Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Committee focuses on marketing Chelmsford

By Chloe Gotsis/ staff writer
GateHouse News Service

Chelmsford — There’s a lot to like about Lowell, everyone loves New York and what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, but what about Chelmsford?

A catchy slogan can help boost a town’s visibility and attract visitors and new businesses and it’s just what the town’s Economic Development Committee is looking to do for Chelmsford. Creating a slogan is part of a larger effort by the committee to brand the town and make it more attractive to businesses.

After disbanding in the mid-1990s, a new seven-member Economic Development Committee started up this fall with the goal of creating a brand for the town and marketing Chelmsford as a destination place for local and large businesses alike.

With four of this year’s Boston Globe 100 businesses located in Chelmsford and Money Magazine naming the town one of the best places to live in America in 2007, the committee is realizing it has a lot of selling points already.

“The great thing about Chelmsford is there was only one town in the whole state to have four companies on the Globe 100 list. That town was Chelmsford,” said committee Chairman Mike Kowalyk, at the committee’s second meeting Dec. 15. “We are already making it work day in and day out." More here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fresno, Calif., rebrands itself but shuns labels

By Valerie Gibbons, USA TODAY

FRESNO — The hit animated comedy movie Monsters vs. Aliens this spring featured a husband trying to convince his wife that moving to Fresno was better than moving to Paris. The conversation was a running joke throughout the film.

This fall, a Toyota Prius ad, which aired briefly before being pulled after vigorous complaints from the city, showed two people in a Prius in a future where "gas stations will become nothing more than low-budget tourist stops. Like ghost towns ... or Fresno."

For decades, Fresno has been a punch line, a city maligned on the national stage for everything from its smog and crime, to its hot weather and reputation as a bastion of the un-hip.

The city is fighting back, starting with a $1.2 million marketing campaign with the slogan: "Be World-Class. Be Fresno."

The campaign, in part a response to the down economy that made promoting the city more important than ever, is geared toward creating a brand identity for the city for both business travelers and tourists, touting its proximity to national parks and its small-town atmosphere, says Jeff Eben, president of the Fresno City and County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"We're not telling our own story," he said. "We need to go fight." More here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Group pulls counties together to sing Valley's praises to the world

December 15, 2009 7:47 PM
By STEVE CLARK, The Brownsville Herald

It’s easier said than done for longtime rivals to put aside their differences and join forces for the larger good, but that’s exactly what the Rio South Texas Economic Council is attempting to do, all in the name of job creation.

Nonprofit Rio South was formed last year to get the economic interests of Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties in sync as a way of raising all ships. It started when County Judge J.D. Salinas III and other Hidalgo County officials wanted to expand the Greater McAllen Alliance, an economic development group. Bill Martin, CEO of the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation, overheard a conversation to that effect and decided he wanted in. Today Martin is Rio South’s chairman as well as HEDC chief.

"We’re trying to broaden our horizons," he says. "We realized we actually will get farther by working together than we would working separately."

Rio South’s purpose is to market the Valley nationwide to large corporations that are searching for new sites, and to the consultants those corporations hire to scout sites for them. Population density is usually a deciding factor in where a company locates its operations, which means the Valley is often overlooked.

"We feel that sometimes, perhaps we get eliminated because none of our individual towns are large," Martin says. "But if you look at what’s going on in our region we’re at 2.3 million people, so we’re a large metropolitan area. In fact, our research indicates that we’re the 23rd largest metropolitan area in the United States and the third largest in Texas. We’re just trying to get on the radar screen of these site location consultants and major corporations that are looking for new locations." More here.

Group seeks use for closed tire plant in Opelika

By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham News
December 09, 2009, 5:40AM

BFGoodrich's decision to close a 1.6 million-square-foot tire plant in Opelika with 1,000 jobs threatens to leave tread marks on one of the state's most dynamic local economies.

Now, Birmingham's EGS Commercial Real Estate Inc. is part of a team that includes economic development officials and Auburn University trying to find a solution that prevents a skid there.

The closing of the massive BFGoodrich plant in Opelika has prompted an immediate effort to find a new use for the facility.

"What impacts us more than anything is not necessarily having that building on the market, but we lost 1,000 jobs," said Al Cook, director of economic development for the city of Opelika. "That was probably 25 percent of our manufacturing work force. They were 25 percent of the entire budget for Auburn-Opelika United Way."

Michelin, owner of BFGoodrich, closed the tire plant in October, ending 46 years of production there. But officials in Lee County are not hanging their heads over the plant's demise; instead, they have sprung into action.

The same consulting firm that steered the $4.5 billion ThyssenKrupp steel plant to Mobile County has been working with Opelika officials to prepare for the loss of BFGoodrich, Cook said.

A task force has been formed with representatives from the tire company, labor groups, county and city officials, the business community and Auburn University.

"Everybody who can have an impact or is impacted by the closing is on board," Cook said.

EGS is on board to market the property, along with Cushman & Wakefield and global real estate firm Grubb & Ellis. The building and its 369 acres have an asking price of $11.5 million.

"The reason we want to be involved in this building is that it's the biggest available industrial building in Alabama, to our knowledge," said Mark Byers, head of industrial real estate for EGS. "We felt with our depth of brokerage and economic development experience, we could do more for this building that simply put a for sale sign out in front." Typically, the buyer of a building so vast ends up razing all or part of it to erect something new in its place. Byers, however said the scale of the BFGoodrich plant and its location could make it appealing for other industrial companies.

EGS is highlighting is the plant's proximity to major auto plants -- Kia across the state line in Georgia, Hyundai in Montgomery, Honda in Lincoln and Mercedes-Benz in Vance. More here.

JPMorgan's move to Sprint Nextel campus frustrates KC leaders

The Kansas City Star

JPMorgan Retirement Plan Services is leaving south Kansas City and moving to Overland Park in 2011, taking 800 jobs to the Sprint Nextel campus.

The decision is another cross-border blow to Kansas City.

In October, the Kansas City Wizards and Cerner Corp. shifted to western Wyandotte County a soccer stadium and office development proposed for the former Bannister Mall.

A final deal with Kansas development officials is expected soon for the $414 million project at Village West, which would include 4,500 new Cerner jobs.

The JPMorgan relocation announced Tuesday will take with it a prestige company and the earnings tax paid by its employees. Kansas officials praised the move, but Missourians were disappointed and saw it as a setback for downtown. JPMorgan had been considering a location in the Town Pavilion.

“Missouri needs to step up its incentive programs,” said Jeff Kaczmarek, president and CEO of the Kansas City Economic Development Corp. “We are in danger on the western frontier … look at all the deals going across the river.” More here.

Tech report charts path for Arizona

by Andrew Johnson - Dec. 16, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

A lack of skilled labor, a meager pool of local investment capital and disjointed economic-development strategies are hindering growth in Arizona's technology sector, a study released Tuesday says.

But state leaders can build on strong resources already here, including universities, federal research funding and business startups, by fostering collaboration among stakeholders, according to the Milken Institute, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based research think tank.

Its report "Charting a Course for Arizona's Technology-Based Economic Development" compares Arizona's performance on tech indexes with peer states, including Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah.

The housing crash and resulting economic crisis highlighted Arizona's reliance on the real-estate industry for job growth. The state has lost almost 265,000 jobs since the recession started in December 2007.

The report offers five recommendations, many of which already are being addressed:

• Developing a deeper pool of skilled, educated workers.

The state does not develop or retain enough skilled technicians, scientists and engineers to meet the demands of local employers, the report said.

It suggests matching engineering and science graduates with local employers, especially at smaller firms, so that companies can identify the workers they need within the state. More here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Myrtle Beach business leaders seek Boeing suppliers

By A.J. Ross - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Members of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation (MBREDC) say they are executing a heavy marketing campaign in an effort to attract Boeing suppliers and other aircraft manufacturers to the Myrtle Beach International Technology & Aerospace Park.

The aerospace park is situated on more than 400 acres of land between Myrtle Beach International Airport and the Market Common.

Jimmy Yahnis, board chairman for the MBREDC, says the marketing blitz encompasses everything from emails and e-blasts to colorful brochures showcasing the Grand Strand. Yahnis says several members of the MBREDC have also been nurturing relationships with Boeing suppliers in an effort to secure a future relationship with the company.

Bill Britton, the business development director for the MBREDC, says the new aerospace park is a diamond in the rough.

"The same reasons tourists come here, we think a lot of companies will come here," Britton said. "Our lifestyle, our environment, our workforce is wonderful here."

Yahnis says another big selling point to potential businesses is the 9,500-foot runway that is easily accessible at MYR.

"Due to the availability of land adjacent to a runway that can handle virtually every type of aircraft, there is a great opportunity here," he said.

Yahnis and Britton say they cannot disclose the names of the companies that have been interested in the new business park. But they say they expect construction to begin on roads and utilities on the property next year.

Copyright 2009 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The fight is on to keep the area’s manufacturers

Officials hope to tilt New Era’s choice in Derby’s favor

By Matt Glynn
News Business Reporter
Updated: December 12, 2009, 10:21 PM /

New Era Cap Co. is poised to make an important decision about its manufacturing operations.

The Buffalo-based hat and apparel maker will choose between its plant in Derby or one in Demopolis, Ala., as it consolidates its U.S. production into one site.

The threat of losing another manufacturer to lower-cost Southern locations is nothing new to the Buffalo Niagara region. Through October, the region was averaging 54,580 manufacturing jobs this year, down 35 percent from 15 years ago, according to state Labor Department statistics.

