Sunday, March 23, 2008

North Star Alliance builds business development, website for boat builders

By Lynda Clancy VillageSoup/Knox County Times Reporter

(March 18): For its boat builders and marine industry innovators, the state is now pushing to better market a $650 million industry to other countries, and potential boat owners who may be reading New York Times Magazine, Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors, or Forbes.

The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, through the North Star Alliance, has labeled the marketing campaign, or its "brand strategy," with a new slogan, "Art and Soul." The purpose is to drive sales growth for marine-based enterprises. is the new website to help brand and market the boat building industry in the state. (Image courtesy of

According to the state, the marine trades, composite materials business, boat building, marine and waterfront infrastructure, marine service and repair, sporting goods, and ballistic armor represent the majority of the economic base of Midcoast Maine.

The money to hire public relations and marketing personnel and webmasters to market these businesses derives from the $15 million Wired grant Maine received last year from the U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development Initiative.
Of that, $2 million is to go to marketing, and this week, the DECD unveiled its new website,

"Michelangelo had his ceilings," the site's front page states. "We prefer boats. Boats designed with an elegant, understated line. A maritime tradition that spans 400 years. And a spirit of innovation that burns brighter than ever. No one has more to draw on."

Besides marketing online and in various magazines, the business development effort to boost the marine trades will also include a series of educational workshops and seminars organized simultaneously to teach boat builders how to promote their individual businesses competitively.

"This is new territory for many of our builders," said Jane Wellehan, president of Maine Built Boats. "They are stepping out into the world in a new way." More here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Officials unveil development plan

ALBANY — It will take “unified, coordinated and communitywide efforts” for Albany-Dougherty County to transform itself from what it is to what it wants to be, an official with a development strategies firm that drafted a new community plan said Wednesday.

Albany-Dougherty County is no different than many other communities looking into the future and opting for change and progress in education, government, quality of life, infrastructure and other key areas of community and economic development, creators of the plan concluded.

Atlanta-based Market Street was hired by the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, for about $125,000, to draft the “All Together Albany” strategic plan for a revitalized community.

“This is a new kind of plan for Albany-Dougherty County,” said Market Street project manager Alex Pearlstein. “This is the first time that the dynamics of community and economic (development) have been compiled under one umbrella.

“Community,” he said, “is the product you’re selling on the economic side.”

“There never has been a more competitive time,” said Market Street founder and CEO Mac Holladay.

Since October, a steering committee of about 40 leaders — ranging in sectors from media to government to education to business — has met regularly to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the community and to create a vision of a new Albany-Dougherty County.

“This is our work plan moving forward,” Martin said.

The five-year plan calls for an estimated $2.84 million in additional investment.

Martin said it can be done, and cited the EDC’s Imagine Albany campaign as an example.

The committee’s ideas were drafted into four reports: competitive realities, target business analysis, community and economic development strategy and the implementation plan, the latter of which was presented Wednesday afternoon. More here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

BMW plans could boost recruitment in Upstate

By Trevor Anderson
Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Good news travels quickly. And Upstate business leaders are already musing on economic development opportunities that may well follow BMW's announced expansion of its Spartanburg County plant.

On Tuesday, Upstate Alliance, the organization formed in 2000 to market the Upstate and foster economic growth, held its annual meeting at the Zentrum on BMW's campus near Greer, the same building where on Monday the German automaker revealed its plans to invest $750 million to increase manufacturing space and add 500 full-time workers by 2012.

While Upstate Alliance had given no specifics about how it plans to use BMW's expansion, the previous day's announcement was a prevalent topic in discussion of the organization's future goals.

"Anytime you have an expansion of this magnitude, it's going to help economic development efforts," said Craig White, chairman of Upstate Alliance. "No matter where we go - whether it is trade shows, conferences and what have you - it's going to be a topic of conversation. We definitely want to use it to benefit us."

White said BMW's worldwide brand recognition primarily will give the Upstate more muscle to claw away companies and high-income jobs from competing communities around the globe.

"Any time you have economic development news like that, it makes their (Upstate Alliance's) job that much easier," said BMW spokesman Bobby Hitt, who also serves as secretary for Upstate Alliance.

Jennifer Noel, Upstate Alliance's vice president of marketing, said BMW's plans will legitimize at least one marketing campaign the organization is working on this year.

Last week, Upstate Alliance, along with BMW Charity Pro-Am organizers and Erwin-Penland marketing agency, announced its "I Was Blown Away" advertising campaign. More here.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A few ideas for county to attract jobs

March 7, 2008

Lake County commissioners last week heard a long-awaited presentation from consultants they hired to tell them how to develop or attract business here and what sorts of businesses they should court.

The purpose of this $114,000 economic-development plan is to provide a vision and road map for the county to diversify its economy and tax base -- and offer jobs.

Unfortunately, the result was much like consultants handing county commissioners a world atlas and telling them to jolly themselves along to a particular remote village in China.

Some of the consultants' conclusions were obvious. They reported that -- stop the presses! -- there's an arts community in Mount Dora that the county might take advantage of.

