Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Four-wheel ignition

BERLIN — While Chattanooga prepares for VW to turn earth for a $1 billion auto plant, Southeast Tennessee officials are scouring the German countryside to entice new suppliers and more jobs.

Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich top the list of cities visited by more than 40 economic developers and officials seeking to multiply the impact of VW’s plant to open in 2011.

“It’s not too early for us to build relationships with suppliers,” said Trevor Hamilton, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for economic development.

The state of Tennessee invited suppliers to attend “Invest in Tennessee” forums and hear presentations while in Germany last week.

The Tennessee group has visited Dusseldorf, an economic center of Germany on the Rhine River, as well as Frankfurt, the financial and transportation nexus of the country. Officials will end their visit Monday with a trip to Munich, the capital city of Bavaria, north of the Bavarian Alps and the third-largest city in Germany.

In Chattanooga, VW expects to employ about 2,000 people at the Enterprise South industrial park plant. The governor is working to secure as many as 6,000 more automotive supplier jobs within 100 miles of the plant.

He called VW “an absolutely first-class, gold seal company,” but noted that landing the plant is just the first step in turbocharging the regional economy.

“This is a hunting license,” the governor said about the region’s opportunity to attract supplier jobs to Tennessee.

Both Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey and Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield were confident about recruiting suppliers to the area.

“There’s no doubt there will be suppliers locating there,” Mr. Ramsey said. “That’s what we’re here for.”

Gregg Ridley, Bledsoe County mayor, said the overseas mission is all about the jobs.

“We have some leads,” he said. Bledsoe County has a 139,000-square-foot building on 15 acres which once belonged to auto component maker Dura Automotive, but it closed in 2003, he said.

“We’ve got an advantage with the building being there,” Mr. Ridley said.

Auto industry observers often divide a major manufacturer’s supply chain into three tiers. Tier 1 suppliers usually locate next to or close to a plant. Carmakers and tier 1 suppliers are moving from making large batches of identical components to having those parts delivered in sequence to auto manufacturers.

Tier 2 suppliers may service the tier 1 companies, while tier 3 suppliers may provide to tier 2. Therefore, tier 2 and 3 businesses don’t necessarily need to be so close to an assembly plant.

Patrick Phillips, head of the economic development agency of Loudon County, Tenn., about 50 miles northeast of Chattanooga, said there is a significant benefit from landing spin-off jobs.

“The prospects for Loudon County are excellent,” he said. “We’re optimistic given our location and proximity along the interstate.”

W. Andrew Burke of the Regional Alliance for Economic Development for Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia said the area wants to be in the mix for pulling in suppliers, noting that Green County, Tenn., is represented by his group.

“We already have a significant cluster of second- and third-tier automotive suppliers,” he said.

Gov. Bredesen said VW landing in Chattanooga is “a huge Good Housekeeping seal” for the area.

“People will say ‘an automaker can put a plant anywhere they want. VW chose Chattanooga. Maybe we ought to take a fresh look.’”


While Tennesseans and North Georgians seek suppliers, VW designers and engineers work on the new mid-size sedan to be built at Enterprise South. The car is one of the linchpins on which VW is pinning its hopes of securing a much larger share of the American market.

The prototype of the car is being conceived at VW’s tightly secured vehicle design center in Wolfsburg, Germany, dubbed Walhalla, the name of the mythic Norse hall ruled by Odin, leader of the Norse gods.

Walter de Silva, an Italian and VW’s chief designer, called Walhalla “the birthplace of our ideas.”

American automaker General Motors was the first car company to recognize the importance of design in strategy, he said.

“At VW, design is assuming more responsibility,” Mr. de Silva said.

He said VW, known for its iconic Beetle in the United States, can derive inspiration from its past.

“We need to recognize what the DNA is of the brand ... and this is what we need to communicate in the future,” Mr. de Silva said.

While tightlipped about specifics, he said the car will be “a customization of American life,” but at the same time recognizable as a Volkswagen.

Auto analyst Erich Merkle of Crowe, Chizek and Co. said German automakers usually keep new products tightly secret. VW probably will show off the car at the Detroit Auto Show, but not until early 2010, he said.

“I’d pick Detroit because of the vehicle and what it represents,” the analyst said.

Mr. Merkle called Mr. de Silva one of the best auto designers in the world.

“He’s like the Michael Jordan of auto design,” he said. “He comes out with designs which are just striking.”

Research a Prospect…in Ten Minutes

A meeting with a prospect is more likely to result in a big sale if you go into the engagement armed with solid information about the prospect’s firm. Fortunately, there’s no mystery to market research. Here’s how the experts build a quick corporate profile when they’re pressed for time:

Step 1. Go to and do a search on the prospect’s corporate name. Unless the company is very small or very closely held, you’ll likely get a summary of the company and its business model, the basic financials, and the names of a few top executives, even if you don’t have a subscription. If there’s no listing for the prospect in Hoovers, skip to step 3. If there is a listing, cut and paste the summary and the headquarters address into the top of your profile document. If the company is not publicly held, skip to step 3. If it is publicly held, continue to step 2.

Step 2. Go to, click on “Search for Company Filings,” then “Companies and Other Filings.” (Or just click HERE.) Enter the prospect’s corporate name. You’ll get a list of documents. Click through to read their most recent 10K and 10Q reports. Typically you get a list of .html files. Click on the first one, which will contain the bulk of the company’s last detailed financial report. The most important sections are the financial tables, the list of executives, the descriptions of the prospect’s business model, and the “issues and uncertainties.” This last identifies the prospect’s pain points that might provide an opening for a sale. Cut and paste whatever looks interesting into your profile document.

Step 3. Go to the prospect’s website. Click on the “ABOUT” link and examine everything that the company has to say about itself. Pay particular attention to any management biographies. Cut and paste whatever looks interesting into your document. Look under “NEWS” (or “MEDIA RELATIONS” or whatever) for the prospect’s recent press releases. Cut and paste any releases that look interesting from the perspective of your firm’s offerings. Now look under “JOBS AVAILABLE” (it might be called something else) to find out who they’re hiring; that gives you a good idea of how and where they’re planning to expand and where they’re short of resources (another pain point.)

Step 4. Google the prospect’s corporate name and the name of your contact in the prospect’s firm. (Hint: Put both in quotes like so: “John Doe” “Acme Corp”.) Look over the first two pages of results. (Look at the links and the summary.) Click on any document that contains information that might help you better understand the contact’s roles and responsibilities. Take especial note of anything, like references to a personal life or conference speaking engagements, that might offer a “hook” for rapport building. Cut and paste whatever looks interesting into your profile document. Repeat the process with relevant executive names that you retrieved during earlier steps.