But economic development officials and local leaders say manufacturing remains a source of strength for the region and retaining jobs in that sector is a priority. New Era’s case has the added significance of a homegrown company with nearly a century of history.

“It’s very important for our economy that we keep our jobs here,” said Evans Town Supervisor Fran Pordum. “We’re talking about a well-respected and known brand throughout the world.”

Although a relatively small company, New Era brings a sense of pride and prestige to Buffalo Niagara. It makes all the hats used by Major League Baseball teams and their minor- league affiliates, and its logo shows up during televised games in many MLB teams’ dugouts. It also produces a variety of hats for colleges and universities, and for celebrities like Spike Lee.

The issue at the forefront for New Era today is something vital if less glamorous: the future of its U.S. jobs and manufacturing.

Examples abound of Buffalo-area manufacturing jobs that have vanished, either through cutbacks or closings. General Motors’ Town of Tonawanda engine plant has sharply reduced its work force in recent years. Contintental Automotive Systems is finishing a three-year phaseout in Elma. In Perry, jobs at American Classic Outfitters are at risk over Adidas’ decision to move production of NBA game-day jerseys to Thailand.

Nallan Suresh, a University at Buffalo professor who tracks manufacturing, said Buffalo Niagara’s manufacturing infrastructure and skilled work force are two factors in favor of New Era keeping the Derby plant open.

Suresh has provided workshop training in the past to New Era, and has taken his students to visit the plant in Derby. While he doesn’t have inside knowledge of New Era’s plans, he said he feels Derby has the upper hand. And he says he’s not just being loyal to the area in saying so. “I think it makes good business sense as well,” said Suresh, who is professor and chairman of operations management and strategy at UB’s School of Management.

New Era’s plan to close one plant also has stirred concerns in Alabama, with a significant number of jobs at stake there. And officials in Western New York and Alabama are talking up the importance of maintaining those positions.

The Derby plant has 334 employees and the Demopolis site has 355. Both figures include workers who are on layoff due to volume reductions.

To outside observers, the Derby plant would seem to have an edge, with the company’s hometown roots and the corporate headquarters only 20 miles away. But company spokesman Paul Gallagher said the company wants to make the “best business decision” and does not plan to announce its choice until mid-February to early March 2010.

New Era has already decided to close a plant in Jackson, Ala., in early 2010, as part of a plan to cut its number of U.S. plants from three to one. It will also close a distribution center in Mobile, Ala., in the second quarter.

New Era officials met last week with Communications Workers of America union representatives in Demopolis, and the company plans to meet with CWA representatives in Derby this week, said Dave Palmer, the union’s director for Upstate New York and New England.

The Teamsters represents workers at the two Alabama facilities that will be closed, and the company and union have agreed on the benefits workers will receive after they lose their jobs.

Gallagher said New Era is considering a host of factors in choosing between the Derby and Demopolis plants, including productivity, efficiency and seniority. The company says it is cutting back because its level of consumer demand can no longer support three production plants. More here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tap Into Erie looks to trade on region's abundant water

Erie wants to use its most abundant resource to attract companies, create jobs


Lake Erie is a giant game changer -- capable of luring tourists to its sunny shores or burying us with lake-effect snow.

Now, some wonder if it might prove to be a magnet that could bring jobs to the region.

The Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership is betting on it with Tap Into Erie, a new initiative that's looking for ways to use the region's abundant water supply to attract companies that depend on water.

The idea grew out of a need for the region to set itself apart, said Jake Rouch, vice president of economic development for the chamber.

Rouch, whose group continues to focus the majority of its budget and time on business retention, said he recognized that the region's budget for business attraction didn't stack up against other communities that would be competing for the same jobs.

Every town in the country, it seems, has a slick brochure and the promise of a good life and able workers. And most of those places stand ready to serve up a cocktail of tax breaks and low-interest loans.

A study by a local consultant confirmed what some might have expected. Erie is close to major population centers and has top-notch health care and abundant higher education opportunities.

But so did a lot of other places.

Water -- enough to satisfy the most demanding user -- was what made Erie unique. More here.

JIM MARTIN can be reached at 870-1668 or by e-mail.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Corporate Site Selection R.I.P.? No — But There's A Twist

by Rob DeRocker

First the good news about corporate site selection: The Great Recession has neither killed it nor put it on life support. Two years after the official start of the longest and most geographically comprehensive economic downturn since the 1930s, many if not all location advisors claim to be busy. Some say their levels of activity are more intense than ever, as they log eight-hour conference calls and enough frequent flyer miles to go the moon.

But even with what appears to be a stabilized financial system and an uptick in investor confidence neither these consultants nor the economic development professionals who compete for their attention are breaking out the champagne anytime soon. Corporate expansions have been replaced by corporate contractions, with the resulting consolidations likely to produce a few winners but more losers for some time to come.

Even with that, financing is an issue, and for that reason among others even the companies that are loading the gun are taking a longer time to pull the trigger. The pressure on cash-strapped states and cities to put cash on the barrelhead to keep what they have — let alone expand — is greater than ever. Beyond incentives, contending communities are coming under ever more careful scrutiny. A surplus of workers is no longer much of a competitive advantage, although an abundance of qualified labor remains a big plus.

Green shoots? They can be found in green energy, with many consultants saying their siting assignments for wind, solar and other renewable energy projects is taking up a large percentage of their time.

Those were the big takeaways from a canvassing of corporate location advisors and real estate executives I conducted by e-mail, phone and in person in September and October. Some two dozen of these professionals — some busier these days than others —responded to the open-ended query, “how the recession has changed the site selection process in ways that are likely to prevail for the foreseeable future?” More here.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

EDC seeks best-fit targets

By Mike Bennett
Staff Writer

Board members of the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County on Monday approved spending up to $31,500 for a national business to perform a target industry analysis and develop a marketing strategy.

The Foote Consulting Group will develop and carry on a strategy to meet with Wayne County target prospects for a year, according to Deane Foote's proposal submitted to the EDC.

"I can guarantee you quality appointments in front of the right decision-makers," said the proposal.

Among other things, he promises calling on companies and setting appointments with corporate representatives and site selectors. He promises 20 calls on prospects.

"It makes more sense to call on the companies you have the right environment for," said EDC leader Tim Rogers after the monthly meeting that was held at the Friends Fellowship Community Room.

There is a small circle of people that work in the site selectors business, Rogers said: "They listen to each other."

He said a local economic growth group will pay $15,000 of Foote's total estimate of up to $46,500.

The study will do a preliminary target assessment to determine trends and find sectors that prefer rural communities.

It will build a strength-weakness analysis on factors that could include labor costs and availability, transportation, building sites, education, taxes and cost of living.

Foote then promises to determine best-fit targets.

Tap Into Erie looks to trade on region's abundant water

Erie wants to use its most abundant resource to attract companies, create jobs


Lake Erie is a giant game changer -- capable of luring tourists to its sunny shores or burying us with lake-effect snow.

Now, some wonder if it might prove to be a magnet that could bring jobs to the region.

The Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership is betting on it with Tap Into Erie, a new initiative that's looking for ways to use the region's abundant water supply to attract companies that depend on water.

The idea grew out of a need for the region to set itself apart, said Jake Rouch, vice president of economic development for the chamber.

Rouch, whose group continues to focus the majority of its budget and time on business retention, said he recognized that the region's budget for business attraction didn't stack up against other communities that would be competing for the same jobs.

Every town in the country, it seems, has a slick brochure and the promise of a good life and able workers. And most of those places stand ready to serve up a cocktail of tax breaks and low-interest loans.

A study by a local consultant confirmed what some might have expected. Erie is close to major population centers and has top-notch health care and abundant higher education opportunities.

But so did a lot of other places.

Water -- enough to satisfy the most demanding user -- was what made Erie unique.

That's not the case in much of the United States. The growing shortage was addressed earlier this year in hearings held by the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology.

The committee concluded: "Water shortages can negatively affect companies and entire industries and reduce job creation and retention. Increased water demand will come with increased costs to all businesses, industries and municipalities."

In Erie, where water can be drawn from a pair of giant pipes -- one 5 feet in diameter, the other 6 feet -- submerged 25 feet below the surface of Lake Erie -- the reality is different.

Without expanding the current system, Erie Water Works Chief Executive Paul Vojtek said the Erie City Water Authority has an untapped capacity of 36 million gallons a day and is using only about 26 million gallons a day.

That's a message Erie officials have been taking on the road in recent months as sponsors of the Oregon Brewers Festival and the Great American Beer Festival and while attending conferences for site selection and food packaging groups.

None of the events were chosen by accident.

Rouch said craft breweries, ethanol producers, food processors and data centers, which can use water for cooling, were all identified as industries that need water.

"We had to pick our targets," said Matthew Cummings, director of marketing communications for the chamber. "You have to know your target audience and speak to them directly. When you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to no one."

In addition to abundant water and the normal assortment of tax incentives, Tap Into Erie offers new companies a 40 percent water discount for the first five years.

It's an effort that's drawn the attention of the Wall Street Journal, which mentioned Erie's effort in an article published Monday that highlighted Milwaukee's efforts to accomplish the same goal with water drawn from Lake Michigan.

Tap Into Erie, funded by the chamber, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Erie Water Works, Erie County, the city of Erie and the Erie Community Foundation, hasn't landed the region any new employers yet, but its efforts are getting some good reviews and a lot of notice.

At the festival in Oregon, Erie's business attraction efforts scored as the lead story on one local television newscast, Cummings said.

"The reaction from the craft brewing industry was very favorable," Rouch said. "They all thought it was a great idea."

