultant, branding is important, but shouldn't be so broad as to lose its meaning.

"Branding yourself has to take a look at the assets you have in your community," Stavriotis said during another breakout session.

Younger also mentioned branding, and particularly how Marion, Ark., began tying itself in to the Memphis community as part of the regional council's work. Northwest Mississippi also established its Mississippi Memphis Metro council to help tie in to the Memphis area, Younger explained.

Stavriotis said a brand can help tell businesses just what a community has to offer.

"Brand the heck out of it," Stavriotis said.

Southern states add to their Boeing sales pitch

In Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and the Carolinas, business and government leaders recently watched the Machinists’ strike at Boeing with rapt attention, wondering if Boeing’s frustration might prompt it to someday bring an airplane plant to the South.

Right-to-work laws in Southern states, they say, would prevent such costly walkouts.

But the South has another compelling selling point: its industrial muscle. Increasingly, the nation’s aerospace center of gravity is shifting south, creating an extensive and growing base of hundreds of aerospace companies producing helicopters, aircraft assemblies — even Boeing rockets.

“If I was a Boeing executive, I’d look at the state of Alabama and see there’s a qualified work force ... I’d take a look at the assets we have,” said Stephen Nodine, president of the Mobile County Commission, whose offices are in Mobile, Ala.

This is not to say Boeing Commercial Airplanes has any immediate plans to do anything other than getting its Everett and Renton assembly plants fully running again, and sending delayed aircraft of nearly every model into the air.

But sometime in the next decade Boeing may launch a high-tech successor to the 737, its most popular plane; the company also may upgrade its 777 model or develop a second 787 production line.

In a recent interview, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Scott Carson said Boeing isn’t actively looking at any other sites for plants. But he doesn’t rule out the possibility it could.

“Clearly there’s frustration over the labor situation in Washington, and frustration about being able to be held hostage by a single bargaining unit,” he said. “Will it increase pressure to find another place to do manufacturing in the future? Perhaps.”

While eager for Boeing, economic development leaders in Southern states admit they’re keeping their tactics hidden, not wanting to tip each other off about their strategies for attracting more work from the nation’s largest aerospace company.

“Boeing is a valuable company, and one we will try to attract more and more in the state of Georgia,” said Ken Stewart, commissioner for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, talking slightly more generally. “We will be talking to Boeing on a regular basis to try to attract them to the state of Georgia, no doubt about it.”

Certainly, labor laws are important to the effort to lure Boeing. Even though Carson said the question of whether Boeing is in a right-to-work state isn’t in his mind a critical issue, Southern leaders see it differently.

Right-to-work states don’t require workers to pay union dues if they’re in a unionized company, a provision that tends to undermine union power. All the Southern states are right-to-work states, while West Coast and East Coast states are not.

“It’s been a big factor for other companies and other industries in the state,” said Gray Swoope, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority. “Companies today that want to maintain a nonunion work force, that’s important to them.”

At the same time, Southerners are not shy in pointing out how rapidly the South has become an aerospace region, landing a series of new aerospace manufacturing plants. In the last few years, for instance, Mississippi has added a General Electric factory producing composite fan blades for jet engines and a helicopter plant is going up for the European Airbus consortium.

Swoope said Mississippi’s strategy, in addition to a right-to-work environment and financial incentives, is to refine the training and knowledge base of the area, partly through strengthening relationships between the state’s universities and private industry, in order to develop a skills base in advanced technologies including composite construction.

“We’re not just interested in manufacturing, we’re interested beyond that, and how do you build capacity,” he said. “We’re even more thrilled GE is going to be working with (Mississippi State University) to partner with them in building the next generation of aircraft.”

Right next door, Alabama has more than doubled its number of aerospace suppliers to 200 in less than 20 years, with current private sector aerospace employment of more than 36,000.

And in a related industry, Mississippi and Alabama have added five auto plants since 1993; none of them is from the big three domestic automakers now teetering on the precipice of bankruptcy.

