Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nassau County rethinks future in face of recession

Jacksonville Business Journal - by Kimberly Morrison

It wasn’t long ago that Nassau County was a budding jewel of the First Coast.

Improved access from Jacksonville, a charming quality of life and relatively low land prices were attracting fresh arrivals to Nassau County in the heyday of a flourishing economy. By 2007, the population had increased more than 20 percent since the new millennium, making Nassau one of the fastest growing counties in Florida. Developers were lining up, and buildings appeared virtually overnight.

Growth in the county was so strong that local officials amended the county’s own 10-year growth plan through 2010 more than a dozen times to turn tracts preserved for commercial and industrial development to housing areas.

“The situation is like so many parts of Florida. Nassau got caught up in a residential housing boom in the last 10 years,” said Steve Rieck, executive director of the Nassau County Economic Development Board.

Fast forward two years and there is a different, now also familiar situation —— the development hangover after the intoxicating growth subsides.

But while the county settles into a period of slower growth ahead, its leaders are working to correct its course. County officials recently completed a new growth plan, one to get the county through 2032.

“We are on the threshold of an explosion, particularly with the port activity,” said Barry Holloway, a county commissioner. “So we really needed to determine what we wanted to be when we grew up.” More here.

Tractor-trailers to promote county

March 4, 2009

HAGERSTOWN — Washington County officials and area business leaders on Wednesday revealed a 53-foot marketing plan to help rev up the local economy.

The plan involves converting two tractor-trailers into moving billboards that will travel to selected parts of the country.

The sides of the trucks display the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission’s logo and photographs that tout education and business opportunities in the county.

The phrases “Crossroads of Commerce” and “The Crossroads of Successful Business” appear on the trucks.

EDC Executive Director Timothy Troxell said the trucks were provided by D.M. Bowman Inc. of Williamsport.

“It’s just another piece of our marketing program to get word out to promote our community,” Troxell said. “We don’t know if it will work.”

Troxell said the trucks are ready to hit the road. One will travel about 4,000 miles a week to places like Baltimore, Chicago and Dallas, he said. The other will travel through Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Troxell said about half of the project’s $10,000 cost came from a state grant. The EDC’s marketing budget covered the rest, he said.

Because the logos should last five to seven years, the program will offer a “pretty good bang for the buck,” he said.

Troxell said the marketing plan was the result of a combined effort from the EDC, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, D.M. Bowman Inc. and High Rock Studios Inc.

Florida House Bill Would Make It Easier To Fight Alabama For Economic Development

March 5, 2009

A proposed bill in the Florida House would give Florida counties that border Alabama and Georgia a little extra ammunition in their fight for economic development.

On Wednesday, Florida Rep. Dave Murzin announced proposed changes to the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) and the Rural Infrastructure Fund (RIF) included in a proposed economic development committee bill.

Essentially, the bill would allow counties like Escambia and Santa Rosa that border either Alabama or Georgia to be reclassified as rural to allow for more economic development funding.

“Border counties are currently at a competitive disadvantage when competing against another stat for economic development,” Murzin told Tuesday afternoon. The bill would allow the rural designation to be applied based upon the average population per square mile, ignoring the fact that a county like Escambia is very urban in one part of the county.

“These changes will help Florida’s border counties be more competitive with neighboring states,” said Murzin. “Especially in Escambia County, where we are adjacent to Alabama on two sides, we have a real need to level the playing field and ensure our business community can compete strongly in a multistate region.”

The proposed REDI and RIF changes will expand the definition of rural in several sections of the Florida Statutes to include counties that exhibit rural characteristics but exceed population thresholds. With this change in the definition, some Northwest Florida counties will be able to access REDI resources and state infrastructure grants, if available, as well as technical assistance.

Murzin said the bill was reported favorably by the Economic Development Policy Committee Wednesday morning.

Century Mayor Freddie McCall told recently that it is hard for Florida to complete on the economic development front against Alabama.

“We all know that Alabama is more free with money for industry than Florida,” McCall said recently. “Something has got to change if Florida is going to compete with Alabama.”