Rouch hopes the outreach efforts are planting seeds that might one day grow into something more as companies make decisions about expanding.

Is there a limit to how far an effort such as this one should go?

The Great Lakes represent the largest source of fresh surface water on Earth and 84 percent of North America's freshwater supply, but is there a point where too much consumption has an effect?

Not anytime soon, said Vojtek, who explains that most of the water taken from the lake is returned, either in the form of drainage or as treated water.

He favors an illustration that demonstrates just how much water sits at our back door.

Vojtek said if the rain stopped falling and all the water flowing into Lake Erie suddenly stopped, the 26 million gallons a day used by Erie would eventually lower the lake level.

In 12 years, he said, the water level would fall by 1 inch.

There are limits to the drawing power of abundant water, Rouch said, explaining that it's likely to be one of several factors some companies might consider.

But he is convinced it's an asset worth touting and an important way to set Erie apart. And the simple act of putting Erie on a prospect's radar can prove to be a tall order.

"It can be humbling," Rouch said. "A lot of people have never heard of Erie."

Promoting Erie's abundant water "is a way to differentiate yourself in a very cluttered marketplace," he said.

Vojtek said he believes in the effort and stands ready to provide water to companies that can create jobs.

"I think they have taken a good approach," he said. "Who knows what could come of it."

JIM MARTIN can be reached at 870-1668 or by e-mail.

Horizon Council: GrowFL program targets 'second-stage' companies

Jennifer Berg
Special to news-press.com

Hundreds of Florida businesses are about to become beneficiaries of a visionary program designed to help them grow and create jobs by providing access to an elite team of business analysts who are specially trained in a variety of disciplines and equipped with sophisticated tools designed and targeted for what are known as "second-stage" companies.

GrowFL will deploy its team of analysts at no charge to provide qualified companies with technical assistance and access to a suite of information and decision-making tools.

Patterned after a proven program pioneered in Colorado, the Florida Economic Gardening Institute (FEGI) was funded by the Florida Legislature to cultivate growth companies - privately held, resident firms that employ 10 to 50 workers, generate $1 million to $25 million in revenue, and had revenue and employment growth in three of the last five years.

FEGI has created a first-of-its-kind strategic partnership that will draw on the nationally recognized assets of the Edward Lowe Foundation, which for more than 20 years has been developing programs to encourage entrepreneurship as the key strategy for economic growth and community development.

The Edward Lowe Foundation has committed to bringing together a team of trained analysts to provide both initial services to the chosen companies and to train Florida teams.

"The GrowFL program is a unique statewide partnership that includes the Florida Economic Development Council, Enterprise Florida, Workforce Florida, the Florida High Tech Corridor Council and others working to identify and cultivate hundreds of growth companies," said program administrator Dr. Tom O'Neal, associate vice president of research and founder of UCF's (University of Central Florida's) highly acclaimed incubation network. "We're looking for companies I'd describe as teenagers. They are beyond the startup phase but need the tools to take them to adulthood."

Companies may apply at www.GrowFL.com. "Our team is already conducting screening interviews to rapidly ramp up this effort and get the tools in the hands of the companies most likely to create new jobs in Florida," O'Neal said.

Edward Lowe Foundation President Mark Lange said 8 percent of Florida businesses statewide meet the profile, and pointed out that between 2005 and 2007 second-stage companies in Florida were responsible for 36 percent of job growth. "At a time when jobs are so critical to our nation's economic recovery, Gov. Charlie Crist and Florida's Legislature were visionaries to invest in cultivating the companies that have proven their ability to grow and create employment."

"In every community, large or small, urban or rural, throughout the state we have economic development professionals helping to make the work of GrowFL a priority," said Amy Evancho, president of the Florida Economic Development Council, whose 500 members are economic development professionals, and public and private economic development agencies serving all of the state's cities and counties.

The Florida Economic Gardening Institute was created by the 2009 Florida Legislature as the Economic Gardening Technical Assistance Pilot Program to stimulate investment in Florida's economy by providing technical assistance for expanding businesses in the state. Qualified companies must be engaged in the following sectors: manufacturing; finance and insurance services; wholesale trade; information industries; professional, scientific and technical services; management services; and administrative and support services. Additional information is available at www.GrowFL.com.

For more information about resources available through the Lee County Economic Development Office call 338-3161 or visit www.leecountybusiness.com.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Riverside taking aspirational approach to looking into its economic future

The Press-Enterprise

When shown the Inland region's fate involved mere modest job growth in high-paying, skilled industries, Riverside leaders didn't want to go gently into an economic future they didn't feel was theirs.

Instead, they spent hundreds of hours and solicited the hopes and dreams of Inland residents to craft a vision for economic development focused squarely on improving the city's quality of life.

The result, a manifesto of sorts with a rally cry of a title, will be presented to Riverside's City Council on Dec. 15 for approval.

"Seizing Our Destiny: The Agenda for Riverside's Innovative Future" focuses on four qualities leaders hope define the city for decades: an "outstanding quality of life," "catalyst for innovation," "location of choice" and "unified city for common good," the report reads.

Figuring out how to make the city's dreams come true, including how to fund various efforts, will be the next step.

"We've never had this kind of aspirational strategic plan in my 30 years at City Hall," said Mayor Ron Loveridge. Previously, the city entertained any business owner who walked through the door, he said.

"We tended to have a passive rather than active economic development approach," he said. More here.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Beware Social Media Snake Oil

Hordes of marketing "experts" are promoting the value of wikis, social networks, and blogs. All the hype may obscure the real potential of these online tools

By Stephen Baker

For business, the rising popularity of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media Web sites presents a tantalizing opportunity. As millions of people flock to these online services to chat, flirt, swap photos, and network, companies have the chance to tune in to billions of digital conversations. They can pitch a product, listen to customer feedback, or ask for ideas. If they work it right, customers might even produce companies' advertising for them and trade the ads with friends for free. Starbucks (SBUX), Dell (DELL), and Ford Motor (F) have all testified to the magic social media can create.

But the same tools carry risks. Employees encouraged to tap social networking sites can fritter away hours, or worse. They can spill company secrets or harm corporate relationships by denigrating partners. What's more, with one misstep, one clumsy entrée, companies can quickly find themselves victims of the forces they were trying to master. Thousands of bloggers attacked Motrin last year because of an advertisement from the Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) brand they found demeaning to mothers.

Over the past five years, an entire industry of consultants has arisen to help companies navigate the world of social networks, blogs, and wikis. The self-proclaimed experts range from legions of wannabes, many of them refugees from the real estate bust, to industry superstars such as Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk. They produce best-selling books and dole out advice or lead workshops at companies for thousands of dollars a day. The consultants evangelize the transformative power of social media and often cast themselves as triumphant case studies of successful networking and self-branding.

The problem, according to a growing chorus of critics, is that many would-be guides are leading clients astray. More here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Water Plan Aims to Help Jobs Flow

Milwaukee, With an Abundant Supply, Seeks to Offer Discounts to Businesses

The Wall Street Journal

MILWAUKEE -- This city has been selling the world Lake Michigan water for decades. It just mixed in a little hops and barley first.

Now, the nation's onetime brewing capital is trying to use its abundant water supply the way other towns use tax credits and highway ramps: as a lure for new businesses, particularly big users of water such as beverage makers and food processors.

Milwaukee is preparing an application for the Wisconsin Public Service Commission that would offer reduced water rates for up to five years to businesses that bring in at least 25 jobs. Milwaukee would be joining Erie, Pa., which has been offering a 40% discount on Lake Erie water to businesses that relocate to or expand in the city for more than a year.

"Our whole city was built around rivers and the lake," says Mayor Tom Barrett, a two-term Democrat who recently announced a gubernatorial bid, as his sport-utility vehicle sped toward the site of a former car-chassis plant that could benefit from the proposal. "It's our history, our culture and our recreation. So why not take advantage of that to revitalize our economy?"

Fresh water is growing scarce around the globe, and many people are betting that the Great Lakes' abundant supply will become increasingly valuable. But since water is usually far down on a company's list of reasons for relocating, some business experts are skeptical about how successful Milwaukee will be.

"It's a good idea on its surface," says Thomas Lyons, a business professor at the City University of New York's Baruch College, who has written numerous books on economic development. "But I'm not convinced it's going to have a major impact on the economic development of the city. More here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Agenda 360 shares its plans for local job growth

By David Holthaus

The goal would be ambitious even in the best of economic times. In the worst of times, it appears virtually insurmountable: Create 200,000 jobs in little more than a decade.

Yet that's what local business and community leaders say they're committed to accomplishing. The goal isn't just aggressive, they say, it's essential to transforming the region into one of the nation's leading metropolitan areas.

The job-growth objective is a cornerstone of the Agenda 360 communitywide plan for growth. Unveiled in February, Agenda 360 was the product of two years of community meetings led by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. From more than two dozen meetings involving 1,500 people, organizers identified goals to guide their efforts and those of other organizations around the region through 2020. To measure progress, three simple but lofty goals were laid out, the most audacious being the plan to create 200,000 jobs by 2020.

"We wanted to aspire to not just an incremental increase, but to a quantum increase," said Myrita Craig, executive director of Agenda 360. "Love it or hate it, that's what it is."

Achieving the goal would transform the workforce in Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana. The addition of 200,000 net jobs in little more than a decade would require a rapid acceleration of the historical rate at which jobs have been created here. In the decade from 1998 to 2008, before the recession hit with full force, 64,000 jobs were added in the 15-county metropolitan area, according to government figures. More here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

County's downturn could have upside in luring biotech firms

By Jeff Ostrowski Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

As Palm Beach County works to build a biotech hub, labs run by Scripps Florida and Max Planck Florida are the main attraction for CEOs looking for a place to call home.