Aware that they’re working against Boeing’s incumbency in Washington — the sense that Washington is home to a mature aerospace industry with many skilled workers and companies — economic boosters in the South tend to emphasize their region’s capabilities. This is defined by the history of the Civil War South, by the French heritage, and by the states’ proximity to each other along the defining Gulf Coast. The French heritage also has something to do with Southerners’ sense of comfort with Airbus.

For instance, Nodine was instrumental in creating an organization called the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor, complete with a website, which touts the strength of the aerospace industry in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, and the presence of large prime contractors including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing.

Boeing already has large operations in the South, and economic development experts want to build on that presence.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cleveland-to-Pittsburgh Mega-Region Join to Create Tech Belt Initiative

CLEVELAND -- The Tech Belt Initiative is an economic development strategy designed to reinvigorate the Cleveland-to-Pittsburghregion (Cleveland, Youngstown and Pittsburgh) by building on its unique civic, educational, healthcare, and industrial institutions.

The transition to aknowledge-based economy has caused opinion leaders from these metropolitan areas to recognize that the future of these once great manufacturingcommunities are tied together, and that our continued success depends on ourability to collaborate in the creation of new products, technologies, and wealth.

To spearhead this effort, a steering committee, comprised of leadership organizations from Southwest Pennsylvania and Northeast Ohio, is working todevelop a strategic vision for this initiative and to build the partnerships necessary to leverage the region's collective resources.

The committee hasidentified the following goals for potential partnership opportunities:
  • Encourage the federal government to identify the region as a PremierInnovation Zone and invest in/augment existing state technology-based economic development programs
  • Continue support for SBIR/STTR programs
  • Reinstate funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEP)
  • Continue the Alternative Energy Tax Credits for wind power, solar energy, and other renewable fuels
  • Augment funding for translational research at both the university and commercial levels
A comprehensive list of the Tech Belt Initiative's goals and actions to be pursued can be found in the white paper titled, "The Tech Belt Initiative;Realizing the Full Economic Potential of the Cleveland-Pittsburgh TechnologyCorridor," which can be downloaded at

Mesa sees light rail as a turning point

Many hope route will help deteriorating area
by Chad Graham - Nov. 3, 2008 12:00 AMThe Arizona Republic

With nearly 453,000 residents, Mesa counts a population larger than Miami, Minneapolis or St. Louis.

But the city has struggled to become more than a Phoenix bedroom community.

Mesa has attempted economic-development project after project to diversify its economy, which has good-paying aircraft-manufacturing jobs but also many low-paying telemarketing and retail jobs.

Metro light rail is seen as the latest way to change Mesa's fortune.

The city's initial stretch of the line is only a little more than a mile, but the impact could be among the most dramatic along the entire 20-mile route.

Neighborhoods, mom-and-pop shops and west Mesa, in particular, could be changed.

City officials, business leaders and development experts hope the train will bring a new identity to the city when it starts running down this stretch of Main Street.

Already, light rail has put new polish on Main Street: new paving, sidewalks and landscaping. Apartments, strip malls and businesses that were able to survive the construction are sprucing up before the trains start carrying passengers into the area. More here.

A bit of green for the rust belt

By PETER S. GOODMAN The New York Times - Published: November 2, 2008

NEWTON, Iowa — Like his uncle, his grandfather and many of their neighbors, Arie Versendaal spent decades working at the Maytag factory here, turning coils of steel into washing machines.

When the plant closed last year, taking 1,800 jobs out of this town of 16,000 people, it seemed a familiar story of American industrial decline: another company town brought to its knees by the vagaries of global trade.

Except that Versendaal has a new factory job, at a plant here that makes blades for turbines that turn wind into electricity. Across the road, in the old Maytag factory, another company is building concrete towers to support the massive turbines. Together, the two plants are expected to employ nearly 700 people by early next year.

"Life's not over," Versendaal says. "For 35 years, I pounded my body to the ground. Now, I feel like I'm doing something beneficial for mankind and the United States. We've got to get used to depending on ourselves instead of something else, and wind is free. The wind is blowing out there for anybody to use."

From the faded steel enclaves of Pennsylvania to the reeling auto towns of Michigan and Ohio, state and local governments are aggressively courting manufacturing companies that supply wind energy farms, solar electricity plants and factories that turn crops into diesel fuel.