Voila! You’ve got a twenty to thirty page document that, if you study it for a half hour or so, will give you a better understanding of the prospect’s firm than most of the employees who actually work there.


8 Bonehead Ways to Blow a Presentation

Sales presentations are hard to do well but easy to screw up. Here are eight sure-fire ways to ensure that your sales presentations fall flat:

#1: Dump information on the customer. Don’t blab everything you know about the product and hope that something will stick. Fix: Turn the presentation into a compelling story.

#2: Try to impress with fancy features. Nobody is going to buy because you spent hours using all the PowerPoint gimcracks. Fix: Make the presentation about your message, not about you.

#3: Use a busy background template. A snazzy format with bright colors and shapes overpowers the content on the slides. Fix: Use a simple background that remains in the background.

#4: Select fonts that people can’t read. Splatter your presentation with boldface, italics and UPPERCASE, in tiny typefaces. Fix: Use Ariel or Times New Roman at 24pts or larger.

#5: Provide busy, meaningless graphics. One picture may equal a thousand words, but only if that picture makes sense. Fix: Highlight the data point inside the graphic that’s crucial.

#6: State opinion without supporting data. Unsubstantiated “facts” (like “we’re the leading vendor”) destroy credibility. Fix: Provide objective backup to every qualitative statement.

#7: Use meaningless business jargon. Jargon can be distracting, annoying and often communicates little or nothing. Fix: If you’re going to use jargon, make sure it’s the customer’s jargon, not yours.

#8: Tell an irrelevant joke. It’s fine to pace a presentation with a joke, but you’re not Jerry Seinfeld. Fix: If you must tell a joke, make it short and make sure it reinforces your message.

Source: BNET Business Network: BNET

The above is based upon a conversation with neuroscientist Stephen M. Kosslyn, Chair of the Department of Psychology at Harvard University and author of the recently-published “Clear and to the Point: 8 Psychological Principles for Compelling PowerPoint Presentations.”

Readers: What are some other ways to screw up a sales presentation?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

City Council OKs seven projects to promote Marion brand

By Mike Conley The McDowell News
Published: October 16, 2008

City leaders have a list of seven projects that could help Marion promote its "brand," support local businesses and improve the downtown area.At a recent meeting, the Marion City Council approved a list of seven initiatives that were recommended by the N.C. STEP Steering Committee. The N.C. Rural Center's Small Town Economic Prosperity (STEP) program provides training, guidance and financial resources to develop plans and programs that will strengthen the civic and economic environment of small towns in North Carolina.

The program is part of the Rural Center's Small Towns Initiative, which was launched to help revitalize the state's economically distressed towns with populations less than 10,000. In 2006, Marion was one of the few small towns in North Carolina selected the program.

As part of the effort, the STEP Program Leadership Committee recommended seven projects that could be done with grant money coming from the Rural Center and other sources. Heather Cotton, the city's planning and development director, outlined each one to council.

The first project would promote a "Made in McDowell" branding. That means marketing Marion in a way that sets it apart from the rest of the region. Local leaders could develop a "Made in McDowell" advertising campaign and start a Web site to promote locally made products. As part of this effort, a permanent location for the farmer's market could be found.

The second project would provide more support and training for new small businesses in Marion and McDowell County. This would include incentive programs for small business startup such as rental/utility assistance, providing capital resources, and revolving loans. More training could be made available.

The third project focuses on improving the technological infrastructure in Marion, which would involve getting wireless Internet in the downtown area. Local leaders could also provide training seminars on how to promote a business on the Web.

The other projects recommended by the committee cover such areas as the city's expensive water and sewer improvements and the development of a downtown center that would help new businesses get started. Another initiative would focus on finding new uses for old, vacant plant buildings.

The city would work with McDowell Technical Community College, the school system, the Marion Business Association, the McDowell Chamber of Commerce and AdvantageWest to get these efforts done.

City Manager Bob Boyette said he appreciated the work of Freddie Killough and Bobbie Young from the Marion Business Association and especially Cotton for the work they put into coming up with these recommendations. Mayor Everette Clark said the STEP Program is still new and the Rural Center wants to have projects that create good jobs."We want to see a lot of these things become a reality," said Clark.

In other business, Boyette presented council with an update on the jobs lost through industrial closings in Marion. Since 1990, Marion has lost 2,988 manufacturing jobs. That figure includes the latest closing at Spectrum Yarns. The city has also seen a utility revenue loss of $565,202 per year and a total property tax loss of $129,746 per year.

Industry incentives can be high stakes game

Some see N.C. cities at disadvantage if ‘bidding war’ breaks out

Tom Joyce
Staff Reporter

Interstate competition for industrial prospects can be a rough business, at times employing devious tactics likened to those of back-alley poker games or shady used-car lots.

A city in North Carolina might put one offer on the table, for example, only to have its ante upped by a competitor in Virginia. Back and forth they will go, with the outcome possibly decided by some “deal breaker” whipped out at the last minute like an unexpected ace of spades.

And when localities in Northwest North Carolina are involved, some will argue that they aren’t being given sufficient chances to even compete at all due to officials in Raleigh not steering enough prospects this way.

Recently, North Carolina’s ability to compete with Virginia on industrial incentives — special enticements often used to lure companies and their precious jobs to communities needing them — came into question with the expansion of Aerial Machine and Tool, a Defense Department contractor.

Though he had expressed a preference to locate in Mount Airy, the head of that company ultimately chose Ararat, Va., instead for an operation that initially is employing 30 people to manufacture military fuselage jackets containing a fire retardant that extinguishes flames.

The reason, said Aerial President John Marcaccio, a Mount Airy resident, was that economic-development officials in Virginia were able to assemble a more attractive incentives package than their counterparts in Surry County. Marcaccio has said economic-development leaders in Surry “got outdone” by those in Virginia.

States’ PhilosophiesDiffer

Several officials on this side of the state line say it was simply a matter of the government in Virginia offering money that North Carolina couldn’t — or wouldn’t.

The main deciding factor was said to be a state grant from the Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund (TROF), the amount of which has not been announced. The TROF is roughly Virginia’s equivalent of the Golden LEAF Foundation in North Carolina, as each awards grants to aid economic development in communities that have been dependent on tobacco.

Another item that helped swing the deal, according to one official in North Carolina close to the negotiations, was a willingness by Virginia to provide for on-the-job training at the Aerial manufacturing site in Ararat. The training arrangement in North Carolina would have forced employees to use facilities of Surry Community College.

The incentives package in North Carolina was assembled by the Surry County Economic Development Partnership in conjunction with the Mount Airy and county boards of commissioners.

