Saturday, February 27, 2010

Will Charlotte pay the price for a PR blitz?

Charlotte Business Journal - by Erik Spanberg Senior staff writer

Ronnie Bryant wants Charlotte to take a page from the political playbook and stay on message.

Before that happens, though, Bryant, chief executive at the Charlotte Regional Partnership, and other local leaders must reach consensus on a media-relations strategy that could cost as much as $200,000 per year. Spurred in part by recent national stories on the city’s diminished economic power, a group comprising the partnership, the Charlotte Chamber, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority and Charlotte Center City Partners began discussions this month on launching a national media campaign aimed at landing more — and more positive — national coverage.

“It’s media relations, not an advertising campaign,” Bryant says. “And it shouldn’t be a one-time hit. It’s something you do on a consistent basis.”

Most major cities employ similar strategies. Local leaders say it’s been done to varying degrees in Charlotte in the past, but a more focused campaign is needed.

Discussions began this month with the four key stakeholders in economic development and tourism at the table. Michael Smith, president of Charlotte Center City Partners, initiated the talks, which he characterizes as being in the exploratory phase.

The first meeting included a presentation by Andy Levine, president of New York marketing firm Development Counsellors International. He came at the invitation of Bryant, who wanted an overview of what an outside firm can offer a region in search of a buffered image.

“This is a very contemporary strategy,” Smith says. “If you’re a major city, this is something you have to investigate.”

And, with The Washington Post and others chronicling the city’s financial downfall, Charlotte’s run of glowing profiles has come to a halt. The bigger concern is lacking a comprehensive approach and relying on reaction and response, rather than setting the media agenda on a positive note, Smith and others say.

Levine’s firm is not on retainer and Bryant and Smith emphasize that no decisions have been made on whether to pursue an expanded media strategy. If they do move forward on the idea, many questions loom, from funding to oversight. Many regions and cities are using models similar to the one employed in the Charlotte talks, with several stakeholders at the table to share the cost — and responsibility for delivering results.

“Five years ago, one guy picked you,” Levine says. “Now you’re seeing more of a consortium approach.”

No deadline has been established for making a decision. In the weeks ahead, Smith and the rest of the group plan to explore a range of possibilities and solicit opinions from other cities as well as local public-relations executives at area advertising agencies and marketing and communications executives at the city’s largest corporations.

Development Counsellors International has extensive experience with similar campaigns across the country. The Research Triangle Partnership in Raleigh is a longtime client. Others in the Southeast include Charleston, S.C.; Mobile, Ala.; and Chattanooga, Tenn.

The proposed media push is aimed at influencing business decisions more than tourism, an area already targeted by the visitors authority. Industry experts point to coverage of cities in national magazines and newspapers as a major influence on corporate leaders’ impressions of a region’s vitality.

“We’ve invested heavily in PR in contrast to advertising,” says Janet Fritz, marketing director at the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. “We find positive stories really do have an impact. It’s a message that reaches executives.”

Fritz’s organization hired Development Counsellors International five years ago. Since then, she says, Denver has enjoyed positive reviews and coverage from CNN, The Wall Street Journal and Fox News, among others.

Outside expertise may have helped, but so did staging major events such as the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Metro Denver EDC spends $1 million annually on marketing, with 40% to 50% dedicated to public relations, Fritz says.

Levine, the marketing executive, says his company usually works on a media-relations campaign for a one-year minimum.

To start building interest, the firm often takes political and business leaders to media centers in New York and Washington to meet with key editors and reporters on a regular basis. Other strategies include media tours, bringing in reporters for several days to learn more about a region’s business community and see other points of interest.

“I don’t want to call it wining and dining, but that’s what it is,” Bryant says.

Enthusiasm for the media offensive varies. Bryant and Smith offer gung-ho enthusiasm, while the response from chamber President Bob Morgan and visitors authority Chief Executive Tim Newman is more muted.

