Friday, October 30, 2009

New regional economic development effort started


Nine counties in west central Indiana have formed a regional economic development organization that will coordinate marketing efforts that highlight the region's assets.

Formation of MidWest Indiana Economic Development was announced by Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman this morning at Ivy Tech Community College in Lafayette.

Benton, Carroll, Cass, Fountain, Montgomery, Pulaski, Tippecanoe, Warren and White counties will participate in the organization.

"As Indiana ramps up its emphasis on regional economic development, this group of nine counties is positioned to be a leader," said Skillman. "MidWest Indiana will help these counties pool their resources to better sell the region to growing companies."

Assets the counties will tout include a trained work force, tourism attractions, higher education institutions, the growth of wind farms and agriculture opportunities.

"With more than 330,000 residents in 2008, MidWest Indiana has a large population base," said Fountain County Commissioner Janet Shoaf. "There are 20 cities and towns in our region with a population of over 1,000 - three of them in Fountain County. Lafayette and West Lafayette are the two largest communities in the region, but the smaller communities are just as important to our economic growth."

Each participating counties' economic development organization will support the effort with $1,000 annual payments.

"That is subject to change, depending on what we see as our priorities," said Connie Neininger, director of White County Economic Development.

A Web site that extols the assets on the nine-county region - - has been established to provide potential employers, tourists and others with information.

Iredell one of five counties to form N.C. Data Center Corridor

By Bethany Fuller | Statesville R&L

Published: October 30, 2009

Five economic development groups intent on recruiting the next Google and Apple deal joined forces this week in Maiden.

Economic development officials from Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba and Iredell counties unveiled the details around the N.C. Data Center Corridor to a group of site-selection consultants specializing in data center locations.

"It came about as a result of Apple and Google being so closely located," said Scott Millar, executive director of Catawba County Economic Development Corp. "With the two names that we have, we think we have enough energy and momentum in that sector to help provide some opportunities for all of our counties."

With sites available in each of the participating counties, the corridor will provide a recruiting tool, a chance for the counties to share information and develop ready-made sites for these projects, said Greater Statesville Development Corp. Executive Director Mike Smith.

Iredell's position in the corridor is a natural progression from where the data centers have opened in Lenoir and Maiden, Smith said.

The five counties have built a relationship during the past three years by jointly hosting site-selection consultants at the Data Center Information Exchange after the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn golf tournament, Millar said.

"I think it is a huge positive for us as we move forward," Smith said. "We are fortunate to be a part of this cutting edge technological change."

Smith said the Barium Springs Technology Park in Troutman, the Troutman-Lake Norman Business Park, the Boxwood site off U.S. Highway 70 and another off Newton Drive are all promising locations for a data center. The GSDC is still in the process of developing these sites.

Iredell County's access to two separate water sources, reliable and inexpensive power sources and proximity to two major airports makes it a good candidate for one of these projects, Smith said.

"These are the kinds of folks that everyone wants right now," Smith said. "This is kind of the next area of technology that is going to boom."

Large capital projects, like data centers, usually bring in investments around $100 million or more, Smith said. Considering that the average economic development project brings in a $5 million investment to the area, the economic impact of a data center is huge.

For the average person, more investments of this size mean Iredell County can continue its tradition of being one of the lowest taxed counties in the state, Smith said.

According to a news release from the Catawba County Economic Development Corp., Site Selection Magazine recently acknowledged the corridor as an emerging data center cluster, and the Data Center Knowledge Web site recently published an article on the clustering of data centers as the "Apple-Google Data Center Corridor." North Carolina was rated highly for low energy cost, favorable labor and fiber optics infrastructure.

As a part of the N.C. Data Center Corridor, the GSDC will be expected to contribute financially for marketing and other incidentals.

By having the corridor branded and displaying a cooperative effort, the five economic development groups can map out sites and help each other land the next deal.

"If I can't land it, I want you to land it because I'll get some benefits out of it," Millar said. "If we get them to look at any one of us, we've added more reason for new data centers to come into the area. The more people who locate here, the more reason for other people to locate here."

Monday, October 26, 2009

World Series a marketing windfall for Philadelphia

By Suzette Parmley


Major sporting events such as the World Series and Super Bowl, which have the potential to reach a worldwide audience, are a priceless marketing vehicle for a city.

So the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. is wasting no time trying to capitalize. It will hit the streets of Manhattan Wednesday to spread the word about Philadelphia - just hours before Game 1 of the World Series in the Bronx.

The agency's M.O. is relatively simple and inexpensive: Buy 500 to 750 New Yorkers a free cheesesteak at Shorty's, a popular sports bar owned and operated by a Philadelphian in Manhattan, and invite them to come to Philly and sample one here.

"We thank the Phillies," said GPTMC spokesman Jeff Guaracino. "Keep playing well. Our job is to maximize the opportunity for the city and the region."

The Philadelphia Sports Congress, a division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, is estimating a total of $20 million to $25 million in visitor spending from up to three World Series games between the Phillies and the Yankees that will be played here. New York is estimating $15.5 million per game in total economic impact, or $62 million for up to four home games, according to the New York City Economic Development Corp.

"There's no doubt that major sporting events can provide an economic boost for the city," said George Fertitta, chief executive officer of NYC & Co., the city's tourism, marketing, and partnership organization.

Along with the expected boost from Yankee fans flowing into the region's hotels and restaurants for the start of the Phillies' homestand Saturday, journalists from all over will descend on the city. For example, this year's Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., brought in more than 4,500 media representatives from 630 outlets in 28 countries.

"Getting media here changes the opinions of a lot of those who haven't been here in a while," Guaracino said. "They'll be writing about Philly."

And buzzing about Philly. After the Phillies clinched their second World Series berth in two years, NBC talk show host Jay Leno opened his monologue last Thursday by mentioning the team's win, while his bandleader, Philadelphia native Kevin Eubanks, sported a sweater and hat bearing with the Phillies insignia. Then Leno offered Eubanks a Philly cheesesteak after the show.

"There is an immediate payoff," Guaracino said. "The other payoff comes down the line: The beauty shots of Philly provide a second look at a city . . . and the amount of TV airtime that goes to showing off the city that we can't afford to buy."

The free advertising comes in particularly handy for the GPTMC, which had $4 million cut from its budget this year, as Pennsylvania, like many states, grappled with a budget deficit.

Just how much the World Series will persuade more people to visit Philly is hard to quantify, said Jerry Wind, a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

"In terms of how effective it will be, there is no way of answering that because it's an empirical question," he said. "It depends on the specific audience and their reaction in the context of the other things in the program. If they are really focusing on the game, or are they really focusing on the skyline."

Still, Joseph McGrath, president and chief executive of Visit Pittsburgh, that city's tourism and convention arm, said those spectacular skyline and waterfront shots of his city during last month's season opener of Monday Night Football featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Tennessee Titans helped to change perceptions.

He said his agency tracked 21 reasons that it loses convention bids. No. 5 is the perception that Pittsburgh is "not glamorous enough."

"So any time we have visuals that portray us nicely on national TV, it lowers that resistance to the destination based on the glamour factor," McGrath said.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pittsburgh struggles to make name for itself

By Mike Cronin
Sunday, October 25, 2009

Buzz up!

It was The Iron City.

Then it became The Steel City.

Now, Pittsburgh is ... what, exactly?

With many components — among them, health sciences, education and technology — people disagree about how to identify 21st century Pittsburgh.

"I wouldn't want to brand just one thing. Producing an economy that's actually working — that's what's selling us right now," said Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato.

After Pittsburgh enjoyed two days of worldwide attention hosting the Group of 20 summit last month, some wondered whether a brand name could help the city remain in the afterglow.

Supporters of the idea argue it would boost regional self-confidence.

"Someone needs to tell Pittsburgh's story," said Madhu Malhan during a recent panel discussion about branding the city. She is the New York-based vice president and director of creative branding for the U.S. division of Publicis, an advertising agency headquartered in Paris.

"It's beautiful. It's wonderful," Malhan said about the city. "You need to celebrate it."

Others say a branding campaign would be merely superficial, an ineffective method to label the area or recruit talent and companies. Word of Pittsburgh's prowess must spread organically, they say.

Pittsburgh Councilman Bill Peduto points out that cities such as Boston and Austin haven't become known as tech leaders because of branding campaigns.