But those two research institutes aren't the only draw. Palm Beach County also can boast of being a cheap place to do business, at least compared with other biotech hubs.

The Boyd Co., a location consulting firm in Princeton, N.J., calculated the costs of running a biotech business in 35 metro areas in the U.S. and Canada.

It found annual costs ranged from $18.8 million in New York to $12.6 million in Sioux Falls, S.D. Palm Beach County ranked 23rd, at $14.1 million, just behind Vancouver, B.C., and just ahead of Cincinnati. Boyd's estimates are based on the bill to operate a 60,000-square-foot facility with 150 workers, including scientists.

"In the corporate relocation field, costs are ruling the process," said Jon Boyd, head of The Boyd Co. "Palm Beach County shows very well."

Palm Beach County as a cheap place to operate a company?

That's a novel notion, especially after the costs of living and doing business in Palm Beach County inflated during the real estate boom.

But those costs have deflated during the bust. That means economic boosters once again can tout factors such as the lack of a state income tax and home prices that are cheaper than in the Northeast and California.

"I was pleasantly surprised," Mike Jones, president of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, said of the study. "With the downturn in the economy, the reduction in housing prices, the reduction in rents across the board, we're looked upon more favorably."

But do costs really matter in the biotech world, where pricey areas such as San Francisco, Boston and San Diego are the bustling hubs that cheaper rivals hope to emulate? Maybe, maybe not.

When the leaders of Envoy Therapeutics decided to locate their start-up company in Jupiter, costs were a secondary concern, said Chief Executive Brad Margus. Envoy was drawn mainly by the brainpower already setting up shop at Scripps Florida and Max Planck Florida in Jupiter.

"By far the most important thing is the people," Margus said. "Can you find the junior-level scientists in the area that can work in your labs?"

He noted that San Francisco and Boston have remained biotech hubs despite their stratospheric costs. That's because those areas offer a wealth of scientists, lab space and investors, all of which are crucial to upstart science firms.

While it doesn't hurt that Palm Beach County is cheaper than competing biotech centers, it's far from the only concern for biotech CEOs.

"You can recruit somebody here and tell them there's no state income tax," Margus said. "But is that really the deciding factor in where you go? No."

But Boyd said his discussions with executives lead him to believe that costs are taking center stage.

"The trend is to smaller, more manageable, less costly markets," Boyd said.

If that trend holds, it could be good news for Palm Beach County.

The region's biotech market already has been buoyed by the arrival of Scripps Florida and Max Planck Florida in Jupiter and the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies in Port St. Lucie, Boyd said.

Those labs came because they were offered tax dollars that totaled hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, economic boosters aim to attract for-profit companies that won't demand public handouts.

"You're early on the curve, but you primed the pump," Boyd said. "In many of these other locations, it took a few decades to get where you've gotten in a few years. You seized the moment. These were trophy projects."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Branding Campaign Tries To Improve Image Of "Made In China"

Posted by Barry Silverstein, brandchannel

The Chinese government is finally acknowledging that the phrase "Made in China" has regained many of its one-time negative connotations. Many Chinese brands have earned their poor perception: Consumers in the US and elsewhere have heard alarming reports of Chinese-made products scandalized by poor quality and deadly oversights. These have included everyday products like pet food, toys, and milk. and the bad publicity has done nothing but damage to the country's image.

So China has launched a new television ad campaign. Seen first in Asia, the campaign is now airing in the US, and features products with the "Made in China" label -- with an international twist. Each "Made in China" example highlights Chinese manufacturers' collaboration with other countries. For example, MP3 players are shown with the phrase, "Made in China with software from Silicon Valley." Clothing carries the label "Made in China with French designers."

According to China Daily, the campaign is intended to demonstrate that "Chinese companies work with overseas firms to produce quality products." The campaign was developed by ad agency DDB's Chinese affiliate, under the direction of China's Ministry of Commerce.

With a lot of ground to make up, some critics are already saying the new campaign may be less than effective. "Wouldn't it have been better if they had touted the millions of things being devised and made in China?" asks one blogger. The Telegraph's Shanghai correspondent, Malcolm Moore, adds, "Does it make you feel better about Chinese quality? Not really." Or at least not yet.

Ironically, the campaign was ready to launch in 2008, but it was delayed due to the recent tainted milk scandal that caused the deaths of at least six children and sickened 300,000.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Consultant: Wichita has 2 drawbacks

The Wichita Eagle

A consultant said Tuesday that Wichita has at least two major drawbacks in recruiting business: lack of a ready site, and a stigma stemming from recent aviation industry strikes.

Site Selection Group of Dallas was hired by the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition to write a study showing how Wichita can diversify its economy.

The $70,000 study will examine how well Wichita competes against similar cities, which industries it should target for recruitment, which gaps Wichita has, and how to better market the city.

The study will be released on Jan. 18.

The firm has completed the first phase of the study, looking at how six other communities have moved from shrinking industries to diversified collections of growing ones. They are Huntsville, Ala.; Boise, Idaho; Greensboro, N.C.; Omaha; Clarksville, Tenn.; and Tulsa.

The communities first recognized the threat to their main industry, said Site Selection Group senior vice president David Brandon.

Then they built a decades-long economic development effort supported by the community's top leadership. And they raised significant, mostly private, dollars to fund the diversification effort.

Brandon said the Wichita area has a great deal going for it and was close to landing a major solar-power manufacturing plant.

But the city suffers from not having a large industrial site ready for construction and from a stigma brought on by recent union strikes in the aircraft industry.

"You have to figure out how to bring unions into the tent and create a partnership," he said.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Greensburg Web site aims at developers, business prospects

By Bob Stiles
Monday, November 23, 2009

Steve Gifford used to send information by compact disc to prospective developers or business owners who were considering relocating in Greensburg.

That won't be the case anymore, at least not as a first step.

Gifford, Greensburg Community Development Corp. executive director, will refer them to a Web site that's being started as part of the new Think Greensburg campaign that was started this month by his group.

The Internet site, thinkgreensburg.com, will formally go online Wednesday.

"With the Web site, they can go immediately, share it with their (business) partners and access it when they want," Gifford said.

The Web site is being done in two phases. The first involves such information as housing, tourism and economic data. Suggestions about what businesses may succeed in the city will be included.

The second phase will involve more detailed information available for downloading — requests for proposals, site-development plans and potential business-opportunity sites.

In addition, the Web site will show residents what is going on in the city.

The creation of the Internet site and related advertising is being paid through a $36,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development, Gifford said. More here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Energize-ECI made Dallas trip

E. Roy Budd, executive director of Energize-ECI Inc. announced the regional economic development partnership, along with ECI member area economic development officials, planned and participated in a business development sales trip to Dallas, Texas, Nov. 11-12.

Among those on the trip were Terry Murphy, vice president Muncie-Delaware County Economic Development Alliance; Bill Bradley, executive director Jay County Development Corporation; and Budd.

"The purpose of the Dallas trip was to familiarize a new group of site selection consultants about the many competitive advantages offered to new business investment, expansion and consolidation in East Central Indiana," Budd said. "We want to be top-of-mind when business investment projects are given the green light to active status. Right now, the economy has forced many business projects to be put on hold. I think we proved our case that East Central Indiana has much to offer for new business investment -- and is worthy of serious consideration."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Solar energy industry brings a ray of hope to the Rust Belt

Areas hard-hit by the U.S. automakers' slump are pitching themselves to green technology firms. Workers and machines that used to crank out cars are now making parts for solar and wind power plants.

By Todd Woody

At a recent solar energy conference in Anaheim, economic development officials from Ohio talked up a state that seemed far removed from the solar panels and high-tech devices that dominated the convention floor.

Ohio, long known for its smokestack auto plants and metal-bending factories, would be an ideal place for green technology companies to set up shop, they said.

"People don't traditionally think of Ohio when they think of solar," said Lisa Patt-McDaniel, director of Ohio's economic development agency. But in fact, the Rust Belt goes well with the Green Belt, she said.

In years past, Sunbelt governors recruited Midwestern businesses to set up shop in their states, dangling tax breaks and the lure of a union-free workforce.

Now the tables have turned as solar start-ups, wind turbine companies and electric carmakers from California and the Southwest migrate to the nation's industrial heartland. They're looking to tap its manufacturing might and legions of skilled workers, hit hard by the near-collapse of the United States auto industry and eager for work.

For all of green tech's futuristic sheen, solar power plants and wind farms are made of much of the same stuff as automobiles: machine-stamped steel, glass and gearboxes.

That has renewable energy companies hitting the highway for Detroit and Northeastern industrial states, driven in part by the federal stimulus package's incentives and buy-American mandates.

Irvine's Fisker Automotive, for instance, will manufacture its next plug-in electric hybrid car at a defunct General Motors assembly plant in Wilmington, Del.

And Stirling Energy Systems, which is building two massive solar power plants in Southern California, has signed deals with two automotive companies to make components for its giant solar dishes.

Stirling's 40-by-38-foot SunCatcher resembles a mirrored satellite dish. The SunCatcher's mirrors focus the sun on a Stirling engine that sits on an arm that extends from the center of the dish. The heat causes hydrogen gas in the engine to expand, which drives pistons that generate electricity.

"The back of the mirror facet is a piece of stamped metal, and if you raise the hood of your car, what you see is a stamped metal frame," said Ian Simington, chief executive of the solar division of NTR, the Irish company that owns Stirling Energy Systems, based in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Nobody stamps metal better than automotive manufacturers. So in a sense the choice to go to high-volume suppliers in the greater Detroit area was an easy one for us."