Morgan defers comment to Smith, saying only that “we’ve made no commitment about how this could be funded. We’re in a learning process.”

Newman, the visitors authority executive, also cites financial challenges as a potential hurdle for the fledgling media campaign.

“I think there is going to be limited appetite for additional funding based on something like that,” he says. “I’m just going to wait and see.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jacksonville's campaign to grab global trade continues

Jacksonville Business Journal - by Mark Szakonyi Staff Writer

Before international companies can come to Jacksonville, they have to know it exists.

It has taken a more than decade-long campaign involving briefing foreign consulates and hosting trade missions and visiting international executives for Jacksonville to grab the attention of global companies that used to think the only cities in Florida were Miami and Orlando.

The ongoing push, which has attracted heavyweights such as Deutsche Bank, Saft America Inc. and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., runs parallel to the statewide move to attract more foreign investment and make Florida a logistics and trade center, said Manny Mencia, senior vice president of international business development for Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization.

“Jacksonville has emerged as the state’s third major international hub, along with South Florida and Orlando-Tampa,” Mencia said. “When I go around the state to economic development committees, I point to Jacksonville as a community that really has its act together.”

The ramp-up was helped largely by the Cornerstone Regional Development Partnership’s decision in 2007 to focus its efforts on attracting foreign direct investment. Cornerstone’s briefing of foreign consulates in Miami led the group to host its own seminars for consulates and business delegations from various countries, including the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands, Ireland and Italy, said Michael Breen, director of international development for Cornerstone, the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce’s economic development arm.

The group has also hosted foreign journalists who then return to their home countries to write stories about Jacksonville’s burgeoning port and aviation industries. The campaign will continue in the spring with the hosting of consulates and trade commissioners from Germany, Canada, Spain and the U.K.

But establishing relations with foreign countries in the hope that businesses will follow isn’t done by Cornerstone alone.

The Jacksonville Sister Cities Association hosted a delegation from its sister city Nantes, France, earlier this month. One of the delegation’s main goals was understanding how the Jacksonville Port Authority operates as a landlord by letting tenants handle dock operations instead of the authority getting involved.

Delegates were especially interested in creating a direct shipping service between their Nantes-Saint Nazaire terminals, which form Europe’s second largest port, and Jacksonville’s port, said Francis Boyer, president of the Committee of Nantes-Jacksonville.

The authority and Nantes representatives plan to make a case to Mediterranean Shipping Co. and CMA-CGM that there is enough potential traffic between the two ports to warrant a direct service, said Robert Peek, the authority’s director of marketing development.

The authority regularly visits international shipping companies and their customers to let them know that, with its Asian and European container service, Jacksonville is no longer just a Caribbean and South American trade hub. A port official working out of South Korea markets the port to Asian shipping companies, too.

The Jacksonville Sister Cities Association has also strengthened relations between the city and San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Curitiba, Brazil.

The signing of a sister city agreement with San Juan helped the Jacksonville Aviation Authority show potential airlines that there is enough business to support direct flights from Jacksonville to the territory. The authority hopes to gain direct service to San Juan by the end of the year, said Steven Grossman, executive director of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.

The signing of a similar agreement with Curitiba helped lay the groundwork for the Brazil-Jacksonville Alliance of Northeast Florida’s trade mission to the southern Brazilian city in March.

Enterprise Florida continues to market Jacksonville to foreign companies but it has taken a less direct approach in recent years as local agencies build their own international relationships, Mencia said. The organization still gets involved, as when it and the U.S. Commercial Service last year hosted a delegation of African businessmen looking to buy used heavy equipment from Jacksonville dealers.

Jacksonville often underestimates the international strides it has made, Mencia said. The tendency is to think competitors are ahead, but Jacksonville is on an equal footing with more well-known international centers such as Miami.