Lake also should "coordinate efforts with allies" and "diversify the tax base through innovation, industry attraction and business development." Gee, ya think?

Too many aspects of the report from TIP, the Austin, Texas-based firm, were cut-and-paste. But the company did zero in on several important points that Lake County ought to focus on as it goes about trying turn the economy away from home building and from service industries that cater to retirees.

First, predictability.

"Predictability in the development process is arguably more important than higher impact fees. Carrying costs on a small to large development can be devastating if the development review process is not predictable," the consultants noted.

Perhaps Lake's current pickle with Niagara prompted the consultants to include that phrase, and if so, they're right. The Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission encouraged Niagara Bottling LLC to spend $15 million to buy a building in Lake's industrial park near Groveland and place its new water-bottling plant here. All was warm and fuzzy until commissioners and the public learned that the company planned to take a natural resource and sell it for profit -- a resource everyone knows is dwindling. The welcome mat was jerked out from under Niagara's feet, and that shouldn't have happened.

Second, the report stressed the importance of improving education. Right again. Education is key to Lake making any changes in its economy.

Here's an interesting tidbit that the authors of the report thought important enough to include in the introduction:

"One factor in the county's difficulty in attracting . . .employers could be related to the county's relatively low educational attainment levels. TIP conducted a data comparison of Lake County with several other suburban counties in Sun Belt locations and found that only one benchmark county in Mississippi recorded a smaller percentage of its over-25 work force with a college degree.

"According to this analysis, the share of adults in Lake County with a bachelor's degree or higher was 17 percent. Typically, information technology firms place cities and counties with 30 percent or more high on their site selection lists.

"Ouch. The firm padded its painful observations by stressing that Lake has a lot of opportunities. While the numbers sting, at least it's clear where improvement is needed.

Third, use "place" rather than cash to attract companies.

"Rather than relying on incentives and cheap land to recruit industry, this approach recognizes the increasing importance of quality of place in the attraction and retention of business," the consultant wrote.

Amen. This is a far more personal approach guaranteed to strike a chord with quality companies.

And, when the county does grant incentives, TIP recommended a "clawback" agreement that requires recovery of incentives if the firm makes fewer hires or a smaller investment than promised.

That would certainly have helped Leesburg, which thoughtlessly gave an Apopka company called Skybolt Aeromotive Corp. a $750,000 grant to move to its airport. The agreement was that Skybolt was to hire 26 new employees before March 2004. When that failed to happen, city taxpayers started reimbursing the state in annual payments of about $150,000 each.

Fourth, demand accountability.

Hallelujah.Last year, the county gave $310,000 to the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, the agency that encouraged Niagara to settle in Lake without thought for the environmental impact. The consultants suggested that the county consider a "performance-based" contract with the EDC. Good idea.

While they're at it, they might require a little ethics, too. Recently, the EDC's regional director in Lake, who personally worked to attract Niagara, went to work for the California-based bottler. Some clueless souls in the economic development arena just can't understand why this is a problem. All right, class, take a note: This is wrong because the public cannot be sure that the people it is paying are working in the best interest of the taxpayer -- and not the private firm.

How ConocoPhillips kept cat in the bag

As rumors swirled about who was going to buy the 432-acre former StorageTek facility in Louisville, about a half-dozen people were quietly putting together the $58.5 million deal.

By Margaret Jackson
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 03/08/2008 06:55:50 PM MST

In the fall of 2006, ConocoPhillips chairman James Mulva and chief information officer Gene Batchelder realized the company was about to run out of space at its Houston headquarters and its research center in Bartlesville, Okla.

They hired Austin, Texas-based AngelouEconomics to help the company find a place to build new facilities. In keeping with the company's history, it narrowed the area to states in the nation's oil patch.

Last month, ConocoPhillips revealed plans to build a new technology center and corporate learning center on the 432-acre former StorageTek campus in Louisville it purchased from Sun Microsystems for $58.5 million. The announcement culminated a highly secretive process in which fewer than a half-dozen people knew the company's intentions.

"Colorado has been associated with oil, but is very pro new energy," said Mary Manning, general manager for global real estate and facilities service for ConocoPhillips. "We want to be a leader in that area. It was a great fit."

Many have said attracting ConocoPhillips is a coup for Gov. Bill Ritter, whose agenda includes promoting renewable energy. Ritter has pushed the legislature to pass a package of bills jump-starting what he calls the new energy economy.

About 18 months ago, Daniel Kah, Angelou's vice president of site selection, called the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. to inquire about available locations.

"We submitted 39 sites to the consultant, one of which was the Sun facility," said Tom Clark, executive vice president of the corporation. "Then it went dormant for a while." More here.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Ex-Residents Are Gone, But They're Not Forgotten

The Wall Stree Journal
December 26, 2007; Page B1

South Dakota isn't for everyone. So when the state crafted a program to attract new workers, it targeted people already familiar with its freezing winters and open spaces: the thousands of South Dakotans who leave every year.

The result is "Dakota Roots," a year-old job-placement service that matches expatriate South Dakotans with companies that need workers.

Dakota Roots is South Dakota's effort to attract former residents.