Based on the minutes of the April 3 meeting of the city Board of Commissioners, the incentives to be offered by the city to Aerial were discussed and agreed upon during a closed session held at the end of the meeting. Afterward, the Surry County Board of Commissioners adopted a matching package.

With the company ultimately choosing to expand in Ararat, Va., the incentives were not voted on in open session and have not been disclosed publicly.

But they are believed to have been in keeping with the city and county’s normal procedure that is based on the “self-funding” policy. Under that system, a portion of the tax proceeds to be realized from a company expansion is used to provide a grant to encourage the industry to locate here. Factors such as the manufacturer’s own investment in machinery or equipment are taken into account in determining the incentives to be offered.

In February, for example, Mount Airy and Surry County each offered tax incentives of $17,700 to about $26,800 for Bodet & Horst, a German mattress company that recently launched a manufacturing operation in Mount Airy. The plan called for the exact amount of the tax incentives provided to that entity, which initially planned to hire only 10 people, to depend on the actual investment by Bodet & Horst.

The local incentives for the mattress-maker are in the form of tax rebates calculated over a five-year period.

Surry’s economic-development agency is on record as saying that incentives exceeding the self-funded amount will be provided to a firm offering a significant addition of jobs, based on a commitment by local governments.

However, a different situation faced local officials in Aerial Machine and Tool’s case. Since the company planned to lease an existing building rather than construct a facility and to add a relatively small amount of machinery, it made the incentive figure low when the expected tax revenues to be generated were taken into account.

Surry County, in addition to offering local incentives to Aerial, sought a matching grant from the Governor’s Matching One NC Fund, a special state fund, that would have doubled the total incentive figure. But no support was received from that source, which requires certain criteria to be met, including that the industry’s wages be comparable to a county’s average hourly manufacturing wage.

Aside from the grant fund, about the only other incentives offered by the state are tax credits given to companies that create jobs. The N.C. Department of Commerce classifies its incentives as “targeted, performance-based incentive programs.” They are built around the philosophy that a company first must add to the tax base or generate jobs and pay its taxes before receiving any money.

Though local governments do have some leeway to “sweeten the pot” on their own, “We don’t have as much flexibility as we once did,” Mount Airy City Manager Don Brookshire said in reference to the tight financial situation that has hampered the municipality in recent years.

Brookshire said that Mount’s once-lofty budget surplus of $16 million — which would have offered it much flexibility — has largely been spent on readying Piedmont Triad West, a local industrial park located near Interstate 74, for new tenants.

Virginia Tactics QuestionedVirginia, meanwhile, was able to dangle the Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund grant at a strategic point in the Aerial negotiations and steered the expansion away from North Carolina, which a source close to the company said offered “too little too late.”

But Virginia’s use of the tobacco funds in such a way is considered questionable by one source in North Carolina familiar with economic-development projects in both states, who addressed the issue only on condition of anonymity.

“They throw that in as the deal-breaker,” he said. “It’s the closer for them.”It is hard for North Carolina to compete with Virginia’s ability to offer such a grant in the late stages of the process, he said. “You’ve got them hooked, you’ve got them interested and you’re neck and neck with them — then bam! Here!” he added of the tobacco money being injected into the equation.

“But I have no way of proving that,” the source said of the questionable tactic allegedly used by Virginia to usurp its neighboring state.

Another factor that seemed to play a role in Virginia’s ability to recruit Aerial Machine and Tool was a strong partnership not only between the state and local governments, but the federal branch as well. U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, whose congressional district includes Patrick County, worked closely with local economic-development leaders to rapidly assemble the overall incentives package.

The local entities pursuing the project included the Patrick County Economic Development Authority and the Patrick County Chamber of Commerce.

Although Mount Airy Commissioner Deborah Cochran, who worked some on the Aerial project, said she contacted Surry’s congresswoman, Rep. Virginia Foxx, about the expansion, there appears to have been no federal-to-local effort similar to Virginia’s.

More OpportunitiesNeeded
No matter what kind of incentives package can be offered, prospects must be available to even consider them.

Brookshire, the Mount Airy city manager, wants officials in Raleigh to direct more companies considering new plants or expansions to this corner of the state.

“What I would like to see them do is recognize that Northwest North Carolina is in a depression and not a recession,” he said. They could address that by steering more prospects here, Brookshire added, instead of areas that are already prosperous.

While saying he is not a fan of incentives, Brookshire said that Surry and other border counties need more of them at their disposal if that’s what it takes to avoid “a competitive disadvantage with other counties right across the state line.”

“Please give us something that at least lets us compete fairly with them,” the city manager said.

Sen. Don East of Pilot Mountain, who represents Surry County in the state Legislature, personally would like to “outlaw” incentives altogether. “They’re nothing more than a bidding game of who will pay the highest price,” he said Saturday.

East added that he thinks the present “performance-based” system that determines incentives according to the tax base should be left intact. “I’m not sure that I’m ready to go on record for changing anything right now.”

The Republican senator explained that he sees problems with North Carolina getting involved in bidding wars with other states that only serve to set the incentives bar higher and higher. “You absolutely have to draw the line somewhere,” East said.

Noblesville goes prospecting for business

Web site lists available properties and has about 9,600 hits since June launch

By Chris Sikich

NOBLESVILLE -- Not content to take a back-seat approach to drawing businesses and economic development, Noblesville has started a Web site listing an inventory of available properties.

The city is paying San Francisco-based GIS Planning about $60,000 to host for the next three years. The site has 176 properties listed so far. Economic Development Department Director Kevin Kelly expects the range to be at 175-200 over the years as properties come on and off the market.

"I believe it is going to be helpful in promoting available real estate in Noblesville," Kelly said, noting more businesses equals more tax dollars.

Several Indiana entities are already using GIS Planning technology, including Hendricks County Economic Development Partnership, Indianapolis, Lafayette-West Lafayette Development Corporation, Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and Duke Energy.

Indianapolis Principal Planner Bob Glenn said his city has been using the site since 2004, and it's drawn more than 1 million hits this year alone. Prospective businesses contact the sellers or leasers directly with information provided on the site, so Glenn is not sure of the success rate. He said having the inventory on a Web site is a major advantage for economic development, because users don't have to wait for someone to answer a phone.

He said major cities nationwide have been using the technology for years, and he's not surprised to see it trickling down to smaller communities.

"It provides equal footing and levels the playing field," he said.

Kelly and his staff have been scouring Noblesville for vacant buildings and available land and are loading the information onto, including available square footage, listing prices and photos. The site has had about 9,600 hits since its soft launch in June, although Kelly noted he's just now finishing the inventory and beginning marketing efforts.

Eventually, he hopes property owners and brokers will enter their own data.