Stirling signed an agreement with Tower Automotive to manufacture the dishes' structural components and assemble the mirror facets. The Livonia, Mich., company makes vehicle body parts and other components for the major carmakers but has seen auto orders slow with the downturn.

Jim Bernard, Tower's vice president of North American sales and program management, said the company had been looking to diversify its operations.

"The market that we thought would fit us was alternative energy," he said. "Utility-scale alternative energy projects have some of the exact same requirements that our automotive customers do."

That means Tower can use its existing machinery, with some modifications, and workforce to make SunCatcher components. In turn, Stirling avoids the capital costs of setting up its own factories and gets to tap Tower's manufacturing know-how to bring down its costs, which will be a key competitive advantage in the race to deploy new solar technologies.

"They have the practices beaten into them since Henry Ford, but more because of Japanese competition, to be able to do several things simultaneously -- improve the features of the product, take cost out and improve quality," Simington said.

He said his company has spent $30 million to $40 million in the Detroit area over the last year and hired 40 to 50 people from the automotive industry. Stirling has also outsourced the manufacturing of specialized tools to companies in Ohio, Illinois and Indiana.

About 25,000 SunCatchers will roll off the assembly line annually once production ramps up.

It's still something of a buyer's market these days, said Jeff Collins, Stirling's vice president of global supply chain and an auto industry veteran.

"I hate to say this, particularly as a guy who still owns a house in Detroit, but the downturn in the automotive market corresponded exactly with our requirements," he said. "We're not adding our own factories to scale up; we're just adding a second shift on the assembly line."

That available manufacturing muscle attracted Skyline Solar, a Silicon Valley solar power plant builder. In October, the start-up announced a deal with a Troy, Mich., subsidiary of automotive giant Magna International to make the long metal arrays that hold its photovoltaic panels.

"Renewable energy trends and forecast data suggest significant growth potential for this market. We expect to participate in this growth potential," Magna spokeswoman Tracy Fuerst said in an e-mail.

Back at Ohio's booth at the solar conference, Patt-McDaniel said Michigan was her biggest competitor for solar manufacturing projects.

Her state secured one of the biggest solar companies, First Solar of Tempe, Ariz., to produce photovoltaic modules in Ohio. Patt-McDaniel said wind turbines are already made in Ohio, and Rolls-Royce recently announced it would consolidate its fuel cell operations in the Buckeye State.

"We're open to anything and everything," she said.


Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

Plano to offer Pizza Hut $2.5 million deal to relocate from Addison


Plano is preparing to offer its largest economic package ever to lure Pizza Hut's corporate headquarters from Addison.

The package, drawn up during months of secret talks, includes grants and tax breaks totaling about $2.5 million. Plano's City Council will discuss the package Monday.

Officials say the multimillion-dollar deal is worth the cost for this city, which is struggling financially. Pizza Hut's impact, they say, could extend beyond the jobs it brings.

"It's not a done deal, but we're excited to be this close," Plano Mayor Phil Dyer said.

Should the company proceed, it would move at least 450 employees into a new $15 million office at Legacy Business Park in northwest Plano, according to the agreement. The yet-to-be-built structure would house nearly as much space as three football fields.

Pizza Hut officials could not be reached for comment. But a spokesman said earlier this week that the firm could come to Plano.

Addison Mayor Joe Chow said he was hopeful that the company, which moved to its current site along the Dallas North Tollway from Wichita, Kan., in 1995, would stay.

"It costs a lot to relocate," Chow said. "I don't believe that Plano is going to offer that much."

Pizza Hut would receive $2.1 million in cash as well as tax abatements through 2021, according to a copy of the incentives. More here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Area counties form marketing coalition to showcase economic development opportunities

Author: Mary Carr Mayle

With budget restrictions curtailing the state's ability to market economic development opportunities, four area counties have formed Savannah Gateway.

The coalition of Bryan, Chatham, Effingham and Liberty officials will tout the counties' attributes to site-selection firms and developers nationwide.

"The fact is, the state simply doesn't have the money to market like we used to," said state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah.

"The greater-Savannah area has so much to offer, it only makes sense to launch a collective marketing effort," said Stephens, chairman of the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee.

Lynn Pitts, senior vice president of Savannah Economic Development Authority, initially invited similar authorities in Effingham, Bryan and Liberty to join an informal conversation on how they could attract more attention to the area.

To that end, the group, with financial help from community sponsors, hosted a reception last month in Atlanta for commercial real estate brokers, developers and site-selection firms from throughout the Southeast to showcase all that coastal Georgia has to offer.

"It was a very successful meeting, one that produced a lot of bang for the buck," Stephens said.

Joan Herron, president of Herron Consulting in Atlanta, attended the reception with company director Bob Price.

"It was a great way to showcase what the area has to offer and allow a lot of people to make contact with the various communities," she said. "Taking a regional focus is definitely a step in the right direction. It allows you to make the most of your marketing budget while making it easier for companies to find you."

The group has a Web site and a brochure. The next step, Stephens said, will be to attend trade shows as a group and to market the area collectively on a global scale.

Economic development consultant Craig Lesser is working with SEDA to help with international marketing. To the extent that it fits with what SEDA has asked him to do, he plans to also market Savannah Gateway.

"Clearly, there will be some overlap," said Lesser, a former state economic development commissioner. "This is a very effective tool."

Lesser's successor, Georgia Economic Development Commissioner Ken Stewart, agreed.

"Savannah Gateway is really a brilliant move for that section of the state," he said. "Combining resources to present all that a region has to offer is definitely an idea whose time has come."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Just how did Panama City woo Coast WET?

MATT DIXON / News Herald Writer

PANAMA CITY — With thousands of economic development groups vying for relatively few companies that seek to relocate each year, getting to first place in the business recruitment game is no easy feat.

The moment Panama City took the lead in the race to secure Coast WET was a fairly well defined one, said Janet Watermeier, executive director of the Bay County economic development alliance.

After some thought, she was able to pinpoint the moment she knew Panama City had pulled ahead in the race to secure the hundreds of jobs that might come if they were able to snag the water-efficient toilet parts manufacturer.

“We still have not won,” the economic development maven qualified. “But the moment I knew we were in first place was when we received approval for the governor’s closing fund package on Sept. 1.”

That package offered $500,000 of discretionary revenue to Coast, which used the money to defray a portion of the estimated $600,000 it would cost them to relocate from Southern California. More here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Milken Institute: Best-Performing Cities 2009

Austin, TX; Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, TX; Salt Lake City, UT; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX; and, Houston, TX led the Milken Institute's list of this year's Best-Performing Cities. The Best Performing Cities Index includes both long-term (five years) and short-term (one year) measurements of employment and salary growth. More here

Thursday, November 19, 2009

In Detroit, Agencies Compete to Sell City as a Creative Haven


IT may not be the advertising version of “Mission: Impossible,” but it is certainly a challenging, if not daunting, task: produce a campaign to encourage young and creative people to consider Detroit as a place to live and work.

Cue the Lalo Schifrin theme music.

The effort, called Selling Detroit, is upfront about its intent. “America’s most struggling city needs to attract business and talent,” a description of the contest begins.

The initiative to help change what may be the most dire urban image in America is being sponsored by the Time Inc. unit of Time Warner as part of a yearlong project, Assignment Detroit, that involves reporters and editors from Essence, Fortune, Money, Sports Illustrated, Time and related Web sites.

Several advertising agencies with offices in the Detroit area were asked to develop campaigns; five agreed to take part. Their work is to appear in the Dec. 7 issue of Fortune, due Nov. 23, as well as on three Web sites: cnnmoney.com, fortune.com and time.com. (The value of the ad pages that Time Inc. is devoting to the contest in Fortune is estimated at $400,000.)

Visitors to the Web sites will be able to vote, beginning on Monday, for their favorite among the five campaigns. The winner is to be announced on Dec. 2, during an annual awards ceremony in Detroit known as the D Show.

“The whole idea of the contest is that we believe in the renewal of the city,” said Mark Ford, president for the news group at Time Inc. in New York. This is to be accomplished partly by people moving to Detroit with their businesses and creativity, and being there “for the long haul.”

To that end, the campaign will be “targeted more to the 18-to-34-year-old demographic,” he added.

Those involved in the contest acknowledge it is a small step toward determining “what is the road out” from Detroit’s difficulties, as Mr. Ford put it.

“I don’t pretend to have the answer to solve the problem,” Mr. Ford said. “You have to expect it’ll take many, many years to recover.” More here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Economic development? Simply absurd

Lauren Ritchie


November 18, 2009

Second of two parts.

Sunday's column looked at a report by the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission that claimed the agency had worked with Lake County's economic-development employees to bring 157 jobs to the community in the past year.

The real number, according to the companies themselves, is roughly a third of that when layoffs at the same companies cited by the EDC are tallied into the final total.

Today, we'll take a look at what the EDC says it did for those 10 firms for the nearly $300,000 in tax dollars that the county pays the group.

Recruiting companies and helping those already here to expand is a major part of the EDC's job but not the only part. The agency also is to help firms find buildings that work for them, help the county work toward meeting economic-development goals, represent Lake in trade missions, act as a conduit for grant money and help the county sell itself as a desirable place to live and work.

Nine of the 10 companies the EDC helped responded to requests to detail their relationship with the economic-development folks. The 10th, Niagara Bottling Co., did not answer inquiries asking for the exact number of people it employs now.