This courtship has less to do with the loftiest aims of renewable energy proponents — curbing greenhouse gas emissions and lessening American dependence on foreign oil — and more to do with paychecks. In the face of rising unemployment, renewable energy has become a crucial source of good jobs, particularly for laid-off Rust Belt workers. More here.

Take a Deep Breath and Get Ready for the New Year

By Bob Ady, Ady International

The economic development profession is not immune to the uncertainties that the New Year will bring, and neither is the site selection business. Together we will wade into a host of unknowns that cannot be charted based on past experience.

Most projections indicate that business activity will decrease. This will likely be coupled with lower corporate earnings, increased unemployment and slumping consumer confidence. Not exactly a scenario that suggests an overall robust business expansion pattern for next year.

However, all will not be lost. The mantra for the New Year will be "focus". We will need to pick our targets carefully and pinpoint our marketing activities accordingly.

Business retention will be key. Pay closer attention than ever to what you already have. Don't assume your local businesses are immune to the economic environment. Many companies with excess production capacity will be looking to consolidate operations and will be willing to downsize or walk away from redundant facilities. Once that decision is made it is irreversible.

Corporate offices will continue to expand outward from central cities. Excess space, coupled with high salaries, suggests that major cost efficiencies are achievable through the strategic placement of regional offices.

The first footfalls of outsourced operations returning to the U.S. are being heard, and will increase significantly during the next year. This has been prompted by a recognition of the effect that high fuel prices have on supply chain costs, incidences of poor overseas service center quality, and the increasing uncertainty of the financial systems in emerging countries.

Renewable energy is all the buzz, and there is nothing on the horizon that suggests that this will change next year. New products and concepts will continue to be introduced, and the growth of existing renewable energy companies and new startups will be steady.

And then, of course, there are the old reliables that continue to prosper almost regardless of the economic environment. Top among these are all manner of food processing operations, government activities, and companies with a long term planning horizon.

In addition to the external environment discussed in this newsletter, there are many changes projected for next year in the internal environment of the site selection process. I plan to share these with you in my upcoming webinar on November 18, Site Selection Trends for 2009.

2009 will not be a wash. There is an old saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going". Let's make it happen next year.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Valley counties try unified approach to economic development

Jared Janes
November 8, 2008 - 8:10PM

EDINBURG — Global companies looking at the Rio Grande Valley as a potential spot to invest in new operations ignore city and county borders, the region's economic development officials say.
Those officials are asking the Valley's city and county governments to look past them, too.

Eight local governments in Hidalgo and Cameron counties have paid membership dues to join the Rio South Texas Economic Council, a newly formed agency charged with promoting the Valley as a whole to outside investors, said Sofia Hernandez, Hidalgo County's economic development coordinator.

And at least a dozen more entities - from other governments to educational institutions to private enterprises - have indicated they may join the effort as the council's objectives are more clearly defined.

Because the council is still in its organizational phase, Hernandez said, plans for how it will operate and what its final makeup will be have yet to be determined.

But Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas said its ultimate goal will be to foster collaboration among Valley cities and counties to improve the region's ability to compete for jobs and outside investment against other markets in Texas, the nation and around the world.

"We're trying to get a team effort for economic development," Salinas said, noting the "Friday-night mentality" of Valley cities constantly struggling to come out on top.

"The bottom line is, we need to start promoting the Valley as a region if we're going to attract those Fortune 500-type companies."


The council, which states in its bylaws that it will "promote the economic expansion and diversification of communities," has been quietly pieced together over the past year in discussions by some of Hidalgo County's leading economic development officials.

Commission members selected a board of directors, finished drafting bylaws and setting membership dues and received recognition from the Texas secretary of state - and that was all just last month.

But a major step came last week when the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court agreed to pay $30,000 in membership dues to join the council, which Salinas was elected to chair.

The council is the result of a natural growth in how government officials see the Valley and the avenues to improve its economic standing, said Keith Patridge, the president and chief executive officer of the McAllen Economic Development Corp.

For years, the Greater McAllen Alliance - a conglomeration of six economic development councils in Hidalgo County - worked to market the area, Patridge said. After Salinas took office in January 2007, he told them he wanted to bring a countywide approach to economic development.