“When they look at major international hubs in the South,” Mencia said, “Jacksonville will have to be taken into consideration.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Washington Area Primps as Northrop Grumman Shops for a New Home

Published: February 23, 2010

WASHINGTON — The announcement last month that Northrop Grumman would move its headquarters to the Washington area after 72 years in Los Angeles has set off a feverish competition among local governments to land the company, one of the nation’s largest military contractors.

The move will involve just 300 employees in a worldwide work force of 120,000. But apart from generating immediate benefits like business- and income-tax revenue, Northrop Grumman’s new headquarters is likely to draw subcontractors who want to be near the main office of a company that had $33.8 billion in sales last year, mostly from government awards.

The first group of 150 employees is scheduled to arrive by the summer of 2011, Northrop Grumman said. With the real estate consulting firm CB Richard Ellis, the company has focused on five locations in Virginia, three in Maryland and two in the District of Columbia that would provide 150,000 to 200,000 square feet, according to several people involved in the site search who were not authorized to speak publicly about it. It intends to make a final selection as early as next month.

“It’s incredibly good news for the greater Washington region,” said Matthew Erskine, executive director of the Greater Washington Initiative, a marketing arm of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. “A corporation as significant as Northrop Grumman doesn’t take this kind of decision lightly.”

The company is already a major presence in the region, with about 40,000 employees in Virginia (half at its Newport News shipbuilding facility), 20,000 in Maryland and 100 in the District of Columbia.

In announcing the shift, the company said it was moving its headquarters to be close to its “large customer base in the Washington, D.C., region,” referring to the military and intelligence agencies located there.

The District of Columbia first got wind that a large corporation was considering relocation sites in the area late last year, said Valerie Santos, deputy mayor for economic development.

“We got a call,” Ms. Santos said. “They wouldn’t tell us who they were calling for. They wanted to know if D.C. had an attraction-retention program.” Then came last month’s announcement from the company, along with its statement that financial incentives and geographical access to federal power centers would be the deciding factors in its site decision.

Company officials visited the state capitals of Richmond, Va., and Annapolis, Md., this month to discuss those states’ respective bids.

“Competition only works if everyone knows there is a competition,” said Gaston Kent, vice president for finance at Northrop. “Our process is open and transparent because that’s the way we do business.”

State officials in Maryland and Virginia have not discussed the substance of their offers. The District of Columbia, on the other hand, has put its bid out for public view, in the form of legislation now before the City Council, where it has seven sponsors and the support of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. The city’s package includes up to $19 million in property tax abatements and $5.5 million to help defray relocation costs.

“D.C. is prepared to meet and exceed any financial benefits put forth by Maryland or Virginia,” said Councilman Jack Evans, the lead sponsor of the bill.

The incentive package is similar in form to what the district successfully offered to the CoStar Group, a commercial real estate information company, to lure it from Bethesda, Md., this year.

For the most part, officials have been running a publicly positive campaign. “You want people to come to you because you’re the best,” said the president of the Maryland State Senate, Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who gave Northrop officials a tour of the historic State House in Annapolis, “not because you trump a sister state or fellow jurisdiction. You like to compete on a friendly basis.”

But regional rivalries have surfaced.

“Would you rather be in downtown Washington or Crystal City?” in Virginia, Mr. Evans said. “Bethesda is just a hike. The bottom line is they want to be close to the Pentagon, Capitol and White House. It’s almost like a no-brainer.”

Mr. Miller said Northrop Grumman officials were impressed with Maryland’s AAA bond rating, among other factors. He said the company was looking at National Harbor and College Park, both in Prince George’s County, and locations in adjoining Montgomery County.

Montgomery County is home to the military contractor Lockheed Martin, which is larger than Northrop Grumman in total employees and sales. But Maryland’s corporate tax rate, 8.25 percent, is higher than Virginia’s, 6 percent. Washington’s is 9.97 percent.