"They did it through their own missions," he said.

Pittsburgh didn't become known as "The Steel City" because of an advertising campaign at the beginning of the 20th century. Others stamped the 'Burgh with that moniker because none in the world rivaled Pittsburgh's steelmaking abilities.

Another problem: Pittsburgh has no star. It's impossible to brand a city without one, said Lalit Chordia, CEO of Thar Technologies Inc. in Harmar.

"What we need is a few stars in a few areas. It doesn't matter which ones," said Chordia, whose company works in biofuels and pharmaceuticals.

But choosing among Western Pennsylvania attributes — including retailers such as American Eagle and Dick's Sporting Goods, energy companies such as Westinghouse and Consol Energy, or banking, health care or technology — would be difficult, Onorato said.

"That's why the G-20 came here," he said. "People know the talent we have and what the region has to offer."

As if to back him up, the United Nations Environment Programme this month chose Pittsburgh to host one of six global celebrations of World Environment Day in June.

Gloria Blint's company did attempt to brand Pittsburgh as an innovation capital a few years ago. She's a principal of Red House Communications, an advertising agency in the South Side which won a $3.2 million contract from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Blint said.

That effort was part of the conference's plan to highlight the city's 250th birthday in 2008, said Bill Flanagan, executive vice president for corporate relations.

Red House created the slogan the conference still uses: "Pittsburgh: Imagine What You Can Do Here." Ads included shots of Pittsburgh's skyline against an Antarctic background with a Carnegie Mellon University robot picking up meteorites.

But of the $3.2 million contract, Blint said, Red House was paid less than $1 million and many of its ads never ran.

Flanagan acknowledged that happened, but said the initiative's point never was to brand Pittsburgh, but to get people to participate in the anniversary celebration.

Flanagan is among those who believe branding the city might be a mistake.

"There's a danger in pigeonholing ourselves," he said.

Paul Wood, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's chief spokesman, said it's clear that Pittsburgh's successful transformation into a post-steel economy is due to "eds and meds," or its higher education and health care industries.

"I think that's a good way of thinking about the city," Wood said.

Among data to back that up:

• UPMC employs about 50,000, a 10-fold increase from the roughly 5,000 it employed in 1989;

• University of Pittsburgh spent $1.74 billion in fiscal year 2008, including $1.1 billion directly on goods and services;

• Carnegie Mellon University faculty, staff and students created more than 200 spin-off companies and 9,000 jobs in the past 15 years.

"Health and education now is this region's top employment sector and the only employment sector that has added jobs in every year since 1995," said Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg in an e-mail.

Venture capitalist Craig Gomulka supports the idea of branding Pittsburgh as a tech center – but cautions that might be premature.

"We need to be cognizant that we're really just starting to get our feet on the ground," said Gomulka, director of Draper Triangle Ventures, a Downtown company that invests in technology start-ups. "It's hard to name Pittsburgh (tech) companies that have established themselves and have thousands of employees."

About 8,400 technology companies comprising 11.2 percent of the region's businesses were based in 13 Western Pennsylvania counties in 2007, the most recent data available, the Pittsburgh Technology Council's annual "State of the Industry" report said.

Those companies employed more than 248,000 people, or 19.4 percent of the area work force, said the report released last month.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl thinks part of Pittsburgh's brand is that "it's a place where anything is possible, particularly technological innovation," said Joanna Doven, the mayor's spokeswoman.

"But it's not as simple as branding Pittsburgh a tech hub," Doven said. "You have to have quality of life, too" — whether that means improving K-12 education or reducing crime rates.

Audrey Russo, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council based in Oakland, said Pittsburgh once was one of the five largest cities in the nation. Now it's trying to reinvent itself.

"There's cynicism that we haven't been bragging about our achievements," Russo said. "But in all fairness, there's nothing to brag about yet."

Pittsburgh nicknames, past and present

The Iron City: Among the earlier nicknames, it heralded iron as the paragon of regional industrial strength from the mid- to late-1800s, before iron gave way to steel.

The Steel City: Unparalleled steel industry leader for more than a century.

The City of Champions: Coined when the Steelers and University of Pittsburgh Panthers football team held championships simultaneously; used in the 1970s when the Pirates and the Steelers were tops in their games; enjoying a resurgence with the Steelers and Penguins holding championships.

Roboburgh: Coined by The Wall Street Journal in 1999, giving a nod to Carnegie Mellon University's preeminence in robotics; today, CMU is home to the Oakland-based Robotics Institute, which runs The National Robotics Engineering Center in Lawrenceville.

"Eds and Meds": Area institutions of higher education and health sciences facilities employed about 233,700 last month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Green Building Center: Ranked seventh among U.S. cities as of March 2009 with 33 LEED-certified buildings, according to the Green Building Alliance in the South Side Flats.

Technology Hub: A $14.5 billion annual payroll from tech companies, representing 27.5 percent of the region's wages, according to the Pittsburgh Technology Council in Oakland.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Greater Tampa Chamber to sever development arm


Published: October 23, 2009

TAMPA - The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and its economic development arm, the Committee of One Hundred, are splitting up. The separation, both groups say, will make them stronger.

The chamber won't be hindered in taking stands on public policy issues because it no longer will receive public money. The committee will be able to focus exclusively on attracting jobs and industry to the Tampa area.

"Operating as two separate entities will allow each organization to function at its highest level," Henry Gonzalez III, chairman of the chamber, said in a written statement. "It will provide the chamber with greater autonomy and a stronger voice on public policy issues, and we will continue to focus on workforce development, small business, and leadership programs to strengthen the economic prosperity of Hillsborough County."

The Committee of One Hundred, rebranded the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., will focus on job creation, business retention, recruiting companies and growing business sectors such as life sciences, international trade and financial services.

It will be operated autonomously from the chamber. The development corporation will be launched with projected revenue in excess of $1.3 million, including $288,000 from Tampa, $450,000 from Hillsborough County and funding from about 100 private companies.

The timing of the restructuring, the groups say, was tied to new budget years of the two local governments.

"We will serve both public and private sector investors who want their funding aimed specifically at competing for jobs in a global economy and selecting sites for target industries within Hillsborough County," said Mark House, chairman of the new corporation.

House said he wants to focus on jobs in the medical, biotechnology and financial services sectors.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lee County rebrands economic development

It's Fort Myers Regional Partnership


The drive to diversify Lee County's economy is working, and soon will fly under a new flag: the Fort Myers Regional Partnership.

"Where's Lee County? It's in Florida, Virginia, Georgia - it's all over," said Jim Moore, county economic development director.

Fort Myers is the name more people living outside the region recognize, Moore said. He touched on economic development rebranding during his talk Thursday at the monthly luncheon meeting of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce.

About 115 business people attended the luncheon meeting at Crowne Plaza in south Fort Myers.

In the city of Cape Coral, the new brand initially drew concern, said Mike Quaintance, president of the Cape Coral chamber. After several meetings between city business and community leaders, Quaintance said most people find it "difficult to argue with the logic."

"Name recognition for Fort Myers, obviously, is greater than it is for Cape Coral," Quaintance said. "Once we get (new businesses) here, we'll sort things out."

Quaintance noted a similar development occurred in the county's lifeblood tourism industry. Since 2003, the destination previously marketed as the obscure "Lee Island Coast" has been "The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel" in county bed tax-supported advertisements and promotions.

Tourism promoters showed studies supporting their contention that those two communities had superior name recognition with potential visitors in America and abroad.

Jennifer Berg, spokeswoman for the Lee County Economic Development Office, said the office will be rolling out the new brand over the next several months and the branding will include a listing of other Lee cities in a smaller typeface.

The economic office hired Atlas Advertising of Denver to conduct local and national research about the Lee brand - and has spent about $50,000 with Atlas for research and brand development, Berg said.

At the chamber meeting, Moore also ticked off the major signs that economic development incentives - including the county's $25 million fund - are working. These include contracts with five companies for expansion or relocation that will create about 800 jobs over the next five years.

"The economic benefits are estimated at $365 million," Moore said, adding "there are other opportunities in the pipeline."

He estimated there are 40 or more prospects in that pipeline, and that about 10 companies being wooed could reach a decision within the next 12 months.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tucson expanding on success

Debra Gruszecki
The Desert Sun

It's a city that has left the “call center” mentality of economic development in the dust.