After finding a property, users can search for information on the market within less than a mile and up to 20 miles away, including demographics, wages, consumer expenditures and types of businesses.

Users can view properties on an interactive map, and then pick out local amenities they'd like to see highlighted, including fire stations, golf courses, hospitals, libraries, parks, planning jurisdictions, schools, townships and bodies of water.

Kelly entered listings last week for two retail centers along the Ind. 37 commercial corridor that are represented by Tim Murray of Resource Commerce Real Estate. Murray hasn't heard of any leads yet, but is glad the city is taking a strong approach.

"I'm excited about the kind of exposure we can get," he said.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

By Lisa Thompson

On Oct. 23, business leaders in Atlanta will huddle to brainstorm about how to ease the water-shortage crisis affecting businesses as diverse as soda manufacturing and real estate.

If Erie economic development specialist Jake Rouch has his way, he will have gotten to some of those businesses' owners first with another solution:Come to the cool, wet, shores of Lake Erie.

Erie's economic development leaders on Thursday let go of the past.

No more will they simply troll Web sites looking for leads on companies looking to relocate or sit in their offices waiting for tips from the Governor's Action Team, said Rouch, the vice president of the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership.

The development officials are going hunting for businesses that need what Erie has, in this era of global warming and depleted natural resources -- water.

First target?Water-intensive businesses doing business in drought-stricken Atlanta.

Odd, submarine-shaped gray cardboard mailers soon will be landing on the desks of Atlanta executives at companies such as Anheuser-Busch, EarthLink and AK Steel.

Inside the mailers, the companies will find a note from Rouch that touts Erie's abundant freshwater supplies and offers that water at a steep discount -- 40 percent for five years -- to any business willing to set up shop in Erie.

As a reminder of the city's great, sloshing water supply, there is also a small souvenir -- a pair of cuff links shaped like old-fashioned water spigot handles. One cold. One hot.They're attached to stiff cardboard postcard with a reminder that water shortages are on the rise.

Erie, located on the shores of Lake Erie, the card says, "provides a smart and stable environment to expand Atlanta's businesses.

"Rouch plans to travel to Atlanta for a national economic development conference from Oct. 18 to 22. He hopes to meet with some of these executives in person.

Later in the month, he'll carry the campaign to San Francisco.

The new campaign, "Tap into Erie," marks a sea change of sorts for economic development.

Rouch said the agency in January decided to expand its focus from retaining and growing existing businesses to actively recruiting new businesses to the area.

"We frankly were not paying attention to trying to recruit businesses here," he said.

Rouch said every time officials kicked around what Erie assets to market, they came up with the stock list -- abundance of college students and colleges, good transportation, first-rate medical establishments, a decent manufacturing base and a fine quality of life. But none of those, he said, was outstanding enough to pull Erie above the competition.

Finally, this summer, they settled on the obvious -- water.

To check their instinct, the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership and several other organizations commissioned a $45,000 study to examine the prospects of luring water-intensive businesses to the area.

The study, by Erie-based McManis & Monsalve Associates, completed in August, said the region does have an opportunity to market its water resources. Only one other city, Milwaukee, is marketing its water on a national basis and with no success, the report said.

The key to success in Erie will not only be targeted, imaginative marketing but offering incentives, such as custom building for all lease purchase agreements, Rouch said.

Making water supplies the focus of economic development in Erie is only "logical," especially given the critical shortages emerging in the Southwest and Southeast, said James Kurre, an associate professor of economics at Penn State Behrend's Black School of Business, and director of the Economic Research Institute of Erie.

His only caution was that officials target industries that "use water, not use it up."

"If it is using all the water up, it is short term rather than a long-term policy," he said.

Rouch said those kinds of considerations went into the planning of Tap into Erie.

The mailing targets breweries, data centers and small steel mills. Those industries focus on conservation to keep costs in check, he said.

Rouch said even if the mailing does not result in a mass relocation, it should create valuable buzz.

If executives remember nothing else about Erie, maybe they will remember its attitude, he said.

"We want to make a splash," Rouch said.

"Erie is open for business and it is aggressively trying to get companies to come in and it is doing it in a creative and cool way."

LISA THOMPSON can be reached at 870-1802 or by e-mail.

Economic Developers Spending Marketing Dollars in the Wrong Places

New UC Berkeley national survey and study indicates that economic developers do not use the marketing strategies that they themselves believe are most effective.

Berkeley, CA (PRWEB) October 10, 2008 -- A University of California at Berkeley study released today reports that economic development organizations -- which help communities enable business investment and growth -- do not use the marketing methods that they themselves believe to be the most effective.

The results, taken from a national survey of economic developers nationwide, "were really unexpected," said Eric Simundza, a recent student at UC Berkeley's Department of City and Regional Planning, who co-authored the book with Anatalio Ubalde. "The most surprising finding wasn't that economic developers generally have a strong grasp on what are effective marketing methods, which they do. The surprise was that even with this knowledge, they don't spend their marketing budgets accordingly."

This lag between awareness and action results in spending that is wasteful not only for the organizations but for the public as well, as economic development organizations are often funded by taxpayers. The current economic crisis is causing hardships in communities across the nation, and for both public and private entities alike, the resulting pressures on spending necessitate that economic development organizations make responsible decisions with their budgets in order to accomplish more with less.

Economic developers were asked what strategies they found to be most effective, how much they have funded them, and how much they plan to fund them. The findings reflect significant changes in the field of economic development. Websites were rated the most effective medium to promote communities, followed by face-to-face meetings, indicating that successful economic development must combine elements of high-tech as well as high-touch. In a complementary survey, corporate real estate professionals reported the website to be the first point of contact that they have with an organization, and by the third stage of the site selection process almost one and a half times as much communication was found to take place through the website than through personal contact.

The rise in the importance of the website comes at the expense of print advertising. Requested subscriptions for site location magazines have been steadily declining, and the majority of organizations have cut funding for print advertising within the past five years and plan to make further cuts. Even though print advertising was seen as ineffective, it was the second most allocated expenditure in economic development organizations' marketing budgets.

Economic development is strongly rooted in place. To acknowledging this, the study highlights variations in industry targeting and marketing practices due to differences in the types of communities and the structures of the respective economic development organizations. Counter to what one might expect, small, rural, and Midwestern communities were more likely to fund the two most effective marketing strategies. Additionally, while larger communities in the Northeast targeted employers in knowledge-based industries such as professional services and the sciences, smaller communities in the West focused on creating the sorts amenities that will attract workers to an area rather than jobs, hinting at one of the most fundamental debates in the field about how best to achieve economic prosperity.