Four major corporations have recently moved their headquarters to Fairfax County in Northern Virginia. These include Volkswagen of America, which received a total of $10.6 million in incentives from the county and state to move there from Auburn Hills, Mich. Gerald L. Gordon, president of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, declined to discuss Northrop Grumman.

“We brokers have our opinions of where and where not they may be going,” said Mark Larsen, president of Larsen Commercial, a brokerage firm in Fairfax County, who in the past has represented Northrop in real estate transactions.

Mr. Larsen said he was betting on Tysons Corner, the shopping and office hub in Fairfax County right off the Capital Beltway and where Northrop Grumman already leases space.

“Defense contractors generally prefer the Virginia side because that’s where many of the Department of Defense offices are,” Mr. Larsen said.

Whatever the outcome, said Terry Holzheimer, the director of economic development for Arlington County, Va., Northrop Grumman’s move has “brought out the competitive spirit, let’s say that.”

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant Could Be Impacting Vermont's Brand Image

Posted by Barry Silverstein on February 22, 2010 03:02 PM

The bucolic beauty of Vermont, along with its famed cheese and maple syrup, contribute to its positive brand image and make this New England state an internationally known tourist attraction.

Now questions are being raised about whether or not the Vermont brand will be hurt by Vermont Yankee, a nuclear power plant that recently disclosed it is leaking tritium into the groundwater. While Vermont has had nuclear power for forty years, the aging Vermont Yankee plant currently faces relicensing by the Vermont senate; if the license is not renewed, the plant could be closed as early as 2012.

In the meantime, Vermont Yankee's recent negative press raises concerns about the environmentally pristine image of the tiny state, whose name means, "green mountain."

There are both negative and positive perspectives on the story. Jane Kolodinksy of the University of Vermont thinks Vermont Yankee "definitely has the potential to harm the state's brand. If consumers begin to make that link, then, very well, the brand could be in trouble." On the other hand, Tim Shea, VP of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, says, "The Vermont brand is very well known and resilient. I don't see this having an impact on folks choosing travel to Vermont for recreation. It's some of the best outdoor recreation in the world."

Vermont Tourism Commissioner Bruce Hyde reports that he hasn't seen any harm to the Vermont brand from the Vermont Yankee plant, at least not yet. But, he says, if the problems continue, "there is some potential there. ... It certainly could have some impact on Vermont tourism."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Suburban cities investing in branding, slogan campaigns

By Ralph Ellis
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
1:17 p.m. Friday, February 19, 2010

Everybody knows “I Love New York” — a slogan of such simplicity and power, it’s entered the American lexicon.

But when you hear “Capture the Spirit of Good Living,” do you think about Duluth? Did you know Norcross considers itself “A Place to Imagine”?

Branding isn’t just for big cities. Several small municipalities in the Atlanta suburbs have paid companies tens of thousands of dollars to come up with slogans, logos and marketing plans. Duluth shelled out $60,000, Norcross $50,000. One-year-old Dunwoody will spend $105,000 this year and 99-year-old Lilburn $30,000.

While some might see branding campaigns as window dressing during difficult economic times, the cities consider them a crucial part of their economic development efforts.

“We need an identity,” said Lilburn City Manager Bill Johnsa. “Cities are competing, whether people realize it or not. We compete with cities throughout the region.”

But “A Past to Remember, a Future to Mold” doesn’t really sell or reflect modern Lilburn, with its 11,000 people, including a sizable Asian community. The town’s most recognizable landmark is a huge Hindu temple.

So the city hired RBMM, a Texas firm that helped Greyhound and Wake Forest University re-brand. Lilburn will roll out its new slogan and logo next month.

Private companies have long embraced branding, said Lisa Mac, owner of the GoGo Creative agency in Austin, Texas. “Now [cities] are moving to this brand identity because cities are marketing themselves like corporations, like Nike,” she said.

Attracting business is the major part of the branding campaigns, which should also pull in shoppers and give residents a sense of identity, something that’s hard to accomplish in a sprawling suburban area.