Greater Tucson kicked off its regional blueprint plan just a few years ago, and already it's gotten so much traction that Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities Inc. is preparing to join forces with Flagstaff and Phoenix to create a “pyramid of power” to push the envelope.


Greater Tucson's blueprint strategy has had proven results.

Laura Shaw, senior vice president of marketing for TREO, said “Tucson: Job One,” convinced Mexico-based La Costeña to locate its U.S. headquarters there.

The region's proximity to rail, highway and air transportation and the region's united front made it a logistically attractive spot.

It's worked with 41 companies looking to expand or relocate in the region. Among them: Solon, SE, Schletter Inc., Prism Solar, General Plasma Inc., and Global Solar, Fulfillment Center, Stanley Inc. and Texas Instruments.

“The decision to locate in the greater Tucson region allows us to greatly improve our production and distribution efficiencies in order to serve the U.S. market and future customers,'' said Santiago Castro, chief executive of Arizona Canning/La Costeña.

“This facility not only serves our current needs but allows us room to grow; its proximity to rail, highway and air transportation is an attractive feature.”

Greater Tucson lists for its blueprint-related economic impact:

• New direct and indirect jobs: 8,402

• Capital investment from new companies and expansions: $347 million

• Economic impact: $1 billion

“What we've seen since the blueprint launched, and we track it very carefully, is that more and more of our wins are related to the target industries,'' Shaw said. “We're seeing results.”

Sixty-three percent of all successful TREO projects in the fiscal year ending in June were in the target zone, Shaw said, with 50 percent of the new jobs landing within the targeted industries.

TREO's position paper quotes a corporate executive who says could have picked California, but didn't, and it claims a 14 percent increase in the number of private sector investors.

The paper also highlights a $50million National Science Foundation grant a University of Arizona-led team at the BIO5 Institute landed to create a global center and cyber infrastructure to “change the way” plant, computer and information scientists think and work.

The five-year project, called iPlant Collaborative, is renewable for a second five years for a total of $100 million.

Startups such as Oro Valley-based Ventana Medical Systems also have gained from venture funding. Its value rose in 2008 when Switzerland-based Roche bought the company and 17.1 acres of land for $8.9million to extend its campus.

Ventana now is the headquarters of the global business unit of Roche that focuses on diagnostics, its CEO Severein Schwan has said. Ventana wants to raise staffing from 750 to more than 1,000.

How plan came about

What does Shaw, as chief marketing strategist for TREO, think about the road map?

“I couldn't do my job without the blueprint,'' she said. “It gives you a framework, a plan. You just institutionalize it and make it work.”

How does it work?

First off, Greater Tucson commissioned a blue-ribbon study. A 46-member steering committee was formed to work with Cincinnati-based KMK Consulting Co., LLC, the firm Greater Tucson hired to prepare the plan. Surveys were conducted and meetings held to tap opinion from 6,000 people and identify 10 clusters to pursue. More.

Dell proves high cost of tax giveaways

By LOREN STEFFY Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle

Remember Winston-Salem.

That should be the new rallying cry every time a politician starts talking about the need for tax breaks or other incentives to lure jobs.

This month, Round Rock-based Dell announced plans to close its factory in the North Carolina city by January, less than five years after it opened. In the process, it's eliminating about 900 jobs as it cuts costs by shifting manufacturing overseas.

In wooing the plant, North Carolina officials offered Dell more than $240 million in tax breaks over 15 years, touting the possibility that the plant could someday employ 8,000.

Instead, the soon-to-be-shuttered factory stands as a monument to the dangers of overzealous economic development, when local governments give away revenue in exchange for the long-term promises of jobs that can't be kept.

“This is just another example of the risk that a state and local government is taking when it gives a tax break,” said Bernard Weinstein, an economist at Southern Methodist University and a longtime critic of such tax abatement programs. “It makes no sense in economics, but I do understand the politics. Politicians want to be seen as delivering jobs to their communities.”

The process has become institutionalized, with legions of consultants that herald every corporate relocation, bidding one city against another.

“It really becomes a game of who can give away the most,” Weinstein said.

The game becomes an economic trap. Governments give away tax revenue to attract jobs, even as those jobs increase demand for services, which requires additional tax revenue.

“This game is actually getting more competitive every year, particularly in a period of economic downturn,” Weinstein said.

A study two years ago by the North Carolina Justice Center found that the state overpaid for the Dell factory, offering far more than the $37 million rival bid from Virginia.

More important, though, numerous studies have found that such offers have little effect on corporate relocations. Of all the things companies consider, taxes are far down on the list.

“In most instances a company does not make a locational decision based on the level of local taxes,” Weinstein said.

Even if they do, companies can't possibly promise to hire over such a long period. No one can accurately forecast the economy or a company's growth that far out.

Local governments have tried to enact “claw-back” provisions requiring that companies repay part of the giveaway if they fall short of the job goals. The Texas Enterprise Fund, the deal-closing pool distributed by the governor, uses such clauses, and some of its biggest grants may be subject to them, but it's unclear whether the state will actually collect.

In Dell's case, North Carolina has said it will ask the company to repay it $8.5 million, and Winston-Salem has said Dell will pay the city $15.6 million.

In announcing the closing, a Dell official said the company would honor its agreement with the city, county and state.

By my rough calculation, though, Dell's still ahead by more than $50 million, tax revenue that should have been collected from the factory during the past five years.

I asked Weinstein how to break this giveaway. The best way, he said, was for the federal government to declare it will hold back a dollar of federal aid for every dollar of tax revenue state or local governments abate for businesses.

But the feds have no incentive to do that. Local and state tax breaks actually increase the federal tax liability for businesses by lowering their deduction for local taxes. So blocking local tax abatements would reduce federal tax revenue.

The tax giveaway game has become insidious, but it's a game that neither taxpayers nor governments win.

Lest we forget that, we should remember Winston-Salem.

Loren Steffy is the Chronicle's business columnist. His commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Contact him at His blog is at

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Economic Development Strategy Leverages Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley Assets

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Already a hotbed of research, the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley has a new roadmap for turning those technological and human assets into a prosperous future. The strategy identifies four promising industry sectors:

-- instrumentation
-- nuclear energy
-- bioenergy
-- energy-related materials.

Developed by Innovation Valley officials and consultants from the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, these four high tech areas utilize the high tech resources of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Y-12 National Security Complex, the University of Tennessee , and partnerships and initiatives across the Innovation Valley, and reflect current national business trends.

"Our focus at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is to deliver the kind of science that will be the foundation for economic growth in the years ahead," said ORNL Director Thom Mason, who also chairs Innovation Valley. "This roadmap will allow our region to benefit from the technology assets we have and further strengthens the linkage between economic development priorities and the research direction for ORNL."


Instrumentation, the branch of engineering that deals with measurement and control, Jesse Smith, Director of Technology, Innovation Valley Consortium, said, "is a big part of the Innovation Valley's history - stemming from the Manhattan Project and TVA, and carrying on today with such innovative companies as NucSafe and Siemens (formerly CTI)."

Especially promising new fields for instrumentation exist in energy, environment, biosciences and homeland security.

Innovation Valley assets in this sector include business space at ORNL's Science and Technology Park, prototyping capabilities at the National Prototype Center at the Y-12 facility and the national lab's decades-long expertise in instrumentation.

Nuclear energy

"There's a lot of talk about the 'nuclear renaissance,'" Smith said, "We have the engineering, testing and measurement capabilities and extensive education and training programs in place to be a major player."

The Innovation Valley, he says, can design, test and build replacement parts for the nation's aging fleet of nuclear reactors.

"And if more plants are built, we are in an even stronger position," Smith said.

Key strengths of ORNL and B&W Y-12 are in nuclear-related materials, fuel cycle and next-generation reactor systems. UT possesses primary strength in instruments and controls, plus fuel cell management and radiation detection.


Bioenergy, which now ranks second only to hydropower in renewable U.S. primary energy production, is big news in the Innovation Valley. Construction is well underway on a major cellulosic ethanol pilot production facility in nearby Vonore that will convert switchgrass into "grassoline." The facility, part of Governor Phil Bredesen's Tennessee Biofuels Initiative, will be run by Genera Energy, a non-profit arm of the University of Tennessee. Biofuels from non-food crops such as switchgrass represent a growth area at the Department of Energy's BioEnergy Science Center at ORNL.