The 100-page book, titled Economic Development Marketing: Present and Future, is one of the most comprehensive academic studies ever performed on the methods that economic developers use to promote and attract expanding businesses to their communities.

One major finding was that 29% of economic development organizations market their communities to a global audience while 27% market nationally. "With economic developers in the United States competing with each other for location projects, effectively marketing their communities is a key competitive advantage," said Anatalio Ubalde, an author of the study and a co-founder at online economic development solutions provider GIS Planning, Inc (, and ( based in San Francisco. "Globalization, the shaky economy and rising fuel costs only compound the need to effectively compete."

Another major finding was that targeting the manufacturing sector is the top priority of economic developers even though it is a declining employment sector, and high-growth industries such as business and information services are less often targeted. Several site selectors interviewed for the book pointed to the importance of alternative energy and just-in-time delivery in the resurgence of manufacturing in the US, but acknowledged that large investments often result in fewer jobs than the industry of yesteryear. "Whereas business measures success on profitability, economic developers measure success by the number of jobs created, amount of capital investment and increased taxes to the local government. This accounts for the focus on attracting manufacturing, even though this industry has been in decline in the US for two decades," said Mr. Simundza of UC Berkeley.

When looking at a marketing program, the methods of evaluation are as important to consider as what is being evaluated. The study found that that organizations benchmark their marketing programs using criteria that are rather qualitative and difficult to measure, such as "change in perception about the community," more often than easily measurable criteria such as website traffic. The detailed look at the methods used to promote communities provided in Economic Development Marketing: Present and Future should therefore help many economic development professionals in evaluating their own marketing programs, not only in terms of what marketing strategies they use, but in terms of how they evaluate their success.

Marketers to devise regional brand

By Tim Engstrom

Southwest Florida economic development leaders have hired a marketing group to develop a regional brand for the area.

The Chisano Marketing Group, with offices in Orlando, Tampa and Dayton, Ohio, will be paid $30,000 to develop a branding plan and present it in early 2009, said Tammie Nemecek, president of the Economic Development Council of Collier County.

The effort is being organized by the Southwest Florida Economic Development Partners, which includes economic development executives from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry and Sarasota counties. They will split the cost equally.

"We are excited about the many opportunities to regionally brand and market economic diversification in Southwest Florida," Nemecek said.

The Chisano Marketing Group was one of two to make presentations to the group last month.
Chisano has done advertising and promotions for business development in Asheville, N.C., and private clients include the Naples Beach Hotel in Collier County and Longboat Key Club in Sarasota.

Chisano will begin immediately by researching the area and then will be asked to develop a logo and motto reflecting the regional identity, including design of letterhead, envelopes, a Web site and other outreach material.

This Is Not the Time to Delay PR and Marketing Programs

By Jon Greer
October 13th, 2008 @ 4:15 am

With all the financial and political news dominating the headlines, there’s a school of thought that marketers should consider delaying announcements until a better time.

My verdict: there will be no better time.

Not because I think the current crisis will not end, but because you can’t stop doing your job and keeping your business moving forward. As far as I can tell, only a small slice of the economy is directly affected by the Wall Street crisis — financial services companies and people who need ready access to credit — and so far, most businesses are not suffering or being adversely affected directly by the crisis.

So why wait? Yes, one can generalize that many people are distracted by the election and the meltdown, but it’s not like they can’t focus on anything else, especially if it’s something germane to their business or career.

Furthermore, and this may be the most important point: if things do get worse before they get better, you’re going to wish that you had kicked off that campaign or launched that new initiative now, before things got really bad. So get busy!

Monday, October 13, 2008

ZoomProspector Levels Place Marketing Playing Field

What do you do for an encore after pioneering web-based economic development tools that have become the industry standard worldwide?

If you are GIS Planning, you simply build a new product that promises to revolutionize the practice of economic development marketing.

GIS Planning’s new ZoomProspector allows companies to search a wealth of data for every U.S. city and county in order to evaluate the optimal location for a new business expansion or relocation. Information that formerly took months of research to obtain can now be available in mere minutes.

Free to the user, it offers rich, incredibly detailed data that speeds and simplifies the site selection search process for the 750,000 companies that seek new locations annually.

For site seekers, it delivers quantifiable and consistent information that makes comparisons between communities more objective. ZoomProspector not only provides an aggregated list of communities matching self-determined criteria, it can rank the various locations based upon the sufficiency of their match to the search variables.

ZoomProspector also provides links to economic development organizations (EDOs) and site selection consultants as an additional resource to those searching for the best sites. Although all communities meeting the search criteria are returned to the user, those EDO’s utilizing GIS Planning’s web-based geographic information system, called ZoomProspector Enterprise, receive priority listings.

For the economic development practitioner community, ZoomProspector has the potential to revolutionize traditional marketing practices. With an estimated eighty-five percent of all site searches beginning with a web search, ZoomProspector provides a powerful new marketing tool for communities, counties, regions and states.

“In today’s financial crisis economic developers can’t afford to lose business investment in their communities. ZoomProspector connects start-up, expanding and relocating businesses with the communities that match their needs. It delivers high value by providing qualified leads to economic development organizations,” says Anatalio Ubalde, Co-Founder and CEO of GIS Planning.

“It’s a lot better to be an economic developer getting a call from a business that says ‘We’ve already decided that your community could be a great match for our business,’ instead of a caller that says ‘Tell me about your community,” Ubalde says. “ZoomProspector facilitates a better site location process by giving businesses the information they need to make intelligent expansion decisions and also connect them with the right economic development organizations.”

ZoomProspector’s main benefit is that it levels the economic development marketing playing field by removing barriers to data access. Smaller communities that have been previously disadvantaged because of a lack of staff, technology expertise or funding can now compete effectively with larger communities for new investment opportunities. ZoomProspector provides the data, the web presence, the search capabilities and marketing support that previously were only available from a larger community, region or state.

ZoomProspector aggregates information on the community characteristics typically sought by site selectors, corporate real estate professionals and businesses such as population and labor force; educational attainment; entrepreneurialism and innovation; venture capital investments and household incomes. This capability will save local EDO’s the many hours of time it takes to conduct this basic but important research and frees them to focus on higher value marketing efforts.

The aggregation capabilities offered by the software are commonly deployed in other applications such as those used for home purchases but ZoomProspector marks the first time it will be put to use in the field of economic development marketing. It has been a long time in the making, and its launch marks the culmination of years of planning by Ubalde and his team.

One key to success for ZoomProspector will be the company’s ability to drive traffic to the site from corporate real estate executives and site selection consultants. But, with its marketplace potential and opportunity to develop complementary partnerships to supplement its capabilities, ZoomProspector should rapidly become a popular website destination for site seekers.