Two other companies were eliminated from the EDC's count. The agency claimed to have brought 42 jobs to Lake last year through Dunkin Donuts Distribution and six through QuietFlex, which makes flexible ductwork. Both of those firms, located in the Christopher C. Ford Commerce Park in Groveland, came to Lake in 2006 and did not add jobs in the past year.

Maureen Brockman, vice president for marketing and communications for the EDC, said the agency relied on figures from Lake County's economic-development folks for Dunkin and on a 2006 letter from QuietFlex to estimate the number of new jobs.

Calls to the companies show that none of the 10 was sought out and recruited by the EDC. Rather, it helped firms that already decided either to come to Lake or to expand operations here.

Only three companies said that the EDC or the county did anything other than provide information and paperwork about job grants. Two said the EDC didn't even do that much — the companies applied on their own for incentive money.

Here are the results:

Surgery Center of Mount Dora: A group of local doctors joined with Regent Surgery Health, an Illinois developer of surgical centers, to build a facility in Mount Dora. Regent chief of operations Joyce Deno described her company's relationship with the EDC as excellent. The agency, she said, didn't recruit her company, but "once we were grabbed, they were wonderful."

The EDC guided the surgery center through the process of getting incentive money for hiring workers making at least 115 percent of Lake's average annual wage, and the agency helped the center get through snags in the building-permit process. The EDC said the firm has 16 people, but Deno said that 22 are employed now, and she hopes to hire another eight in the next few months as the company opens and begins doing surgeries. The center expects to do about 300 surgeries a month. Deno said company made it a point to hire local janitorial, landscaping and extermination businesses.

Restor Telecom: President and Chief Operating Officer Lisa Somerville said her company came to Lake from Orlando in 2000 with the help of the EDC. Somerville said the EDC notified Restor last year that it may be eligible for job-incentive money. The EDC said Restor had hired 10 new employees, but Somerville said the number was 13, with the company getting grants for 10 of them.

G&T Conveyor: The company that designs, manufactures and installs large baggage-handling systems, mostly for airports, got grant money for 15 jobs but had to return the cash for four of them when it could not keep the positions for two years as the contract for the incentive money requires.

No one from the EDC or the county told G&T about the funds, HR director Chuck Matthews said. He said he was familiar with the program and he submitted the application without help from the agency.

At the time, he said, "G&T was experiencing good economic growth." Like many companies since then, the downturn hit G&T, which had to lay off 96 people.

Blue Earth Solutions: The EDC estimated that the recycler would hire up to 200 people, but the company is in a zoning pickle with Clermont and plans to expand are at a standstill.

The county's economic-development director is trying to help, but Blue Earth has "dropped" plans to increase the size of its Lake County location, Vice President of Business Development James Cohen Jr. said.

Instead, the startup company, which recycles durable foam and other products, is moving its headquarters to Winter Garden this week and looking to expand elsewhere.

Brockman said, "Our hope is that the full job creation potential originally anticipated in 2008 may one day happen."

It probably will — just somewhere else. After all, recycling is one of those business that is expected to grow under the Obama administration's push to expand "green" companies.

Cohen said he doesn't know where the EDC came up with the figure of 200 jobs. The agency, however, said it has a 2008 letter from the company president saying that Blue Earth hoped to employ that total.

Cohen said the company would hire 75 people at most if it were able to expand and operate around the clock. It has about 15 jobs now, which tallies with the EDC's claim.

Niagara Bottling Co.: The EDC didn't claim the jobs that the water bottler brought to Lake County this year, but it should. It is the EDC's biggest job creation of the year.

Brockman, however, said the EDC reports jobs from only those firms with which it has an official relationship, and Niagara is not one.

The EDC worked hard to get Niagara to come to Lake County. The firm doesn't have a "letter of establishment" with the agency because the county refused to give Niagara job-incentive money. Together, Lake and Groveland spent about $1.2 million trying to prevent the bottler from winning approval to take about 176 million gallons a year from wells into the underground water supply at a time when drinkable water is dwindling and residents can water their lawns only in dribbles.

A spokesman for Niagara said a month ago that about 50 people were working for Niagara and more were expected to be hired.

Lakeside Electrical: The electrical contractor, which was created in 2007, brought 14 jobs to Lake, according to the EDC. Owner Ron Hunt said the company currently employs 18 people. He said neither the EDC nor the county's economic-development department helped his firm get incentive money for high-paying jobs.

"Our office manager knew about the grant, and she pursued it and chased the paperwork," Hunt said. "Nobody informed us. We happened to hire a smart office manager."

Brockman said the agency provides a "seamless resource delivery system" that sometimes is invisible.

"Many companies don't realize that the EDC works closely with the county and the state to move incentive requests from application to approval," she said. "Again, that's OK because it is not about who gets the credit but that it happens."

Smart Fuels: The Boston-based biodiesel company that plans to produce fuel from waste vegetable oil at a plant in Fruitland Park already was building in Lake County when its owners contacted the EDC. That's how the company learned that incentive money for creating new jobs was available, said vice president Michael Carlton, who grew up in Lake and graduated from Eustis High in 1995.

The EDC said it is reviewing Smart Fuels for grant money, but Carlton said the firm employs 12 full-time people so far and plans to have 20 to 25 when production begins, perhaps by the beginning of 2010.

Buildtelligence Web Solutions: The Internet marketing and search-engine optimization firm in Mount Dora could be reimbursed up to $62,000 for hiring 31 employees over a period of three years as the company ramps up.

However, the firm has applied for reimbursement for only one position so far.

President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Knorr said he hasn't been able to find employees with experience in managing pay-per-click accounts and in search optimization. The latter is the ability to write copy that search engines latch onto so that a particular business appears at the top of any list that a search engine like Google returns to a user.

So, Knorr said, he's had to hire people at a lower wage and then train them.

However, he said, the company is growing fast. It is out of space in Mount Dora and is planning to move to the old Pringle Development building near the Leesburg International Airport. Knorr said he expects to double the size of the company quickly after the move.

He said the EDC not only walked him through the process of getting incentive grants but also helped him find a new location and pointed him toward other money available for training employees.

Brockman said, "This growing Mount Dora company has great potential; we are optimistic that the full job creation will occur."

So, there you have it.

The EDC is fudging its "success" numbers and needs to stop immediately.

Here are some numbers that are hard to tamper with, however: The EDC's IRS tax return for 2008 shows that it paid president and chief operating officer Ray Gilley $326,759. Gilley and the vice president combined took home $537,827, or 10 percent of the agency's revenue for the year. Talk about absurd.

If Lake County government paid its top two managers 10 percent of the budget, approximately $40 million would be walking away.

Here's an economic-development agency that doesn't have the first clue about economics. Somebody please tell me why Lake County deals with these people.

Lauren Ritchie can be reached at Lritchie@orlandosentinel

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

End incentives and increase jobs


CHAPEL HILL -- The headlines on two consecutive days said it all: Dell Computer closing shop and laying off over 900 workers and Cree Inc. adding almost 600 jobs. The difference: Dell - headquartered in Texas - was lured to North Carolina with the promise of over $300 million in incentives, while Cree - a homegrown business spun out of N.C. State University technology - requested no state incentives (although in fairness Cree did get an incentive a few years back to build an expansion plant).

When are we going to halt public expenditures on the "buffalo hunt" for footloose industry and instead focus our resources and efforts on the sector that produces by far most of the jobs - existing industry and homegrown business?

As a student of and participant in Southern economic development for almost 30 years, I have long been baffled and disappointed by the turn taken by this state in 1996 to enter into the incentives game. Until that time, North Carolina was seen as the leader in state economic development policies and investments - focusing on our great university system and infrastructure investments like the Research Triangle Park, the Board of Science and Technology, the Microelectronics Center, the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, the community college system and the Biotechnology Center.

These investments built long-term capacity and supported the creation and maintenance of dynamic and growing businesses. Then, under pressure from the professional economic development community - including site selection consultants - the state enacted the William S. Lee Act, and we were off to the races in the escalating game of incentive-based recruitment.

The argument is not against all recruitment - after all the Research Triangle Park was built on a recruitment strategy. Nor is the argument against all public investments in economic development - for example, water and sewer infrastructure, railroad spurs, access roads, industrial parks, etc. But what is indefensible is incentive-based recruitment in which public money goes into the corporations' bank accounts in what amounts to corporate welfare.

We can see how easily it can get out of hand in hard times, as in the recently reported case of North American Aerodynamics in Roxboro, for which provisions of site selection competition and even the prevailing wage standard were waived!

In fairness, it must be said that the General Assembly has been willing to examine and change the incentives structure. In the past two years, legislators appropriated money for a major study of this subject by our Carolina Center for Competitive Economies in the Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise. There have been efforts to target the incentives to the areas of greatest needs (Tier I counties) and to make them "earned" by the companies instead of all granted up front.

However, the evidence is that these incentives do not redound to the benefit of distressed rural areas as intended. Dell, for example, was located in Winston-Salem.

The scholarly literature on incentives shows that they are a very poor investment of public resources. And, of course, the business sector has become expert at playing off one state against another in something akin to corporate extortion; and who can blame them?

Imagine if the South in general and North Carolina in particular had put all of the money spent on industrial recruitment into education, training and small business support. We would be watching even more Quintiles, Cree, PPD, Southern Seasons, Performance Bicycle and other homegrown entrepreneurial success stories all across North Carolina. And, although there are no silver bullets in economic development, homegrown businesses are more likely to stay put, invest in the local community, provide stable civic leadership and keep the control and wealth local instead of away at some remote corporate headquarters.