Report: More projects, less jobs

Agencies' efficiency may be assessed
By Cara Matthews, Journal Albany bureau

ALBANY - The number of projects reported by New York's 115 industrial development agencies has grown, but the number of jobs created has declined and the cost per position to taxpayers has grown, a report Thursday by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said.

The findings warrant a closer look, he said, at the effectiveness of the agencies, which attract and expand businesses by offering property, sales and mortgage tax exemptions and low-interest bonds through which sponsors borrow from private investors.

"Costs are up, borrowing is up, but the number of jobs is down," DiNapoli said in a statement. "We need to evaluate the effectiveness of IDAs to make sure taxpayers are getting the right bang for their IDA bucks."

IDAs reported 4,130 projects worth almost $61 billion in 2007, up from 3,813 valued at $41 billion the year before, the report found. But the job count was down by more than 2,000 - from 228,925 to 226,602.

The cumulative cost to taxpayers for jobs created was $4,195 per position in 2006 and $4,527 in 2007, the report said.

The Dutchess County rate came to $1,063, the report said. Ulster County's was $1,816.

Brian McMahon, executive director of the state Economic Development Council, said, "By any measure, an economic development program that invests $4,527 for every job it helps create is an excellent investment for taxpayers." More here.

Small Towns, Big Ideas: Case Studies of Innovation

by Jack Schultz, CEO of Boomtown Institute and Agracel Inc.
The Agurban newsletter, March 10, 2009

A recent press release from the University of North's Carolina School of Government caught our eye. The headline was "Small Towns, Big Ideas: Case Studies of Innovation". Will Lambe, associate director of the Community and Economic Development Program at the School of Government, conducted the yearlong study in collaboration with the North Carolina Rural Center. The publication "features real stories, from real places that are successfully confronting real challenges similar to those facing small communities everywhere, such as globalization, geographic isolation, urban sprawl, aging populations, and natural disasters."

According to the study, seven themes emerged that offer take-away lessons for other communities hoping to learn from small towns with big ideas. Those include:

  1. In small towns, community development is economic development. Communities that incorporate economic and broader, longer-term, community development goals stand to gain more than small towns that take a piecemeal approach.
  2. Small towns with the most dramatic outcomes tend to be proactive and future-oriented; they embrace change and assume risk. Being proactive (as opposed to reactive) can be measured by a small town's willingness and ability to act on a particular challenge before it becomes a problem.
  3. Successful community economic development strategies are guided by a broadly held local vision. Case after case has demonstrated that people (as opposed to money or other resources) are the one absolutely necessary ingredient to successful development. A committed group of local residents who are willing to work hard for their community's interests can change the fate of an otherwise hopeless community.
  4. Defining assets and opportunities broadly can yield innovative strategies that capitalize on a community's competitive advantage. Assets for small town development might include individual people, nonprofit organizations, businesses, open space, farms, parks, landfills (biomass), museums, schools, historic architecture, local attitudes or any number of other things.
  5. Innovative local governance, partnerships and organizations significantly enhance the capacity for community economic development. The key to innovative local governance is to think creatively, but always keep the community's overall net benefits in mind. Regionalism and partnerships beyond municipal boundaries can help small towns to pool resources toward shared objectives.
  6. Effective communities identify, measure and celebrate short-term successes to sustain support for long-term community economic development. Leaders in small towns must repeatedly make the case for the importance of their efforts to maintain momentum, invigorate volunteers and donors, convince skeptics and, most importantly, keep the focus on the vision or the goals established in a community's strategic plan.
  7. Viable community economic development involves the use of a comprehensive package of strategies and tools, rather than a piecemeal approach. Successful development in small towns is always multifaceted. Successful communities tend to have evolved to the point where they have a comprehensive package of strategies and tools that are aligned with the core assets, challenges and opportunities with their regional context.