Like GIS Planning’s previous efforts, ZoomProspector is no doubt destined to become another industry standard for economic development web sites. And, it will surely change the face of economic development marketing by forcing EDO’s to think differently about how to best market their communities.

For more information on ZoomProspector, visit other media mentions at the links below:

Washington Post
C-Net News
Venture Beat

Monday, October 06, 2008

Binghamton maps strategy to market city

Officials plan to make most of $12,310 budgetBy John HillPress & Sun-Bulletin

BINGHAMTON -- How do you sell a city?

If you're Binghamton Economic Development Director Merry Harris, you do it on a shoestring.
Next year, the city will spend $12,310 on marketing -- the signs, brochures and advertising aimed at attracting and retaining businesses, investors and people.

The spending amounts to less than two-hundredths of a percent of the city's proposed $79 million budget. That's less than the $19,000 it has earmarked for uniforms in the Department of Public Works, or the $15,000 planned for repairs to elevators at city hall.

The instinct to spend less on promotion during lean economic times is common, a marketing expert said. It's also the complete opposite of what organizations, both private and public, should be doing.

"That's when you can least afford to cut," said Binghamton University professor Subimal Chatterjee. "You have to stop that bleeding, and how do you stop that bleeding? Through even better marketing tactics."

Most of the city's marketing will be done in-house. The city's economic development office will design brochures and signs. If the office had more money, Harris said she would hire an outside marketing agency, something several council members have suggested.

Still, with a budget hampered by rising costs and sagging revenues, and funded by a substantial property tax increase, spending in any "non-essential" area is unpopular.

During last month's budget hearings, the city council added $5,000 to the marketing budget -- bringing it up to $12,310 -- though only after nearly two hours of debate.

"If I want to sell my car, I better wash it first," said Councilman Robert Weslar, D-1st District, who advocated for more funds.

Some council members said the marketing budget was so small that an extra $5,000 wasn't enough to make a difference.

The city administration believes that, despite the tiny amount to be spent, they are putting together a plan that can be built upon in the future. Next year, Harris plans to ask for $25,000.

"The budget is small, but it has the potential to have an impact," city spokesman Andrew Block said.

Harris said the plan is to "start close to home," reaching out to people who already have some connection to the city: either as residents, neighbors, employees or visitors. That includes a "Buy Binghamton" campaign that will encourage local consumers to spend money in the city, especially downtown.

In an outline of her marketing plan, Harris explained the city's goals: "The rationale is ... to try to get those folks to think about and act toward the City of Binghamton in a more positive way."

This year, the city spent $10,000 on promotion. That bought an ad in about a dozen small downstate newspapers, some fliers and banners at local events, like the Chris Thater bicycle race.

It's often difficult to convince managers and executives of the long-term benefits of selling yourself, Chatterjee said. That's especially true during budget time, when the focus is on one year's spending, rather than projecting forward.

A paltry budget can often be blamed on the marketing department itself, Chatterjee said. The onus is on the marketers to provide hard numbers that prove their methods, no matter how small, are effective.

"Otherwise, what happens is it becomes shooting in the dark," he said.

Harris told the council it was difficult to produce hard numbers for how the city's efforts were performing. Next year's plan includes several methods to track progress, including consumer surveys done by BU's School of Management.

According to a draft of the city's marketing plan, Harris would spend the money on signs and phone boards at the airports in Binghamton, Syracuse and Scranton. A single-page brochure will be distributed to regional employers, hotels and other tourist centers, promoting Binghamton tourism and economic development.

The Broome County Industrial Development Agency markets the county at certain "gateways" -- Greater Binghamton Airport and Interstate 81 -- but the city itself does not have a defined presence at either, Harris said. The city certainly benefits from marketing done by the IDA and the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce, she said, but it needs to promote itself as the hub of the region.

Catherine Glover, president of the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce, said the city is on the right track, highlighting strengths like historic architecture, a diverse small business community and good quality of life.

"We've got some strong assets down here," Glover aid.

5 Ways to Overhaul Your Meetings Manners

By CC Holland
September 23rd, 2008 @ 10:40 am

Business meetings can be functional or frustrating, catalysts or catastrophes, inspirational or insipid. But it’s not always random fate that decides which kind you’ll be getting. You can help influence the tone and course of any meeting you attend by honing your meeting etiquette.

Etiquette, you say? For a meeting? But of course. In any gathering of people, a focus on good manners ensures that everyone is comfortable and that interactions go smoothly. That can enhance effectiveness and productivity during any collaborative process.

Whether you’re an attendee or an organizer, brushing up on your manners is just smart business. Here are five points to ponder.

1. Respect people’s time.
If you’re the organizer, try not to schedule meetings early in the morning or right before quitting time.
Keep meetings as short as possible and stick to start and end times. A timer can help keep things on track.
Show up on time, whether you’re an attendee or the organizer. Better yet, get there 5 minutes early.

2. Provide information and support.
Let attendees know exactly what will be discussed by circulating an agenda ahead of time. Include on the agenda not just topics to be covered, but goals and objectives.
If you have supporting documents or PowerPoints, send them out early as well; you want to run a meeting, not a group reading session.
If you’re attending a meeting, be prepared. Read or research necessary materials before showing up.

3. Observe common courtesy.
If you’re running the meeting, act as a moderator and field comments and questions in turn. Or ask people to jot down their thoughts and save the Q & A for the end of the meeting.
If you’re an attendee, don’t railroad others as they’re speaking; wait your turn. Never interrupt. If necessary, resort to the kindergarten tactic of raising your hand for recognition.
Heated discussion is okay, but yelling and insults are not. Ever.

4. Pay attention.
Turn off your phone. Don’t text, check e-mail, or play solitaire.
Don’t fidget, tap your pen, or do anything that could distract others.
Participate. Ask questions and give feedback when appropriate.

5. Say thanks.
As the organizer, tell everyone you appreciated their time and input. And as an attendee, thank the organizer for putting everything together.

Benchmarks for E.D. Websites

By Bob Ady
Ady International

Most economic development practitioners today would agree with me when I say that their website is their #1 marketing tool. People regularly ask me to look at their website and tell them what I think about it. Because I get asked that question so frequently, I partnered with a website development firm, Voltedge, Inc., to develop a scorecard specifically for evaluating E.D. websites.

For a flat fee, you can get a detailed, customized report that rates your website and provides you with actionable recommendations for improving your website.

Using this scorecard, I've evaluated dozens of E.D. websites on about 40 specific factors. Let me step back and share with you some of the most common areas for improvement that I see:

1. The most common shortcoming is not enough data. Site selectors are information sponges - we want data about the operating costs, operating conditions, and qualify of life factors in your community or region. This website is chock-full of pertinent data:

2. Make it clear where you're located. Your header and your home page should identify where you are in your state, at a minimum, and spell out the name of your state. For some examples, see or

3. Maps, maps, and maps. There's almost no such thing as too many maps for a site selector audience. All three examples above also demonstrate good relational maps.