Research assets in this industry are UT's agricultural focus, ORNL's strengths in microbiology and the region's chemical engineering expertise.

Energy-related materials

The Innovation Valley is heavily involved in the development of next-generation batteries, lightweight materials, thin film and silicon for solar panels. Many of these materials increase energy efficiencies and reduce costs involved in solar electricity.

Materials research resources at ORNL include the Department of Energy's Spallation Neutron Source -- the world's most powerful neutron source for materials research -- and the new UT-Battelle Joint Institute for Advanced Materials Science.

Recent announcements such as the Tennessee Solar Initiative and $1 billion investments in Tennessee by chemical giants Wacker Chemie and Hemlock Semiconductor show further progress. Both plants will produce polycrystalline silicon for solar panels.

Volkswagen's new mega facility near Chattanooga also creates opportunities in next-generation automotive materials.

SOURCE Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Study plugs arts, culture to attract businesses, keep workers

Barbara Wieland

A stronger arts and culture community in mid-Michigan would help attract business and retain workers in the area, according to a study set to be released today.

The development plan, a joint effort between the cities of Lansing and East Lansing, Michigan State University and the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, will identify ways the four entities can work together to nurture the growth of the Lansing area's creative sector.

Plan to be introduced

The "cultural economic development plan" will be introduced to the public at 7 p.m. at the Hannah Community Center in East Lansing.

"The cities and MSU have realized the importance of arts and culture and how important arts and culture are in creating a sense of place," said Leslie Donaldson, executive director of the Arts Council of Greater Lansing.

Marchelle Smith, special projects director for Lansing Economic Development Corp., said the study suggests projects that the cities, university and council can work on together.

For example, they may create a centralized Web site for ticket purchases at multiple venues in the area.

'Creative workers'

The plan doesn't anticipate how many jobs might be created, or what it will cost to accomplish some of its suggested goals.

According to the study, more than 9 percent of the area's work force held jobs in the creative sector in 2006.

Those jobs include graphic designers, performing artists and people involved in video or sound production.

The businesses that employ those workers often contribute to the quality of life in an area, Smith said.

"In order to attract executives and CEOs ... it's very important that we have creative workers here and a sense of play."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Company facing investigation over Lawrence infomercial

By Bill Kirk

LAWRENCE — A controversial informercial paid for by the city is now being eyed as part of an ongoing investigation into the Florida company which produced it.

Known variously as Encore Television Group or Platinum Television Group, the company was paid $19,700 by the city to appear in "The Economic Report," a five-minute informercial hosted by Greg Gumbel. Under the agreement, the Lawrence ad would air 20 times across the country.

But two years ago, the Florida Attorney General's office cited the company for failing to deliver on its promise to put other similar informercials on the air and for making questionable claims linking these ads to major networks like CNN, Headline News and the Discovery Channel.

Since that time, the company has been operating under what's called an "Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC)." The compliance order is short of an admission of guilt but spells out how the company is supposed to conduct its business in order to comply with state and federal statutes.

In all, the company paid $350,000 to the Attorney General's office as a result of the investigation and agreement, including $75,000 in restitution to the companies involved, $100,000 to the state of Florida for investigative costs, and another $175,000 for costs associated with ongoing and future enforcement initiatives.

With the controversy in Lawrence and Gumbel now suing the company — he claims he was told he would be doing introductions for legitimate news shows ­­— the Florida Attorney General's office is taking another look at Encore.

"We are looking at potential violations of the (Assurance of Voluntary Compliance) and are not able to give a legal opinion about whether something is definitively a violation until our review has been completed," according to a statement.

Officials at the company could not be reached for comment. The company's attorney declined to comment.

While Mayor Michael Sullivan and Economic Development Director Tom Schiavone stand by the $19,700 purchase, saying it's a valuable marketing tool that will give the city positive recognition, more controversy is arising.

A CNN spokesperson told The Eagle-Tribune they are again concerned about the association with "The Economic Report" and the network. Comcast is also questioning information Encore provides on its Web site about when the show supposedly airs.

And in Lawrence, City Council President Patrick Blanchette is looking at how this ad was paid for. Schiavone, who could not be reached for comment on this story, previously said it was paid for out of a budget the city has for marketing.

"The city has been in a fiscal crisis for some time, and I can't fathom the mayor and his acting economic development director issuing payment for a self-controlled commercial," Blanchette said. "I would like to see what account this money came out of and when it was paid. I would like to see all the sign-offs on this payment and agreement."

Schiavone said the money was spent on "production fees." One local videographer says the cost of such an ad is exorbitant.

"A five-minute video like that, I could do myself for $4,000 to $5,000," said Brian Norton of New Creations Video Productions in Nashua, N.H. "I wish I could get $20,000 for a video like that."

Norton, who has been in the business nearly 13 years, produces wedding and corporate videos.

"I don't know why they hired a Florida company when they could have used a local one," he said.

What about Lawrence?

The Eagle-Tribune confirmed through Comcast that the Lawrence infomercial appeared four times Portland, Ore., on Sunday, July 5, at 9:24 a.m., 9:54 a.m., 10:24 a.m. and 10:54 a.m.

"They said it would run 20 times in different markets," Schiavone said in an earlier interview. "They buy up the space, give us five or 10 days heads-up that they purchased the space, and that it will be running in that market."

Raxon Phoenix, the company contact given to Lawrence, told The Eagle-Tribune the ad has also run in Sarasota and Venice Beach, Fla. In an e-mail she sent to Lawrence, she lists her title as Traffic/Post Production Coordinator, presumably for Encore Television. Phoenix is also the author of a self-published book of erotic poetry, "Confessions of the Soul."

"There have been no further notifications," she said, referring to e-mails to Lawrence about when the ad will run again. "We are in the scheduling phase for the month of October."

An Internet search for the contact number Phoenix gave to this city results in several online bulletin boards with posters questioning the legitimacy of the services the company offers.

A Web site for "The Economic Report" has a listing of other air times indicating when and where the program is scheduled to run in local markets. According to the Web site, in Boston, "The Economic Report" infomercial — not necessarily the episode about Lawrence — was supposed to have run 21 times in different time slots on CNN Headline News from Oct. 1 through 4.

Comcast spokesman Marc Goodman said that is not true.

"This show has not appeared at all in the local market," he said, adding that it would never run on CNN Headline News anyway.

Chris Ellis, a spokesman for Spotlight, the advertising arm of Comcast, said he would be looking into claims on the infomercial's Web site that it was running in the Boston market.

Is it news or an ad?

While city officials were telling people, including The Eagle-Tribune, that the show was a program that "would appear on" CNN Headline News, among others, it is unclear exactly what Encore may have said to city officials.

But according to the company's own Web site, it looks like Encore/Platinum is trying very hard to make people think there is some kind of link between their videos and networks like CNN.

"The show airs during the day on a variety of well-known news networks," says the company's home page. The phrase "well-known news networks" is a link to another page on their Web site titled "Media Distribution." On that page there is a list of networks, with summaries about each one, including Discovery Channel, CNN Headline News, CNN and MSNBC.

According to the 2007 agreement with the Florida Attorney General, Platinum TV Group or Encore "shall not represent themselves to be any national news, cable or broadcast network, nor shall (they) represent that they are 'associated' with any such network."

The site, does have a disclaimer saying, in smaller, light-gray type: "'The Economic Report' and its national television show has no direct affiliation with the networks on which they air. 'The Economic Report' purchases the time through cable providers, networks, stations and/or other media sellers."

A spokeswoman for CNN, a national 24-hour news network, said categorically there is no link between the news channel and Encore or Platinum.

"CNN has no relationship with the advertiser," said Janine Iamunno of CNN Public Relations this week. "We are investigating the matter further with regard to misrepresentation of CNN and its relationship to these local advertisers, and will take appropriate action based upon our investigation."

Sullivan and Schiavone have said they knew it was an informercial. They said they also knew that the company making the video had to buy advertising time so that the infomercial could air on various cable stations around the country.

That information was not shared with too many other people.