But when officials started to work on a council centered on Hidalgo County, Patridge said, they quickly found that entities in Cameron, Starr and Willacy counties also had interest in joining.

A Valley-wide approach made more sense because each area has its own assets to bring to the table, he said. And by bringing more counties to the table, it consolidates the Valley's strengths and marketability as a major metropolitan area.

"When we bring in a company, they don't pay attention to where the city limits are," Patridge said. "They want to look at the buildings, the rail, the workforce. Those are the things that matter most."


Marketing will be a key part of the council's job, Patridge said. Even its name was chosen to distinguish the Valley as different from other parts of the state.

He said the word "Rio" identifies the council as part of the Valley, but it also functions as a quasi homophone for "real," poking fun at other cities like San Antonio that claim to be in South Texas.

However, a clever name won't be enough to pull in the biggest companies.

Salinas said the Valley needs to improve the skills and education of its labor force, develop its trade and transportation corridors and foster a hospitable business climate if it wants to compete for outside investment against other areas in Texas.

The best way to make those improvements is by collaborating on projects like the extension of Interstate 69 to this region and by showing a unified front on legislative trips to Austin and Washington, D.C., said Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos, who was selected as vice chairman of the council.

He said the cities and counties in the Valley need to change the mentality that economic development is a zero-sum game.

If a business chooses to locate in Hidalgo County, Cameron County isn't automatically a loser, Cascos said. Some Cameron County residents could commute to the business for work, or Hidalgo County residents employed at the business could travel to Cameron County for play.

"Cameron County is not competing with Hidalgo County," Cascos said. "We're competing against other metro areas, other states and other countries."

Jared Janes covers Hidalgo County government and general assignments for The Monitor. He can be reached at (956) 683-4424.

Abu Dhabi: A City Rich in Branding

by Mya Frazier November 10, 2008 issue

So how do the branding efforts of Abu Dhabi, recently christened by Fortune Magazine as “the richest city in the world,” influence the city's prosperity?

Established in 2007, the oddly named Office of the Brand Abu Dhabi, referred to as OBAD, was given two mandates: Create a brand that “captures the essence of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in an identity that is visual, literal and behavioral” and “act as the guardian and patron of this brand identity,” according to its website.

The apparent simplicity of these mandates can be deceiving. As with any branding challenge—whether of a product or a booming metropolis—paradoxes and complications abound, and the case of Abu Dhabi is no exception.

There are few cities in the history of the world that have undergone the kind of dramatic transformation Abu Dhabi has inside such a short period of time.

From a product-branding perspective, Abu Dhabi's success is comparable to the rise of Crest—a toothpaste brand developed in 1955 that eventually morphed into the multi-sku line of products that it is today, but in the timeframe of just two decades.

It wasn’t until 1958, when oil was discovered, that the dramatic remaking of the economic, social and cultural life of this island city went into hyper-drive. Up until the middle of the 20th century, the richest families in Abu Dhabi lived in mud huts, nice mud huts, admittedly, but mud huts nonetheless.

In 1958, the population topped just 15,000 residents. Fast-forward to today and the city’s estimated population of 1.6 million is expected to balloon to three million by 2030, according to the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council. The humble roots of this exploding city are not ignored by the OBAD. “Prior to the mid 1960s, Abu Dhabi was a poor (yet proud) society of people who lived off pearls and fishing,” notes the OBAD’s website.

Today, the prosperous ruling elite—enriched by petrodollars—live in palaces and sprawling villas amid expansive shopping malls and the world’s most expensive hotels. It’s a shimmering coastline city that rises from the desert like an image of Oz. So, how has the city of Abu Dhabi decided to brand itself on the international scene? And is it working?

The OBAD approached the branding initiative by defining the competitive market. It noted the challenge of destination marketing and of creating a brand that isn’t “wallpaper.” “In the UK market alone there are more than 120 destinations busily marketing themselves,” the site notes.