This policy of incentive-based recruitment began in the 1930s in my home state of Mississippi, still the poorest state in the union. It spread throughout the South until the last holdout, North Carolina, signed up for this dismal strategy in 1996. Our state needs to abandon this policy and return to its investments in education, technical training and small business support.

Not only is this sound economic development policy, it removes the insult to ourselves that only "outsiders" can create the jobs and that we have to pay them to bring the jobs to our people. We can do better than that.

Jesse L. White Jr., Ph.D., is director of the Office of Economic and Business Development at UNC-Chapel Hill. He is a former federal co-chairman of the Appalachian Regional Commission and executive director of the Southern Growth Policies Board.

Working together to create jobs

Southwest Florida counties seek strength in Economic Development Partnership

Published: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.

One lesson from the long, deep recession is that communities, regions, states and nations are connected by the economy.

We are all in this together, to a great extent, so collaboration and cooperation can reap far greater rewards than division and dissension.

Competition among cities, counties, regions and nations was long the norm in economic development.

But a new initiative is bringing together job-creation efforts in an area including Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, Collier and Glades counties. The goal of the Southwest Florida Economic Development Partnership is to market the region and explore ways to encourage businesses to expand in, or move to, the five-county area.

The new organization is based on the model that led to the creation of the Tampa Bay Partnership -- of which Sarasota County is also a member, along with Manatee, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk and Hernando counties.

Sarasota-Manatee ties are vital

It is encouraging that Sarasota County will remain in a partnership that includes Manatee. The geographic, economic, cultural and political links between the two counties are strong -- and offer some of the best opportunities for cooperation in commerce and government. The counties share a commercial airport, a road-planning organization, the two-county State College of Florida and the University of South Florida's Sarasota-Manatee campus.

The study that preceded the formation of the Southwest Florida partnership specifically noted that Sarasota County has strong connections to both the north and the south. The study also recommended that USF's Sarasota-Manatee campus become the future site of an "incubator" project that would help start-up businesses succeed.

Kathy Baylis, director of the Sarasota County Economic Development Corp., told us yesterday that her organization has had "pretty serious conversations" with the Sarasota-Manatee campus about such a project.

The need to generate jobs on a broader platform than tourism and real-estate development has become clear since the decline of the housing industry. As a result, each Southwest Florida county's economic development group has committed funds and resources to the new partnership.

With unemployment rates in Southwest Florida running in the 12 percent range -- higher than state and national averages -- building a more resilient work force is a priority for economic development efforts.

Despite its involvement in the Tampa Bay Partnership and reputation for being more aggressive than Sarasota in economic development, Manatee County has not been spared from 12 percent unemployment -- a reminder that partnerships are no panacea.

Still, there is value in collaborating, marketing and sharing information with other governments, and between governments and the private sector. Employing the theme "Southwest Florida, a brighter place to do business," the new partnership has launched a Web site and a marketing campaign aimed at promoting and branding the region.

The partnership concept was presented at a recent breakfast meeting in North Port that was hosted by the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County. It was noted that Southwest Florida often appears to lag other regions in job-recruitment efforts. The partnership will seek to change that perception and the reality.

As both Sarasota County and the city of North Port consider seeking authority from voters to use tax abatements as incentives for business relocations or expansion, it is helpful to know that the economic development officials in the region are trying to speak with one voice. It was pointed out at the breakfast meeting that, even though the counties will sometimes compete with each other for a particular prospect, the benefits of economic development are widespread.

The partnership organizers have made it clear they would welcome other counties and cities to join them. They have also opened the door to working with the Tampa Bay Partnership. These are good signs.

Common challenges

The long-term direction of the Southwest Florida group has not been determined, and the partners in this new effort are at different places on the spectrum of economic development. The Sarasota County EDC is an established organization that recently completed an aggressive goal-setting effort, but now faces the daunting task of implementation. Charlotte County's program has made significant strides in the past two years, but is still in its infancy.

Despite these differences, however, most counties in Florida have the common challenges of recovering from recession and building better economies.

This story appeared in print on page A6
Copyright © 2009 HeraldTribune.com — All rights reserved. Restricted use only.

Study: Marketing Oklahoma economically benefits state

The Oklahoma secretary of commerce told a House committee Nov. 17 that right now is the best time to market Oklahoma.

Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Natalie Shirley spoke to the House Economic Development and Financial Services Committee during an interim study on marketing the state.

State Rep. T.W. Shannon, who requested the study, said he thinks that the crucial role marketing plays in drawing jobs and industry to the state makes it an important investment even in a tight budget year.

“The state is doing an incredible job of marketing itself, but there is more that we could do,” Shannon, R-Lawton, “All three speakers who presented today showed that we are getting a return on our investment. Even in a tight budget year, it is crucial to continue to work to bring high-quality jobs for Oklahomans to the state.”

Shirley said that because of how well Oklahoma is faring the recession compared to its neighbors, now is the time to attract industry to the state. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce is planning to spend $3 million in a media campaign to reach C-level executives –- CEOs, CFOs, etc. -– with a 13-week schedule promoting the state that includes advertising on national TV networks.

The secretary also noted that Oklahoma City has recently made the top of lists 26 times recently – lists like best-recession proof city and best place to start a small business. One problem the state has is that many business executives do not have a mental image of Oklahoma, a problem she is hoping the 13-week media campaign will solve.

For every tourism dollar spent, the state saw a $54.46 return in 2009, according to Hardy Watkins, executive director of the state Tourism and Recreation Department.

“Clearly, if we are getting that kind of a return on our investment, it’s worth it,” Shannon said. “Though the secretary of commerce did not ask for a specific amount, she said it is important that lawmakers continue to keep marketing in mind when crafting the state budget next session. I, for one, believe it would be a good investment.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

When going gets tough, TN towns buy advertising

Goodlettsville begins branding itself to lure more people to the small town

By Jennifer Brooks

In boom times, there were so many people relocating to Middle Tennessee, the biggest problem communities faced was building enough schools and roads to keep pace. It didn't really matter if a business or a family chose your town or the town next door, because there were always more moving vans rolling this way.

But then the recession hit. People couldn't relocate because they couldn't sell their homes, and by this time last year, American mobility was at its lowest point in 60 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Suddenly, attracting new residents and businesses to fill half-empty developments and prop up sagging tax bases became a priority. But how does a Goodlettsville set itself apart from a Gallatin or a Greenbrier?

For the city of Goodlettsville, it started with a modest advertising budget and a catchy slogan.

"Wow, that's good. … No, that's Goodlettsville," read the ads that began running in national specialty magazines this year.

Branding used to be something that only big cities had to worry about. Nashville has a $10 million budget for marketing and promotions. The new Smashville ad campaign, inviting people to Lower Broad to watch the Predators play, was a glitzy prime-time ad campaign.

But more and more small towns are stepping up with plans to brand themselves as memorable destinations. Thompson's Station formed a marketing and branding committee to help the town create an identity separate from its larger neighbor, Spring Hill.

Williamson County invited residents to create their own tourism promotion videos, featuring themes like "I Love My Franklin." White Bluff unveiled a new city logo and Web site designed to draw newcomers: "History, Family, Community: Tennesseans love to live, work and play in White Bluff."

The worse the economy gets, the more creative community marketing efforts have become, said Ben Stewart, director of economic and community development for the Greater Nashville Regional Council.

"It's an increasingly popular way for communities to market themselves," he said. "I think everyone's trying to think outside the box right now."

Putting city on the map

Goodlettsville increased its efforts at community branding this month with 30-second commercial spots that began airing on local Fox television stations. It's also grabbing a bit of name recognition with radio spots and by sponsoring weather and traffic reports: "The Tennessee morning weather report is brought to you by the city of Goodlettsville."

The community has spent $10,000 to $15,000 on self-promotion in the past year, said Tom Tucker, Goodlettsville's director of economic development.

"We scripted our commercial so it's not coming across like we're better than anyone else," Tucker said. "But we kept hearing from people, 'I know about Goodlettsville, but I don't know how to get there.' "

Follow Interstate 65 north from downtown Nashville for about 15 minutes and you'll find Goodlettsville, straddling the Davidson-Sumner county line.

"We want to get Goodlettsville on the radar," Tucker said, ticking off his list of qualities he most wants to promote about this town of 16,000.

"We're a small town with a rich Southern tradition. … We have an abundance of eateries, shopping, churches to worship. … A lot of thought went into all of this."

The television spots feature a young couple and a toddler strolling past historic Mansker's Station and through the city sights — over an old bridge, past a church and into a restaurant for ice cream before finally reaching a shady subdivision.

"Wow, that's good. No, that's Goodlettsville," the ad begins. "It's the people that make this city a great place to raise a family and own a business. Goodlettsville is a community rich in Southern hospitality with many community groups, places to work and cultural activities."

NEO 77 a joint venture by business groups to coordinate and fund regional economic development efforts

By Tom Breckenridge, The Cleveland Plain De...
November 15, 2009, 9:55AM

Top corporate leaders in Akron and Cleveland are quietly discussing ways to better align and fund economic development efforts in the region.

The strategizing is called NEO 77, in recognition of the Interstate highway that links the region's largest cities.

The talks include ways to broaden the financial support for six specialty development organizations in the region, whose missions range from attracting new business to growing minority-owned companies.

The efforts of organizations like Team NEO and NorTech are paying off, business leaders believe.

But the "alphabet soup" of organizations confuses some corporate leaders, whose companies are fielding multiple requests for funding.

"Major corporations have a person from NorTech coming in one day, then a person from Team NEO the next day," said Thomas Strauss, chief executive at Summa Health System and board chairman for the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce.