Across the country, in an effort to repopulate declining work forces, several states are going after former residents. Last fall, North Dakota launched a program called "Experience ND" with an event in St. Paul, Minn. Vermont has "PursueVT." Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack organized and attended receptions around the country for Iowa college grads who moved away.

The reach of these programs is limited. But states and companies that participate say they are worth the modest investment, and are often cheaper than hiring a headhunter. States figure it is a lot easier to persuade former residents to come home than it is to get strangers to move to a place they have never been to. Iowa officials say efforts to lure former residents have brought about 2,200 of them back to the state.

States are always hungry for new people, but the idea of trying to lure ex-residents is fairly new. Most economic-development efforts focus on attracting new employers, often with a combination of tax breaks, cheap real estate and cash. Yet relocation consultants say that for companies thinking about moving to a state, one of the biggest concerns is having an adequate, well-trained work force.

"Getting people to move back to an area will become a very important economic-development tool," says Dennis J. Donovan, a principal at Wadley-Donovan-Gutshaw Consulting, a corporate-location consultant in Bridgewater, N.J.

Many of these programs use college alumni lists to reach out to former residents. The Internet and social-networking sites like Facebook have made tracking down grads easier. In addition, expatriates tend not to stray far from their states of origin and are inclined to cluster together.

People who leave the Great Plains states often go to Minneapolis.

The Canadian province of Saskatchewan, which also has a "come home" program, has found that many of its college grads flee to neighboring Alberta.

Vermont, as part of its new PursueVT initiative, hired a research firm to find where its grads went and why they went there. The research showed a large number live in the Boston area, and that many left for work reasons, rather than because they wanted an urban environment.
In September, the state's department of economic development hosted an event that paired 22 technology companies with about 80 graduates of Vermont colleges who had left the state (more than 1,000 invitations were sent out).

The gathering, at a popular bar near Boston's waterfront, featured a jazz band and free hors d'oeuvres like seared tuna, chicken satay and a table of Vermont cheeses. Several attendees have expressed interest in working in Vermont, and the state says it plans to do similar events every three months. "We're not reaching out to the unidentified cold prospect," says Mike Quinn, Vermont's economic development commissioner.

PursueVT has hosted events in nearby Boston to try to get former residents to return to Vermont.

The cost of these programs isn't large, especially when compared with the millions in tax breaks and grants that are given to attract companies. Also, though the programs are aimed at former residents, they are open to anyone looking for a job in the state. Vermont's department of economic development says the recent event in Boston cost about $33,000, including consulting and marketing costs. The budget for the year is around $100,000.

The states pursuing ex-residents tend to share both extremely cold winters and a shortage of workers. South Dakota, which has a 2.8% unemployment rate, one of the lowest in the nation, has a growing service sector. New job opportunities include back-office operations at financial-service firms.

The challenge for South Dakota is to find enough people to keep the state growing; its 0.91% population growth was 24th in the nation last year. The state has lagged behind the nation in population growth every year since 1962.

Since October 2006, the Dakota Roots program has resulted in 290 new South Dakotans, and officials say about 1,100 people are actively using Dakota Roots to look for jobs in the state.

Jackie Henriksen, 30 years old, attended high school and college in South Dakota, before moving eight years ago to the Dallas area to take a job as a software engineer. After having a child last year, Mrs. Henriksen says she and her husband started exploring a move back to South Dakota.

She registered with Dakota Roots late last year, and intensified her search after she was laid off in April. "We lived in Texas but we never felt like we could call it home," she says. Mrs. Henriksen moved back to South Dakota in July, and began work at a new engineering job in August.

Besides going after former residents, states are looking for ways to keep the people they have. In July, Maine's governor signed a law that will provide college-loan assistance to Maine-educated grads who stay in the state to live and work.

Write to Conor Dougherty at

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Tri-Cities Economic Development Alliance entering 'pivotal year'

Published 03/01/2008 By Sharon Caskey Hayes

Three years ago, some of the region’s most influential business leaders gathered for a press conference in Johnson City to announce a new organization with lofty goals: Create 7,200 high-paying jobs in five years and raise the region’s average industry wage by 20 percent.

They called it the Tri-Cities Economic Development Alliance, hired a firm to raise funds to sustain the organization for five years, and a few months later, introduced veteran economic developer Andy Burke to lead the effort.

Now three years later, the organization is facing its “pivotal year,” said Burke, chief executive officer of the group now called the Regional Alliance for Economic Development.

“2008 is a pivotal year for this organization and I think for this region,” Burke said. “My goal right now is to have a great year.”

In his 2007 annual letter to alliance investors, Chairman Scott Niswonger said the organization continues to gain momentum toward its goal of adding quality jobs to the region. He said more than 14,000 jobs were added from the third quarter of 2005 to the third quarter of 2007, based on information from the East Tennessee State University Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

“Although we primarily credit local city and county economic development partners with this job growth, there continues to be growing value in presenting a unified region with its collective assets and amenities,” Niswonger wrote.

Just how the alliance has impacted job growth and economic development will be examined later this year. And those findings will determine whether or not the alliance will continue as it is today. More here.