The report includes 45 case studies of small towns across the United States that are using a wide range of community and economic development strategies to advance their communities' vision for prosperity. The entire report can be downloaded from We at Boomtown Institute have been studying small towns for over two decades. My research for Boomtown USA - The 7 ½ Keys to Big Success in Small Towns, along with my travels over the past five years to nearly 400 communities throughout the United States, echoes the findings of Will Lambe. There are great things happening in rural America!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

GKCC marketer plugging Killeen on social media

After a couple of months on a pioneering job, Jonathan Packer is optimistic about getting Killeen's name out there where people can see it in places where people are looking today.

As the director of marketing and research for the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, he is in charge of printed promotional material. He is redesigning the chamber's Web site, hopefully to be finished next month, and is putting information about the city on social sites like Facebook and MySpace to get people around the country talking to each other about Killeen and its assets.

"To my knowledge, this is the first place this has been tried among economic development organizations in Texas," he said. "Individual businesses do it all the time now, but development organizations haven't kept up. We're still going to do the traditional things but add more and more of this." More here.

California responds warily to Metro Denver EDC's tough-love campaign

Like a husband who mentions his wife's crow's feet while handing her a Valentine, the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.'s love letter to California businesses is being taken as a mixed blessing in the Golden State.

"This is a wake-up call, a wake-up Valentine, that tells us we've got to get sharp about how we treat companies," Terry Connelly, business school dean at San Francisco's Golden Gate University, tells KGO-TV, the ABC station in the city, in its report on the Denver initiative.

As reported Friday by , the Metro Denver EDC’s new “COlovesCA” marketing campaign seeks to convince companies in California -- where effects of the recession and the weakening real estate market have been more pronounced than in Colorado -- to look to the Mile High City if they plan to expand.

The campaign includes newspaper ads, Valentine-style mailings to corporate executives, and even a plane towing an 80-foot-long “Colorado Loves CA” banner over Los Angeles on Friday. More here.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

"The Recession's Impact on Corporate Site Selection – Trends Economic Developers Need to Know"

from Matt McQuade, Ohio Business Development Coalition

Knowledge of corporate location trends can be leveraged into more effective planning and better sales execution. A significant portion of my time is dedicated to managing relationships with site selection consultants. Through such interaction, I have been able to obtain valuable feedback on how current economic conditions have changed the corporate investment landscape. This blog posting details some of the more notable capital investment trends and their influencing factors. More here.

Landing industries, businesses not easy

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 11:33 PM EST

As is custom in the economic development world, new industries and other developments being recruited by a given county are often referred to by project code names, keeping the prospective corporations’ actual monikers secret until the time of announcement.

In Greenwood, public-private economic development firm Partnership Alliance has bandied about project names such as Project Chill, Project Phoenix, Project Green and Project Deluxe, among others, in recent years.

Late last week, Partnership executive in charge of operations Mark Warner sat down with The Index-Journal to discuss the steps a project takes in its journey to fruition.

In discussing a hypothetical project that would represent a reasonably substantial industry, Warner said the process simply begins with a lead.

“The lead can come from four buckets, maybe five,” Warner said. “It can come from the Department of Commerce. They get requests for information they disseminate to local developers. It can come from the Upstate Alliance, which is the marketing entity for 10 counties and four or five municipalities in the Upstate. They generate leads.

“Also, our local businesses are a source of leads.Then another bucket would be where we target a geographical area or a segment of an industry, and using a couple of different analytical tools, identify companies that might be susceptible to expansion or relocation.”

After a lead is gathered, Warner said Partnership will receive a request for certain information that might be pertinent to the prospective industry.

“Sometimes they’ll say, "We have a client that is looking for an existing building that has a certain number of square feet or a certain ceiling height,’” Warner said. “Proximity to a rail service or an interstate access might be included. We get requests for information with as little as that, but we’ve gotten some from site consultants that have been 50 pages long. It can be extremely sophisticated.”

Warner said requests for information often want to know what the area’s current major employers are, what the size and make-up of local school systems are, and what the higher education situation is.

“You talk about site selection consultants, but it’s really site de-selection,” Warner said. “You’d be surprised. Some little thing might eliminate you from being one of 200 sites to not making the next round.” More here.