Strauss said talks started this summer with Henry Meyer, chief executive of KeyCorp and board chairman for the Greater Cleveland Partnership, Cleveland's chamber of commerce; and Christopher Connor, chief executive of Sherwin-Williams Co., vice chairman of the partnership and board chairman for Team NEO, the region's business-attraction organization.

Strauss emphasized that talks were in an early stage and would include Canton business leaders, too.

Meyer and Connor declined to be interviewed. Their spokesmen referred questions to Joe Roman, president of the Greater Cleveland Partnership.

Roman said the chambers are considering how to better link their "dollars and leadership" in support of the economic development organizations.

"We're looking at how we can sustain what has been a very potent system," said Roman, whose chamber funnels hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly to the specialty development groups.

In the past five years, the six organizations had an impact valued at hundreds of millions of dollars on the region, by attracting public investment and venture capital and expanding payrolls, officials said.

"It's clear the programs we're pursuing in collaboration with the business community are working," said Brad Whitehead, president of the Fund for Our Economic Future, a pool of philanthropic and nonprofit entities that has directed $38 million to the six organizations the past six years.

But the Fund is in a new money-raising cycle now. There's no assurance it can raise a similar amount of money, or that it will even exist after the next three years.

That's why anxious leaders of economic development efforts hope NEO 77 results in more dependable financial support in the long run.

"Fund raising in general . . . requires a different approach from what we're doing today," said Rick Batyko, head of the Cleveland Plus Marketing Alliance, which supports Team NEO's business-marketing efforts. "To my understanding, that's what NEO 77 is primarily about."

Batyko watched his budget drop to $1.8 million this year, from $2.2 million, due to a cut in state funding.

Rebecca Bagley, new president of NorTech, which promotes high-tech industries, projects that her $2.4 million budget will drop next year.

That means she'll be spending more time raising money, with direct appeals to chambers of commerce outside Cuyahoga County.

NEO 77 should be an opportunity to consider establishing a regional council of business leaders, Whitehead suggested.

The council could help set economic development priorities and direct money to them, Whitehead said. A council would allow the region to act more quickly on business-building opportunities, Whitehead said.

"We hope [NEO 77] will lead to greater regional coordination among the business leadership," Whitehead said.

Indiana officials seek economic development in California

MUNCIE -- Recent trips by local officials to Japan and China have made headlines, but an economic development junket to California has potential to boost one of Delaware County's newest companies and spark local employment.

Mayor Sharon McShurley and Terry Murphy, vice president for economic development for the Muncie-Delaware County Economic Development Alliance, accompanied Greg Winkler, director of project development for Brevini Wind, and Oliver Viehweider, owner of VAT, on the California trip in October.

"It was about a 40-hour trip," Winkler said. "It was very productive. What we're hoping is it results in an opportunity to build gearbox replacements for wind turbines already in the field, a whole other part of the business we're very excited about."

The California trip was prompted by contacts made during McShurley's September trip to Japan, Winkler said, referring to a two-week trip that also included stops in China.

During the trip to California, local officials met with one company -- which Winkler declined to name -- but when Winkler returns next week he'll meet with two companies.

If Brevini lands contracts with the companies, Winkler said, that not only means more work for Brevini's employees -- projected at 450 workers needed after production begins in 2010 at the company's western Delaware County facility -- but also for suppliers.

Winkler said having McShurley and Murphy along on the trip demonstrated to potential business partners the support of the Delaware County community.

"We very much appreciate the help, the relationship-building, that the mayor and Terry bring to the table," Winkler said.

"Terry was there to tell them how we as a community have supported Brevini and VAT," McShurley said. "I went out as mayor representing the city of Muncie. We became aware of the opportunity in Japan; we came back and connected those dots."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Smaller communities search for ways to stand out in economic development

Larger cities throughout the Northern Great Plains like Sioux Falls, Fargo and Bismarck continue to grab headlines for their relative economic strength in the midst of a recession. But recent research has indicated that a growing number of employers and workers are considering leaving congested major population centers in search of a simpler life in smaller communities with less crime and shorter commute times. More.

Factory losses strike deepest in rural Iowa

Kirk McCullough knows rural towns, heavily dependent on manufacturing, are in danger.

"It feels like the jobs are moving to big cities, metropolitan areas. But I'm not ready to say we're going to turn into a ghost town. We'll turn it around," McCullough said. He owns Seneca Foundry, a 100-year-old company in Webster City, the latest Iowa town to learn its largest employer will close its plant.

While few Iowa communities have escaped layoffs in the past year, the current recession has hit factory jobs harder in rural towns than in metro areas, new data from Iowa State University show.

Boone, Mount Pleasant, Ottumwa and other places with fewer than 30,000 residents have lost nearly 20,000 factory jobs since 2007, when the current recession began nationally. That's twice as many production positions than Iowa has lost in metro areas such as Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport, data from ISU economist Liesl Eathington show.

The loss of factory floor jobs may seem a remote concern for city office workers, but the fate of small-town manufacturing — usually high-paying jobs with good benefits — is crucial to Iowa's economy.

Production of grain bins, car crushers and cereal makes up the largest chunk of Iowa's economy at 21 percent, about $28.2 billion of the state's $135.7 billion gross domestic product, 2008 federal data show. Manufacturing contributes more to Iowa's economy than insurance and finance, construction, and agriculture combined. Iowa's economic dependence on manufacturing ranks second in the nation only after Indiana.

With the odds stacked against them, economic development leaders in Webster City and elsewhere are looking to renewable energy, entrepreneurs and existing companies to replace lost manufacturing jobs. One key will be worker willingness to retrain, experts say. More.

Economic development must move beyond taxes, freeways, railroads and land, to talent, education, innovation, and entrepreneurs

Every twenty years, South Carolina lands a major buffalo like BMW or Boeing. Attracting Boeing is terrific in itself, but it likely will reinforce the bad habits of the economic development community to focus almost all their efforts on industrial recruitment in order to land the next buffalo.

Need proof? In a recent meeting, the Anderson Independent reports that economic development leaders reemphasized the traditional industrial recruitment strategy as the path to prosperity for Anderson. “The tax structure here, the freeway, the railroads, this is a logical place for companies. But you have got to have a location for them to land on.” The economic development leadership “challenged Anderson County today to offer aggressive tax benefits and build inventory of available sites to try to land large industries.”

Is this view of economic development wrong? Well no, if the objective of your economic development strategy is to recruit the next branch manufacturer. But is this to best economic development strategy for the future of Anderson Country, or for the rest of the state for that matter? No. Not in the 21st century global economy.

Anderson needs to move away from trying get branch manufacturers to locate there because they have cheap land, cheap labor and incentives. As the singular focus of economic development, that strategy is obsolete.

The largest private employer in Anderson in AmMed. How does Anderson grow AnMed? And how does Anderson grow an ecosystem of small and medium companies and education institutions that make AnMed as the health care anchor of Anderson more innovative and productive? How does Anderson identify and support the high impact entrepreneurial company that starts-up to meet an AnMed need, and then can grow into a major company serving other hospitals across the country or even globally? Focusing on growing health care, and making it more innovative and productive, can grow thousands of well paying, stable jobs in Anderson.

There are eighteen high-impact companies forming the “Clemson cluster,” that have grown up in recent years around the university. How Does Anderson make sure that some of these seeds are planted in Anderson to grow into the next major company headquartered there?

Anderson has major production facilities, like Michelin, Bosch and others. How can Anderson grow an ecosystem of small and medium companies and education institutional around these anchors that makes them more innovative and productive? Recruiting BMW manufacturing was great, but that was followed by leveraging that relationship using Clemson as a magnet to attract the BMW Information Technology Research Center as a foundation of CU-ICAR. How can Anderson leverage their relationships with global companies to attract other, more innovative parts of those companies, especially around the Clemson Advanced Materials Lab which is located in Anderson?

Speaking of start-ups and small and medium sized enterprises, there are very talented and experienced people associated with Tri-country Technical College and Anderson University. How does Anderson incubate business opportunities spinning out of those institutions, as well as Clemson?

All of this requires top flight talent, which Anderson won’t have unless it reforms public education. Anderson has one of the better public school superintendents in Becky Bagley in Anderson District 5. How does Anderson support her and make sure the other public schools districts in Anderson are high quality? A national leader in Montessori education, Paul Epstein, is the head of the Montessori School of Anderson. How does Anderson makes sure more students benefit from this wonderful asset? Anderson has an incredible champion focused on early childhood education for children in poverty, Roy Jeffcoat. How does Anderson makes sure Roy’s program get the support it deserves?

Anderson needs to make sure that it hangs onto, and attracts more of, its best and brightest talent. I recently was in a meeting in Anderson, where an educated young woman said she had recently moved to Anderson after considering several other places in the Upstate, like Greenville. She intentionally chose Anderson because she thought it was a wonderful, walkable, green community. Anderson needs to grab hold of young people like her to understand and build on what they find great about Anderson so they attract and retain more of the best and brightest.

Am I being too harsh on the economic development community? I don’t think so. I hope they take this as a sobering call to action. Instead of focusing myopically on taxes, freeways, railroads and land, economic development professionals also should focus on talent, education, innovation, and entrepreneurs. The SC Department of Commerce, the Upstate Alliance, and the Anderson County Office of Economic Development need to develop and execute a comprehensive economic development strategy of which industrial recruitment is a part, but where cheap land, cheap labor and incentives are no longer treated as sufficient for Anderson to become the prosperous community its citizens aspire for it to be.

By John Warner, Courtesy of Swamp Fox