4. Make it easy to search sites & buildings. Whether you link to another system like a utility, Location One, LoopNet, or another provider, or create your own profiles, make it easy for us to find and search your properties. Better yet, give me a way to sign up for updates when a new property becomes available or when a major property is leased.

5. Don't assume everyone knows about your incentives or that you don't have anything to offer. Believe it or not, many websites I've assessed make no or little mention of local incentives or services provided by the local EDO.

At a minimum, list all of the state incentives available, local as-of-right incentives, and examples of other incentives that were developed to meet the needs of specific projects. And don't forget to talk about your team and how you can help speed the permitting process, coordinate discussions with utilities and landowners, etc.

6. Make it easy to read, with lots of bullets and white space.

How would your website rate using our E.D. website scorecard? In future issues, I'll share with you my picks for some of the best E.D. websites out there.

Michigan battles with Ohio over jobs

But old rivals may need to collaborate

Scott Melton is tempted to move his business to Ohio, even though he doesn't want to leave Michigan.

The president of plastic recycler ACI Plastics in Flint, Melton is weighing offers from Ohio for tax abatements, low-interest loans and training money to build a new plant or even move his factory south of the Michigan border.

These offers from Ohio come just as Melton's firm has outgrown its 125,000-square-foot plant, and a year after Flint raised its property taxes.

Ohio officials "said, 'We know you guys are hurting up there. We know the auto industry is killing you,' " recalled Melton, whose business mainly comes from the auto industry.

The troubles in the auto industry give new meaning to the friendly rivalry between Michigan and Ohio. These rust-belt states don't just share the burden of massive job losses; they're also fighting for the same types of businesses.

Michigan and Ohio are both after automotive firms that are succeeding despite the industry's doldrums, as well as burgeoning alternative energy companies that need the skilled manufacturing workforces both states offer. And sweeping business-tax changes in Ohio could make it tough for other Midwest states to compete.

Despite years of heated competition, Michigan and Ohio are in early talks about joining forces to win new business, a move that economic development experts say is essential given the challenges both states face.

"Their destinies are interlocked," said Don Iannone, an economic consultant in Cleveland.

Ohio's top development official, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, said his state isn't targeting Michigan but it is courting certain industries, including autos.

As the auto industry continues to suffer, competition is heightening between Michigan and Ohio. Between 1999 and 2007, Ohio lost 45,000 automotive jobs. During that same period, Michigan lost 142,700 automotive jobs.

Both states have reacted with tax incentives, grant money for training and changes aimed at easing the tax burden on the manufacturing sector.

Ohio is in the middle of a 5-year plan to eliminate taxes on inventory, machinery and equipment, as well as corporate profits.

The state also is cutting personal income tax by 21% in a plan that, paired with a new tax, will cut tax revenue by $3.9 billion a year.

Ohio's leaders have been vocal about the state's tax changes. Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland touted the plan during this year's Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, urging auto companies to consider Ohio.

Promising lower taxes, Ohio was the state that reported the most new corporate building and expansion projects in 2007 and 2006, winning top honors both years from economic development magazine Site Selection.

Michigan's tax changes haven't been quite as sweeping. In January, the state replaced its Single Business Tax, which cut taxes for more than half of the state's firms that are on the hook to pay a business tax. The new state tax laws also offer tax credits on money spent on capital investments as well as research and development.

Melton, president of $17-million recycling firm ACI Plastics, next plans to calculate his company's tax burden in Michigan versus what it would be in Ohio, to see if there is a substantial difference.

At a time when most of his costs, including energy and the plastic his plant recycles, are going up, Melton said he needs to consider any move that would save money.

"There is a part of me that says maybe I should lease a warehouse in Ohio and set up a small facility there to see how advantageous it is," said Melton, who also said that he would consider slowly moving all of his operations.

It's not just small companies that are drawn to Ohio.

Automotive interiors firm Inteva Products LLC, with $1.5 billion in sales, is considering Ohio as its new headquarters. The company once belonged to Delphi, but was sold to private investment firm the Renco Group earlier this year.

Inteva's current base in Troy employs 225 people, and it already employs 156 people in Ohio.
The firm plans to make its headquarters decision during the next six to 12 months. So far, said

Inteva Chief Executive Officer Lon Offenbacher, his firm isn't getting much attention from Lansing.

Ultimately, tax incentives as well as tax structure will factor into the company's decision, Offenbacher said.

"It costs a lot of money to move, so once you make the decision, you want to make that a good, long-term, viable decision."

The competition between Michigan and Ohio may never dissipate, but there are new talks between the states' economic development leaders to coordinate their pitches, said Jim Epolito, chief executive officer of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

One possible strategy, Epolito said, would be to "pick sectors of the economy where we can collaborate, where we can go together and recruit businesses."

One of the next steps is to research which sectors those should be. The automotive and advanced energy industries are potential candidates.

Early discussions have been uncomfortable, Epolito said.

"It's hard to get people who have been competing for a long period of time to sit down at the table and break bread and say we're going to all work together," he said.

Still, Epolito said, collaboration is inevitable, as both regions face the same troubles.

Consultant Iannone said: "I think we're going to end up cooperating and collaborating as much as we engage in head-on competition."

Contact JEWEL GOPWANI at 313-223-4550 or

Rating Nation Brands: What Really Counts?

Simon Anholt, a nation branding expert who advises governments on such issues, believes it is unacceptable for governments to spend taxpayers' and donors’ money on nation branding campaigns if the results can’t be measured, tracked, or made accountable. For that reason, he launched his Nation Brands Index (NBI) in 2005.
The NBI started out as an online poll of consumer attitudes toward 35 nation brands around the world. Recently, Anholt teamed up with GfK Roper to produce an expanded (50 country) index.

Says Anholt, “The NBI is a unique resource: now that it’s approaching its fourth year, we have a vast database of literally millions of data points about ‘how the world sees the world,’ and it needs skills and experience like GfK’s to start exploring that resource and getting the most useful findings out of it.”

The NBI index considers a country’s exports, governance, culture and heritage, people, tourism, and investment and immigration. The survey asks questions like “If money were no object, would you like to visit this country on vacation?” or “If you were going to be falsely arrested for a crime you didn’t commit, in which country would you prefer this to happen?” or “Does this country make an important contribution to reducing global warming?” The questions are posed in local languages.