Two of the interview subjects, restaurateur and real estate developer Sal Lupoli and Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce president Joe Bevilacqua, both said they were under the impression that the news crew that interviewed them was with CNN and that the show would be run as part of a CNN program called "The Economic Report."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Incentives and Dell: Company's plan to leave after less than five years reignites debate on how far government should go to lure private business

By Richard Craver | Journal Reporter
Published: October 11, 2009

The creation of a Dell Inc. plant in Forsyth County put the company and Forsyth County in the national spotlight.

Many groups named the incentives-laden deal as their national economic-development project for 2004.

But just five years later, with the clock ticking on the expected end of desktop production on Jan. 20, the plant is center stage again as 905 mostly blue-collar employees prepare to find new work in a tough job market.

"We expect the plant closing to re-open the debate over the propriety of incentives," said John H. Boyd, the president of The Boyd Co. Inc., a site-selection company in Princeton, N.J. "The Dell project was the poster child of this debate."

Proponents and opponents of incentives both expressed vindication over their stances last week. Proponents cite the clawbacks in the Dell incentive contract as proof that the strategy works.

"If there is a bright side to this, it's the way the contract was structured," said Dave Plyler, the chairman of the Forsyth County commissioners. "The good news is all is not lost. The whole package has to come right back to us."

Opponents, however, charge that Dell's inability or unwillingness to adapt the $115 million plant to its rapidly changing business model -- increased focus on laptops, servers and software -- is a prime example of why elected officials shouldn't use incentives to lure corporations.

The state's incentive package, valued at as much as $267 million over Dell's stay in North Carolina, was offered based in part on projections of 1,700 Dell jobs and from 4,500 to 6,500 indirect jobs being created related to the plant.

The package was also tied to the number of computers the plant churned out.

As it turned out, the peak of employment in Dell's plant was 1,400, including 1,150 Dell personnel and 250 contract employees. No more than 500 indirect jobs were believed to have been created as a result of the plant being here.

"Public officials ought to focus on broad policies that boost the prospects of all businesses, large and small, rather than trying to cut risky side deals with individual, politically favored companies," said John Hood, the president of the John Locke Foundation, a libertarian policy-research group in Raleigh.

"The problem is local governments, other firms, and workers all made costly decisions -- about relocations, services and investments -- based on the assumption that there was a long-term deal with Dell. You can't claw all those costs back, because they aren't in the original contract."

One reason why local and state incentives for Dell drew support was that most analysts felt that there were few better corporate bets in 2004 than the world's top computer-maker.

"Its sales/production model was the envy of all," said Michael Walden, an economics professor at N.C. State University. "It was very logical for North Carolina to want a Dell presence."

Although the trend toward laptops and away from desktops had begun by the time the plant opened in October 2005, Walden said that "very few people predicted the severity of the 2007-09 recession and what it has done to desktop sales."

A major worry is whether the clawbacks will be honored by Dell.

Because Dell is not keeping the plant open for five years, it is obligated in its contract to repay 100 percent of the payments and incentives that it has received from the local community.

It would have had to pay back just 50 percent if the plant stayed open past October 2010.

The local community expects about $26.1 million in paybacks -- $15.5 million to the city of Winston-Salem, $7.9 million to Forsyth County and $2.7 million to the Millennium Fund.

As long as Dell owns the building, it will continue to pay county property taxes. Dell paid about $745,000 in 2008, according to Ed Jones, the deputy county manager. Jones said that the county payback is $6 million for site preparation and $1.9 million for three years of incentive payments.

Local officials expect to request the repayment soon after the plant is closed. Dell is contractually obligated to make the payback within 30 days of the request.

"The agreement is very clear in this regard," Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said. "We do plan on asking for all."

Gov. Bev Perdue has expressed a similar plan for state incentives.

The state has paid out a total of $8.5 million in grants and tax incentives, and expects to get back $1.5 million that it gave to Dell for job creation.

It's not clear if the state will recoup money for its other tax credits and incentives.

Joines said he has received repayment assurances from Kip Thompson, the vice president for facilities of Dell. Some officials point out that Thompson is the same Dell executive who played hardball with state officials in 2004 in negotiating the state incentive package.

"I'm going to decline to speculate at this point as Dell officials will meet with the appropriate governmental entities to review the agreements," David Frink, a spokesman for Dell, said. "Again, we'll continue to comply and honor the terms of agreements in place."

Tony Plath, a finance professor at UNC Charlotte, said that there will be plenty of interested bystanders of any negotiations.

"Everyone over there kept talking about how definitive and ironclad the incentives contract with Dell was, but now we're about to put that assertion to the test," Plath said.

One key missing part of the incentives puzzle is how much will it cost Dell to close the plant, including paying the employees eight to 12 weeks of severance pay and other benefits.

Most companies declare those costs in announcing the closing of a plant or operation to give shareholders a heads-up of a potential charge to earnings. Dell did not do so on Wednesday.

"We include expense items in the quarter in which they are incurred, reporting when we issue our quarterly financial results announcement," Frink said. "We announce our fiscal third quarter on Nov. 19."

N.C. Sen. Pete Brunstetter, D-Forsyth, said he continues to back the use of incentives in recruiting businesses. Brunstetter was one of the architects of the Dell project as chairman of the county commissioners.

"A community needs to continually get out there and compete for business and industry," he said.

Dan Lynch, the president of the Greensboro Economic Development Alliance, said he hopes that the Triad "isn't too hard on ourselves as it relates to Dell's decision to close."

"Winston-Salem and the Triad won the Dell project for all the right reasons -- access to markets, available labor and competitive operating costs," Lynch said. "Our economic-development strategies are sound, and we should not let short-term market fluctuations sidetrack our well-focused industry cluster strategy.

"Education and advanced training will -- and should -- continue to define the Triad," Lynch said. "We continue to invest heavily in our education assets, and that will have the greatest impact over the long term."

US interstate rivalry hits new lows

By Claire Prentice
New York

It is supposed to be the United States, but the recession has turned America into 50 competing parts.

As the economy bites, states across America are resorting to dirty tactics to steal business from their neighbours.

At stake are business start-ups and well established firms.

US states have always had the power to vary sales and business taxes, but the stalled economy has injected an aggressive new tone as they compete to persuade businesses to relocate and invest with them.

'Nasty tone'

Nevada was accused of stooping to a new low this week with a $1m year-long advertising campaign which mocks California's $26bn budget deficit and uses the slogan, "Keep your business in California and Kiss Your Assets Goodbye".

The Nevada ads compare California legislators to monkeys and the state budget to flying pigs.

"Our campaign has been a big success, we've had a huge response," says Somer Hollingsworth, the president and chief executive of the Nevada Development Authority.

The campaign has sparked a furious row between Nevada and California, which has retaliated with its own multimedia blitz of pro-California ads proclaiming that "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what happens in California makes the world go 'round".

The advert features world famous California brands like Gap, Apple, Disney, Levi's and Mattel and points out that California boasts 51 Fortune 500 companies, as compared to 2 in Nevada.

California assemblyman Jose Solorio is offended at "the nastiness of the tone" of the adverts promoting Nevada, known as "the Silver State".

"They go too far," he says.

"Why would anyone want to go there anyway? They have very high unemployment, construction has gone bust and there aren't the opportunities there that there are in California."

Mr Solorio's pro-California ads will run on the web and on cable TV in Nevada and California for the next six months.

The assemblyman has also set up a 'California is Golden' website and Facebook group.

Mr Hollingsworth is unapologetic.

"We are very pro-business and California isn't," he says. "That is why people are rushing to leave."

'I win, you lose'

Observers say the move represents a definite change of tack as states use aggressive advertising campaigns to attract new business rather than sitting back and waiting for companies in other states to notice their lower taxes, cheaper office space and less stringent regulations.

"It's a very simple strategy of 'I win, you lose'," says Philip Kotler, professor of marketing at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in Illinois.

The fight is not limited to the Golden and the Silver States.

In New Hampshire, economic development officials drive into Massachusetts to pick up business owners at the border under an initiative dubbed "New Hampshire Open Invitation".

Development officials then give potential investors the full VIP treatment - free luxury hotel accommodation and slap up meals - and drive them around in a limousine while pitching to them about why they should switch state.

"We get a lot of business from Massachusetts," says Michael Bergeron, business development manager for the state of New Hampshire.