The OBAD carefully refined its audience to “Cultural Seekers,” or people who “see travel as a way to enrich themselves, always seeking new experiences in new countries and they have enough money to go wherever they choose…This group of luxury travelers are worldly and early adopters—the avant-garde of any trend.” After defining this segment, OBAD conducted face-to-face workshops in the UK, Germany and France.

Using an inverted pyramid, the branding process involved funneling down the various product features (desert, Bedouin, dates and coffee, mosques) functional benefits (year round summer, sun and sand), emotional rewards (authenticity, relaxation, pride) consumer values (confidence, adventure) brand personality (wealth, legacy, understated) and, finally, the summing up of all this information into a single word that defined the brand of Abu Dhabi: Respect.

To engage residents of Abu Dhabi in the branding process, the OBAD held a photography competition, which asked for submissions that “capture the sprit of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi,” and received more than 2,000 photos.

But promoting Abu Dhabi as a brand has been externally focused as well. The effort to gain attention on the international scene is already paying big dividends. Amid a looming recession, American media companies recently announced plans to open operations in the island city, a move that will undoubtedly drive more attention to the booming region. CNN, HarperCollins, Random House, the British Broadcasting Corporation, The Financial Times and Thomson Reuters Foundation, will open up offices in a new 200,000-square-meter campus dubbed the Abu Dhabi Media Zone.

The development of the media zone follows another significant media investment—a US$ 1 billion deal with Time Warner’s Hollywood studio Warner Brothers. This isn't the only major investment in media by Abu Dhabi recently. Another arm of the government signed an unprecedented US$ 1 billion deal with Warner Brothers to make video games and movies with that company. Yet another US$ 1 billion was spent to finance a film company. And to increase its cultural cachet to tourists, Abu Dhabi even convinced the Louvre and Guggenheim museums to open up branches in the city—it is,of course, supporting the Western cultural outposts with billions in investment.

In “Brand Dubai: The Instant City; or the Instantly Recognizable City,” a paper published in the academic journal International Planning Studies in 2007, author Samer Bagaeen notes that US$ 100 billion worth of real estate under construction or in the pipeline has helped put the Dubai property market on the world stage, but he does question the “sustainability of this growth.”

Indeed, despite the pending worldwide economic downturn, the oil boom and the petrodollars driving this prosperous city’s transformation is far from over, especially considering Abu Dhabi’s seemingly limitless energy sources: 7.7% of the world’s oil reserves and the fifth largest natural gas reserve in the world. Not bad for an area of just 67,340 square kilometers on a T-shaped island that is the capital of the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf.

Yet, even the threat of an unsustainable growth trajectory—or a shift away from fossil fuels—doesn’t seem to be lost on Abu Dhabi. In February 2008, Abu Dhabi broke ground on a new development district referred to as Masdar City, “the world’s first zero-carbon, zero-waste, car-free city,” and is spending US$ 22 billion to build it. The city is expected to house 50,000 people and will run on solar energy and be linked to a light-rail network.

“We are creating a city where residents and commuters will live the highest quality of life with the lowest environmental footprint,” said Masdar CEO, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, in a press release announcing the groundbreaking. “Masdar City will become the world’s hub for future energy. By taking sustainable development and living to a new level, it will lead the world in understanding how all future cities should be built.”

The development is part of a broader initiative, the Masdar Initiative, which includes the scheduled opening in 2009 of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (MIST), which Abu Dhabi calls “the world’s first graduate university dedicated to renewable energy.” MIST, like other initiatives, involves a Western partner, in this case the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ironically, despite using petrodollars to pay for the Masdar Initiative, the mission of the new institute will be to develop “the next generation of solutions to the world’s growing dependence on fossil fuels.”

The seemingly endless and exhaustive list of audacious plans by Abu Dhabi ensures that this vibrant city is only just beginning to define itself. But surely, there’s little chance Abu Dhabi will get dismissed as “wallpaper” and undoubtedly will be an attraction for the world’s “cultural
seekers,” for decades to come.

Perhaps, if the time comes for the OBAD to choose another word to sum up the brand, a possible replacement might be ambitious.

Mya Frazier is an independent business journalist based out of Columbus, Ohio. She is a frequent contributor to Advertising Age and a former advertising columnist and reporter at The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Cincinnati Business Courier.