According to Anholt, the NBI ranking is not simply a list of the 40 or 50 ‘strongest nation brands’ in the world. Rather, he says, it’s a highly detailed analysis and comparison of 40 or 50 selected countries. “Most of the governments that subscribe to the NBI want to compare perceptions of their country with those of their main competitors, not every place on earth,” he told us.

Anholt says subscribing countries find NBI’s detailed country reports more useful for such comparisons than the global average list. “The NBI’s individual country reports run to around 50 pages of detailed analysis, market by market, covering each aspect of their image, from the viewpoint of hundreds of different population groups,” he said.

Last August, East West Communications in Washington, D.C., released a competitive ranking of nation brands. Unlike the NBI index, the East West Global Index 200 looks at all 192 UN members, as well as 8 territories, based on how they are perceived in the international media.

According to East West president Thomas Cromwell, the new index tracks 38 major media sources, including The Economist, The Financial Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Straits Times (Asia), The China Morning News (Hong Kong), The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The Chicago Tribune, plus major regional publications that are translated into English and some digitized input from broadcast channels.

Says Cromwell, “Even with English-only sources, the number of articles surveyed for the index is huge, and there are millions of mentions. English is so dominant in the world that it is fairly safe to say that major stories are likely to appear in English media, sooner or later.”

Perception Metrics in Ohio conducts the media analyses for East West. According to Brad Snyder of the company, “The East West Index measures tone as a ratio of positive and negative messages grammatically connected to a country reference. The index score is then calculated by a complex algorithm that factors tone and the volume of country mentions.” He adds, “What we’re really trying to identify is the brand value by considering the number of mentions, and the tone; we believe both are essential. How much is the country being portrayed positively? And how often is that positive image reinforced? Or is a negative image being presented, and is it hitting home?”

East West will publish both annual and quarterly indexes. “The annual indexes will tend to capture the long-term perceptions about countries, especially over time, while the quarterly indexes will tend to reflect short-term events or decisions that make news. This makes for a very useful tool for countries to use,” says Cromwell. East West also offers customized reports to its clients.

Both the NBI and East West indexes rank nations by how favourably they are perceived around the world. Because the NBI measures consumer perceptions, however, and East West media perceptions, one would not expect total agreement in the two rankings. But both indexes employ scientifically sound methodologies, so one might anticipate a little more overlap than appears to be the case (below).

Rank NBI/East West
1 Germany/Singapore
2 United Kindom/Hong Kong
3 Canada/Malaysia
4 France/Taiwan
5 Australia/Australia
6 Italy/United Arab Emirates
7 Switzerland/Qatar
8 Japan/ Monaco
9 Sweden/Canada
10 United States/United Kingdom

Anholt argues that online polling creates a more accurate picture than media analysis of how people actually perceive nation brands. “Perceptions of places are based on far more than media coverage: they are literally part of the culture of each individual country where those perceptions are held. One of the shortcomings of media analysis is that most people will not be exposed to any of the coverage that is analyzed.”

But Cromwell defends his media-based approach. “Countries have to be more concerned about media perceptions than they are about individual consumer perceptions: the universe of the former is just so much larger and includes all those people who have had no immediate experience, or word of mouth experience, to counter media perceptions,” he told us.

Others argue that the two indexes complement each other. Says Jeremy Hildreth of Saffron Brand Consultants in London, “Anholt’s index looks at perceptions of nations from one angle, the East West index from another. Both ways are interesting. Both ways are valid. Both ways are limited. Both ways are helpful as far as they go.”

ConvergenceIs there some point at which the East West and NBI indexes converge? If one considers the top 100 ranked (positively nuanced) countries in the East West index, the ten most frequently media-cited countries are the US, the UK, Australia, France, Japan, Russia, Germany, Italy, Spain and Canada. These countries correspond quite closely to those that have the highest rankings in the NBI index.

One interpretation of this result is that although the media sets the agenda for awareness of countries (what countries people think about), it does not influence what people think of those countries nearly as much. Says Professor Maxwell McCombs of the University of Texas, one of the pioneers in the field of media and public opinion analysis and author of Setting the Agenda: The Mass Media and Public Opinion (2004), "People are certainly aware of Iraq these days, but the news from there is largely negative. It would be interesting to determine if the tone of the news is related to the second level of agenda setting, that is, how people think about these countries. Or to borrow Walter Lippmann's venerable phrase, 'What are the pictures in their heads?'"

Professor David Gerstner of Pace University in New York is currently developing yet another nation branding index. Says Gerstner, “Given the increasing importance, attention, and interest in place branding, more nation rankings are likely to appear in the future. The results of these studies are likely to vary. The reason is that, even though they claim to measure the same idea—how attractive or well-regarded a nation is—due to differences in methodologies they are actually measuring different things.”

Randall Frost is a freelance writer based in Pleasanton, California. He is the author of The Globalization of Trade. His work has appeared in Worth, The New England Financial Journal, CBSHealthWatch, and a variety of educational publications.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Pledging a more seamless approach to economic development across Ohio, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher unveiled what may be the first state strategic economic development plan in the country.

Titled “Ohio, Home of Innovations & Opportunity,” the plan describes 33 new efforts designed to create jobs, improve productivity through innovation and grow the income of all Ohioans. Describing it as an effort at “transformational” economic growth, Mr. Fisher said the strategy also includes benchmarks for measuring the administration’s success in meeting those goals.

Mr. Fisher expanded on the program’s goals before an audience of business executives, economic development professionals, media and students at a morning forum at Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs.

“Every one of our goals is ambitious but doable,” Mr. Fisher told Crain’s Cleveland Business after the rollout. “Any state that is not ambitious is not going to succeed.”

He conceded, however, that the full plan won’t be implemented overnight, especially as the state grapples with a shrinking budget.

“Given the tight budget, we will not have the resources that will allow us to move every initiative along at the same rate of speed,” the lieutenant governor said. “But we will be able to launch most soon.”

The two programs Mr. Fisher said have his highest priority are called Ohio Means Home and Ohio Hubs of Innovation and Opportunity.

Ohio Means Home is a marketing and recruitment program that will try to woo former Ohioans back to the state. Ohio Hubs of Innovation and Opportunity will focus on specific industries in different regions of the state.

Edward W. Hill, interim dean of the Levin College, whose teaching specialty is economic development, called the plan, “the first time any (state) department of development in the country is being held accountable for something outside of deal flow.”

The strategy, Dr. Hill said, “is comprehensive, but at the same time it’s practical; it gives a framework for a department of 800 people and a common theme for the first time.”

Dr. Hill, who helped the state assemble the plan in its final form — he described his role as “a midwife” — is particularly impressed with a program called Build IT, which would create a common information technology system connecting all economic development organizations in the state.