"Our neighbours, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are all very high tax states and we have a very low tax burden and a business-friendly environment," he says.

"That's what distinguishes us as a brand."

Dirty play

Development officials in Indiana make similar "sales trips" into Illinois, Ohio and Michigan, and recently placed billboards at the borders of these states, inviting businesses to "Come on IN [the acronym for Indiana] for lower taxes, business and housing costs".

"One third of our new jobs in recent months have come from businesses consolidating and concentrating their business from other states into Indiana," says Indiana secretary of commerce Mitch Roob.

Indiana officials also travel further afield to poach business, to Dallas, New York and Atlanta.

"I don't think it's dirty tactics," says Mr Roob. "It's business. It's the tyranny of the marketplace.

"No state, whether it is California or Indiana, has a God-given right to get business and keep it. We all need to continually update and refine our sales pitch to make our state appealing to great businesses."

There is a danger that the aggressive new marketing tactics could backfire, according to Drew Coburn, director of strategy at New York branding firm Cubism.

"It's stupid from a communications strategy point of view," says Mr Coburn.

"You're wasting your energy on negatives when you should be concentrating on selling the positives of your own brand. You're alerting people across the whole country to the fact you are willing to play dirty and a lot of people will be put off by that."

Positive player

One state that is not willing to do that is New Jersey.

Often the butt of jokes as New York's poorer neighbour, New Jersey officials have turned that perceived cheapness into an asset, stressing the cost-savings of relocating from New York, with its high taxes and rents.

"We aren't criticising anybody," says Jerold Zaro, chief of the New Jersey Office of Economic Growth.

"We are simply telling out story and it is the people on our borders, in New York and Philadelphia, who are listening."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/10/04 16:47:23 GMT


Does playing the incentive game work?

By M.J. Ellington
Montgomery Bureau
Published: Sunday, September 20, 2009 at 3:30 a.m.

Critics called Alabama's $253 million incentives package to attract Mercedes in 1993 the granddaddy of economic development boondoggles.

Fifteen years later, economic marketing strategist Andy Levine with DCI, an industrial marketing firm in New York, said landing Mercedes may be the smartest investment any state ever made.

Alabama is now the heart of the new automotive hub in the Southeast.

Alabama Development Office Director Neal Wade said Mercedes "was a game changer" that altered the direction of business and employment in the state forever.

The game change was necessary because the state's economic mainstays - farming and textile manufacturing - could no longer provide the stable jobs Alabama workers needed, Wade said.

"We don't ever want to get to the point again where we depend on one or two types of jobs," Wade said. "We must look for game changers, the megaprojects that will bring in new types of jobs."

Two questions remain, however: Does the search for game changers mean states must offer economic incentives, and is the result worth the investment?

"Absolutely," Wade said. "Right now, it's even more critical to go after projects."

The competition is not just among other Southern states; it became worldwide long ago.

The auto plants - Mercedes in Vance, Toyota in Huntsville, Honda in Lincoln and Hyundai in Montgomery - were the "low-hanging fruit" that brought thousands of other jobs with them, Wade said. Now the state looks to recruit corporate headquarters, robotics and high technology and entertainment companies with new incentives.

As for skeptics who still wonder if high-ticket economic incentives pay off in the long run, Wade said payroll figures alone help explain his support of incentives. The automotive giants that rolled into Alabama beginning with Mercedes paid $5.2 billion to workers in 2007.

Business experts who track the state's growth and economic negotiating strategy agree with Wade.

"We may or may not like this, but it is a reality," said Kerry Gatlin, dean of the college of business at the University of North Alabama. "We live in a competitive world and we must compete. Government plays an important role in establishing ground rules for competition and now in helping direct investments."

Smart incentives evolving

Early in the incentives game, states often offered incentives without requiring companies to live up to promises about jobs projections. Companies then left after getting the tax subsidies.

Sam Addy, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama, said states may be smarter about negotiating incentives than in the past. A research economist, Addy said Alabama ties incentives packages to company performance and promises for hiring.

That approach has been particularly evident in the Shoals, where local and state governments were part of an incentive package to lure National Alabama, a railcar manufacturing company.

The company, however, does not receive all incentives until it reaches certain thresholds in construction and hiring.

With the global market struggling for more than a year, railcar manufacturing has been virtually non-existent. Instead of the 1,500 to 1,800 jobs promised at the plant in western Colbert County, there are about 120 workers.

So, most of the promised monetary incentives remain tucked away until the market rebounds for National Alabama.

Worker training and infrastructure improvement such as roads make up two-thirds of state incentives packages, Addy said. The actual cash incentive usually depends on how well a company meets projections for employment and output.

Even if a company recruited with incentives did not make good on its promises, the "roads built would still be there; the employees would be trained," Addy said.

Alabama has been a leader in selling companies on the benefits of allowing the state to help train their employees. It has become a valuable tool in the recruiting process.

The two-year college system and state universities have major roles, Wade said.

"We have to have the kind of education that enables us to be flexible," he said.

Northwest-Shoals Community College in Muscle Shoals, for instance, is a big player in the National Alabama operation, which needs welders. The college brought in needed equipment and is training residents to do the work National Alabama will need.

Diversity stressed

Wade said Alabama must continue to diversify with companies such as Hudson-Alpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, the growing bio-medical presence in Birmingham and ThyssenKrupp Steel in Mobile County. He named National Alabama as another example.

Wade said he looks at the ripple effect when assessing the value of a project to the state. That includes jobs in real estate, restaurants, retail and service providers.

Wade said a standard multiplier that economic developers use is that for every automotive job brought in through incentives, six or seven other jobs also developed. He said that effect is likely to take place in Colbert and Lauderdale counties near the railcar plant, where underemployment has been a factor.

Cities such as Huntsville, now known for aerospace, defense and biotechnology, are able to recruit based on their own reputation, he said. Cities nearby also benefit, he added. Morgan and Limestone counties in particular see that benefit.

As the state refined skills for negotiating economic incentives, Wade said he always used cost-benefit analysis put in place when Bob Riley became governor in 2002. The analysis looks at the cost of the project, the number of jobs and the projected wages of the work force.

"We basically look at the cash cost to the state to give the governor some idea of how much to offer in incentives," Wade said. "He likes to see a return for the investment in four to five years. You want to protect the taxpayer dollar."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Valley's regional marketing plan comes together with logo, Web site

Jared Janes
The Monitor

WESLACO — The Rio Grande Valley never made it past the short list.

An incentive package the region’s leaders quietly put together to lure in an aerospace manufacturer was still in consideration at the end, said Steve Ahlenius, president of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. But the company looking to expand its operations instead turned to options in other states.

The “Project Thrust” effort was the first collaborative approach to economic development by the Rio South Texas Economic Council, a 19-member alliance formed earlier this year to promote the region.

The group’s first shot at economic development ended unsuccessfully, but Ahlenius said it showed them that working together at least puts them on the lists.

“It never would have happened” without the council, Ahlenius said. “There’s a lot of companies that are going to start coming because of this.”

Council members signed a resolution Thursday that Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas said is a step toward “collaborating to compete.”

He unveiled the group’s Web site — — and presented its logo and slogan, “2 Countries, 1 Region, Many Choices.”

The collaboration resolution states the partners will work together to make the region competitive, promote its benefits and help each other to land projects.

Salinas, the chairman of the council and catalyst behind the effort, said the resolution pulls together a region that is among the nation’s 25 most populous if neighboring communities in Mexico are included.

It also gives the region the financial power to spread its message.

The council’s marketing budget through its member dues is $300,000, a number that could grow as it recruits businesses and other groups into its ranks.

An economic development team was hired this summer to develop a marketing strategy for the council.

Some items — the Web site, logo and slogan — were unveiled Thursday, but officials were tight-lipped on other elements of a 100-page marketing plan.

Splash events are in the works for Houston and New York to promote the region using a gamut of mail-outs, publications and studies.

The Web site will provide regional statistics on the workforce, incentives and educational assets, and it will soon include a database of available properties.

The effort gives smaller cities like San Juan access to marketing tools like the property database that it wouldn’t have with its own limited budget, said Miki McCarthy, executive director of the San Juan Economic Development Corp.

San Juan and other small cities usually can’t compete for companies seeking assets like a 200,000-square-foot building, she said. But the regional effort gives the city a chance to promote its small assets like a 50-acre plot of land that may be overlooked.

McCarthy said larger cities like McAllen can’t draw in big prospects without the support of smaller cities, which can benefit from having better job opportunities for their own residents.

“We’re dots on the map but we’re all feeding into the same population pool,” she said. “We can’t do it alone.”

Friday, October 09, 2009

Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership Takes Innovative Marketing Approach

Fort Wayne, Ind. (Vocus/PRWEB ) September 18, 2009

The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership (NEIRP) has firmly grounded itself on the cutting edge of economic development with the announcement of northeast Indiana's premier economic development social marketing campaign. NEIRP updates and information can now be found on the Northeast Indiana Pulse Blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and photo-sharing network Flickr.

In recent months, the aggressive efforts of the Partnership to market the region and attract new investment opportunities have been enhanced and supplemented by the addition of social marketing campaigns. Facebook members can become fans of northeast Indiana, Tweeters can follow northeast Indiana's breaking news if they follow @NortheastIN, photos from all of northeast Indiana's 10 counties can be accessed on Flickr, and area economic development event updates are posted on NEIRP’s LinkedIn group page. The blog, Northeast Indiana Pulse, also provides a medium for reflection and commentary on northeast Indiana and economic development activity by NEIRP staff and regional partners.

"We saw a need to connect with our clients—site selection consultant and company executives—on another level," said Erica McCutchan, Marketing Manager for NEIRP. "Social media networks like LinkedIn and Twitter allow NEIRP to broaden the reach of our brand and further establish relationships. In the economic development world, these avenues of communication are fresh and innovative which allows the northeast Indiana brand to stand out from other regions."

In today's reality of online accessibility and the social networking frenzy, reports have shown online communities are increasingly drawing executive attention, increasing the demand for northeast Indiana's brand to be visible and accessible online. With full integration of social media into NEIRP's online website and presence, the Regional Partnership's response to this demand has proven to be one of the first of its kind in the state and nation. Only a handful of other economic development organizations throughout the country have been found taking advantage of the medium.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

IBM and Dubuque, Iowa Partner on Smarter City Initiative

DUBUQUE, Iowa, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire-FirstCall

IBM (NYSE: IBM) and the City of Dubuque, Iowa today announced a new collaboration aimed at making this community of 60,000 one of the first "smarter" sustainable cities in the U.S.

IBM and Dubuque outlined their plans to partner in the development of new "smarter" technologies and implementation strategies to create an international model of sustainability for communities of 200,000 and under, where over 40 percent of the U.S. population resides. Dubuque, a city that is recognized as a national leader in sustainability with its forward-thinking public policy, together with IBM, will address the ever-increasing demands of cities to deliver vital services such as energy and water management, and transportation, all while reducing the community's impact on the environment.

"The goal of this collaboration is to develop and pilot a systematic mechanism to give consumers and businesses the information they need to make informed decisions about how they consume resources like electricity, water, natural gas, and oil," said Robert Morris, vice president, IBM Research. "To create such a mechanism, a partnership is needed between a community with a track record of successful public-private partnerships, citizens and businesses that believe in sustainability, and enterprises like IBM that have the information technology and knowledge to apply to this transformative partnership." More.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Response to Blane Canada's Fear Based Sales Recommendation

According to Eric Canada of Blane, Canada, "selling economic development to prospective investors is just like selling insurance. Create fear or uncertainty, then offer hope. Looking for a development manager to increase investment? Look for insurance sales experience" (ED Marketing Letter, September, 2009).

With respect to my friend Eric, I can't imagine anyone using this approach to attract investors. The fear sales pitch is made to give us a sense of urgency, when there really is none. But who is not turned off by that type of approach?

A better alternative to selling urgency through fear is to promote trust. This requires accountability and transparency - two characteristics not needed in a fear based selling approach.

But developing trust requires that you actually deliver value. As you do, people will want to work with you, not out of fear, but because they trust you, because you offer top-of-the-line services, because you solve a problem for them and because you are dependable. They not only will invest in your organization but become your greatest ambassadors as well.

When you deliver on your promises, your investors will feel good about the process and the trust you earn will translate into a larger and more loyal investor base.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Ad campaign aims to shine light on Southwest Florida

NAPLES — A new branding campaign is shining a light on Southwest Florida.

A Web site — — launched on Oct. 1. Signage is up at Southwest Florida International Airport and there’s more marketing to come for the new regional brand.

The brand is designed to bring new business to the region. It is built around a simple positioning statement: Southwest Florida — A brighter place to do business.

Joe Bouch, president of Chisano Marketing Group, which was hired to develop the new brand for the six-county region that includes Lee, Collier and Charlotte, gave an update about marketing efforts at an investor meeting the Economic Development Council of Collier County hosted Tuesday.

The meeting was held in the community room at the new Naples News Media Group headquarters off Immokalee Road. About 60 business and community leaders attended.

“This has been an exciting time for Southwest Florida. It really has,” Bouch said.

He said getting economic development leaders from six counties to cooperate and agree on a brand wasn’t easy. Ideas for a positioning statement covered the walls as the players worked to hash it out, Bouch said.

“We beat on it and beat on it and beat on it,” he said.

The word brighter refers to the quality of life and the region’s intellectual capital, including an impressive group of former CEOs and successful business owners who have retired here. The word place suggests a sense of belonging.

The words “do business” are key because growing businesses is what the campaign is all about, Bouch said. “It’s our call to action,” he said.

In the slogan, the words Southwest Florida are written in two colors — blue and green — to represent both the coastal and rural communities in the region. Blue is for water and green is for less developed, more protected areas. The logo is a sun that pulsates and comes to life on the new Web site.

At the airport, 11 signs bring home the message of the brand with statements such as, “A lot of businesses are landing here too,” and “Your business could be taking off here too.”

Soon, there will be what Bouch describes as “guerilla” signs in the windows of retail shops, restaurants and golf shops across town. “We’re going to put them everywhere,” he said.

The window signs will carry messages like, “You could be on your lunch-hour, not your vacation,” or “While you’re at it shop around for a business here too.”

Brochures will be handed out. Print and online advertising is planned in the region and elsewhere in Florida to help drive more people to the Web site.

A newsletter will be published regularly and press kits will soon be sent out to writers and editors to generate publicity about the brand.

The big marketing push will begin in January, Bouch said.

Over the next two years, the six counties have agreed to spend more than $500,000 on the campaign in hopes of bringing more high-wage jobs to the region. That’s on top of the cost of developing the brand, which came in at about $30,000.

“I think the fun part for us is the guerilla marketing, which is new for our organization,” said Tammie Nemecek, president and CEO of Collier County’s Economic Development Council. “It plays well into our tourism marketing.”

Collier County will get 600 window signs. The other counties will get the same number.

Most of the marketing will be done in the state because the budget is limited. The goal is to reach tourists and other visitors, who might consider moving their business to Southwest Florida after coming here for a vacation, a business trip or to see family or friends.

The hope is to raise more money to extend marketing outside of the state. County governments are helping to pay for the campaign, with support from the business community including Fifth-Third Bank.

Jan Kantor, president and owner of Success Systems, a Naples-based business consultant and a Naples Daily News columnist, liked what he saw at the meeting.

“It’s terrific,” he said of the brand campaign. He said it’s refreshing to see a united economic development effort in the region because “we need each other’s help.”

For the campaign to be successful, local businesses will have to get involved, passing out brochures, putting signs in their windows and offering testimonials about their business success in Southwest Florida on the new Web site, Bouch said.

“This will not work without the collaboration of the businesses that are here,” he said.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Selling Solar: Saginaw Bay area groups making trip to Germany

By Jeff Kart
September 20, 2009, 2:30AM

There's a lot riding on a breakfast meeting in Hamburg, Germany this week for the Saginaw Valley's emerging solar-energy industry.

With the backing of the region's two solar heavy hitters -- Dow Corning Corp. in Bay County and Hemlock Semiconductor Group in Saginaw County -- area economic development leaders will press other solar companies to bring manufacturing and jobs to Michigan.

"We hope to make companies that are at the conference more aware of the Great Lakes Bay Region as a place for solar energy development," said Fred Hollister, president of Bay Future Inc. in Bay City.

"We're hoping to make contacts with decision makers in companies that will be expanding in the near future."

Hollister leaves today for Germany along with JoAnn T. Crary, president of the economic development group Saginaw Future Inc., and Scott Walker, CEO of Midland Tomorrow. They'll be participating in one of the world's largest solar-energy events, as part of an ongoing regional recruitment attraction program called Michigan Solar Advantage.

The 24th annual European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition is hosting 800 exhibitors and expects 40,000 visitors during its week-long run.

The three business-development leaders will carry the banner of the Great Lakes Bay Economic Development Partnership at the event.

Crary said the key moment will be a breakfast meeting the partnership is hosting on Thursday, where they are targeting specific solar companies that might benefit from locating in the Great Lakes Bay Region. About 80 people are expected to attend.

The companies will hear from Hemlock Semiconductor Vice President of Sales and Marketing Gary Homan and Dow Corning Director of Solar Solutions Eric Peeters, who are attending the trade show, Crary said. Each will talk about their company's solar operations in Michigan.

Hemlock Semiconductor, located in Thomas Township, makes polycrystalline silicon, the basis of solar wafers. Dow Corning announced last week it would spend several hundred million dollars to construct a plant next to Hemlock to make monosilane gas, which is used in thin-film solar panels, the other major technology.
Dow Corning is the majority owner of Hemlock Semiconductor.

The breakfast meeting will be co-sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Hollister said he doesn't know how many groups from other states will be making similar presentations at the conference.

His group's hook is that the Great Lakes Bay Region is already home to companies on the cutting-edge of solar development -- Dow Corning, Hemlock Semiconductor and Dow Chemical.

"I'm not expecting anybody to sign a contract for anything on that particular morning," Hollister said. "The more that they know about our region and what's available here, the more interested I think they'll be."

Hollister said the region's emerging solar industry should be attractive to other companies looking to locate near the source of development.

Monosilane gas, for instance, is expensive to transport, and so are other materials for solar manufacturing, like glass.

The area also has existing infrastructure for shipping, including highways, rail and ports, along with automotive suppliers that could adapt to supply the solar market.

Peeters said Dow Corning also will use the convention to promote a new solar encapsulation technology the corporation has developed to make solar panels more durable and with less production time. Peeters said the technology is very promising.

"It brings us that much closer to making solar a sustainable energy option throughout the globe," he said.

Hollister said he thinks it's also important to mention that innovations like encapsulation are being developed right here in the region.

"We're really excited," he said. "This is probably the biggest event we've done with the partnership."

Crary said Hemlock and the new Dow Corning plant allow the Economic Development Partnership to go after two major types of solar-panel production. Dow Corning's announcement of the start of construction of the new factory is perfect timing heading into the solar trade show in Germany, she said.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Mayor outlines ‘Vancouver Green Capital’ economic strategy for Vancouver

VANCOUVER—At an address to the Vancouver Board of Trade today, Mayor Gregor Robertson announced a number of economic development initiatives, including the introduction of ‘Vancouver Green Capital,’ a new economic branding strategy for the City.

“The Olympics are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we need to do everything we can to help our local economy capitalize on it,” said Mayor Robertson. “That means being aggressive in terms of how we market ourselves to the world. The ‘Vancouver Green Capital’ branding strategy allows us to define Vancouver on our terms.”

Mayor Robertson also announced several other strategic initiatives aimed at fostering business development and investment in the City. These include:

■ The Vancouver Economic Development Commission’s Economic Development Strategy for Vancouver, which will be released in November – the first economic development strategy for Vancouver in two decades.

■ Metro Vancouver Commerce, an unprecedented collaboration with local municipalities to target new businesses and market the region as a whole. Metro Vancouver Commerce will be the most aggressive business development program in Metro Vancouver’s history and will be rolled out in October.

■ Vancouver House, which will showcase ‘Vancouver Green Capital’ to the world during the 2010 Games. Vancouver House will provide a launching pad for local businesses, entrepreneurs and industries to gain access to a global audience during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

■ The development of a Low carbon economic development zone. Designed to spur economic activity and create jobs, these zones include financing mechanisms, government incentives and technology exchanges. Mayor Robertson has been in talks with US cities in the Pacific Northwest to collaborate on low carbon economic zones, and intends to enter into an agreement with the State of California this year.

“We’ve got cutting-edge businesses, we have the opportunity to lead the world in green technology research and development, and we have a dynamic, highly educated and creative workforce,” said Mayor Robertson. “With the new strategies and programs the City and the VEDC are rolling out, and in particular our business brand of ‘Vancouver Green Capital,’ we’re saying we’re open for business and the days of Vancouver being seen as a sleepy, laid-back West Coast town are in the past.”

The ‘Vancouver Green Capital’ global branding strategy has been developed over the last several months by the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Economic Development Commission. It creates a positive, clear and consistent image of Vancouver to market the City around the world – particularly during the 2010 Games. Up until now, the city has had no such strategy.

“Vancouver Green Capital is the business global branding strategy Vancouver needs going into the 2010 Games and beyond,” said Vancouver Economic Development Commission CEO Phil Heard. “I’m very pleased that the VEDC has been able to work closely with the City to develop a clear plan to put Vancouver’s businesses in front of customers the world over.”

More information on the city’s economic development strategies can be viewed at

Friday, October 02, 2009

Economic development leaders discuss future of Marathon County

by Colby Robertson

MARATHON COUNTY (WAOW) -- Leaders throughout Marathon County are trying to figure out ways to bring more jobs and businesses to our area.

It's all in an effort to improve the area economy.

The group is trying to figure out what puts Marathon County ahead of other communities.

Because once they figure out that marketing tool, the hope is that the area's economy will thrive.

David Eckmann, Economic Development Director of MCDECVO says, "We have no discernible marketing piece at this point in time for our region and we need to start tooting our horn because we have a heck of a lot to offer."

It's that attitude that is driving leaders of the Marathon County Economic Development Corporation, also known as MCDEVCO.

It's a public private partnership that builds on the business community in hopes of providing jobs. Eckmann says the key to moving forward in this economy is to build on what Marathon County already has to offer.

Eckmann says, "We have a strong manufacturing base here we have a strong history in agriculture and we have to build on those and it's transitioning from where we are today and taking our manufacturing base to advance manufacturing, taking our agriculture to advanced agricultural opportunities."

But some are skeptical of the price tag associated with the plan. Half a million dollars annually over the next five years; most of it coming out of the taxpayers pocket.

County Board Member Joanne Leonard says, "It's a very comprehensive plan, but with limited resources and dollars today we need to be very focused in terms of seeing results, because results in economic development take a long time."

]But MCDEVCO leaders say in order to stay competitive we can't sit back and wait for the tough times to pass.

Eckmann says, "We are in competition with these other communities that are like us. Everyone can offer quality of life, but every community has a quality of life, so what we have to do is offer a quality of life to the skilled workforce that we want to attract here, that creativity."

Thursday, October 01, 2009

GWEDC consultant will tell how city ranks in development

The Wichita Eagle

The consultant hired by the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition will provide a report card on how Wichita ranks in the economic development world and how to improve it.

The group has hired Site Selection Group of Dallas for $70,000, plus travel expenses.

There won't be any generalities, said Vicki Pratt Gerbino, president of the coalition.

"This is what we need," she said, "not a broad brush."

The plan will be paid for with public money, already within the coalition budget.

The coalition's 2009 budget is composed of about $600,000 from local government and $600,000 from the private sector.

Also this year, the coalition has $208,000 from a federal grant to develop the composites industry.

The study will contain:

* How Wichita and 940 other cities compare on dozens of factors, such as work force skills and wages, utility costs, infrastructure, cost of living, unionization, schools, regulatory environment and major employers.

* Figure which cities Wichita should regard as natural competitors in different industries, and how well we compete against them.

* An analysis of potential competitors for aircraft investment, and how Wichita stacks up against them.

* Which industries should Wichita pursue and how well the city could develop those industries.

* How three to five communities have been able to move from an economy dependent on one industry to a diverse economy.

* The names of 10 to 20 likely companies to pursue within those industries.

* A marketing plan, including recommended changes in incentives, regulations, training needs, real estate schemes and other strategies.