Mac said many municipalities use the city seal as a logo for promotional purposes. In Georgia, at least, that often means a train image dominates. For a city trying to project a modern feel, that doesn’t work.

Though it incorporated only about a year ago, Dunwoody embraced branding and just received 18 bids for branding services. The city and its convention and visitors bureau will pay $50,000 each and the Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce will chip in $5,000.

The city has major commercial interests, with Perimeter Mall and big hotels. Though money is tight, this is a good time to invest in branding, when firms are hungry for business, Dunwoody Mayor Ken Wright said.

“We need to establish a healthy brand to attract businesses and folks to come to the hotels,” he said.

The cities will encounter follow-up costs, depending on how deeply they embed the new brand into the city. Web site makeovers are often part of the package. Signage and city stationery might need to be changed. Johnsa said changing Lilburn’s stationery would cost $1,200 to $1,500.

Duluth revealed its new logo and slogan — also called a tag line or branding statement — last October after the city worked with GoGo Creative. The company conducted focus groups and talked with leaders.

The previous logo was the city seal, which shows a steam engine on a track, and the slogan “Pride in the Old and New.” That didn’t tell the story of Duluth, population 27,000, which has invested heavily in a modern city hall and landscaped town green, said Alisa Williams, Duluth’s director of marketing and public information.

“People were looking at us as a not very progressive city,” she said. “We needed something to liven us up.”

The company produced a logo of three stylized buildings embraced by a red, elastic figure called the Spirit Man. The buildings were inspired by Decatur’s classic town logo, said Chris McGahee, Duluth economic development director. The man represents the spirit of the people of Duluth that holds the town together.

The slogan, “Capture the Spirit of Good Living,” can be tweaked to fit different events, so people can capture the spirit of music or art, Williams said. Actors dressed as the Spirit Man — kind of like a Blue Man Group member, but covered in red — may be trotted out for city events, she said.

Duluth resident Bob Sawyer, a Web designer working in a coffee shop across from city hall, said the new city brand will help Duluth foster an independent identity. “Everybody thinks of this part of Gwinnett as part of Atlanta,” he said.

Norcross, with a population of about 10,000, also wanted to modernize its image as the city made over its downtown. Mayor Bucky Johnson said the slogan “A Place to Imagine” was picked to appeal to a mobile “creative class.”

“The idea [is] that they could move to anywhere they want to work and anywhere they want to dine and anywhere they want to live,” he said.

Sometimes the process backfires.

“Coming up with a perfect branding statement is an inexact science,” said Joe Burnett, president of Downtown Management Services, the company that manages Lawrenceville’s tourism and trade association. “Some cities have come up with things that hit the ground like a rock.”

As example No. 1, all the small-town leaders point to Atlanta’s recent efforts at sloganeering — “Every Day Is an Opening Day,” followed by “City Lights, Southern Nights.”

If a slogan is judged by how well it’s remembered, then Snellville’s is a big — and cheap — success.

Emmett Clower, the mayor from 1973 to 1999, said that in the 1970s he visited Luckenbach, the tiny Texas town made famous in the Waylon Jennings song, and purchased a promotional bumper sticker. He brought the idea back to Georgia, removed the word “Luckenbach,” and subbed in his town’s name.

Thus was born “Everybody’s Somebody in Snellville,” a slogan used for T-shirts, bumper stickers and punch lines ever since.

“It’s still around and it still sticks,” Clower said. “Cost me a buck.”

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Seven Virtues of Effective EDOs

From Taimerica Management Company

Certainly, the typical EDO has some awareness of what it is doing and what it is accomplishing, but it typically focuses more on day-to-day activities rather than on long-term strategies. Even the results of this day-to-day activity are frequently not communicated effectively to the stakeholders and Board of the organization. Organizational plans, written for guiding the actions of the organization's staff, don't do much to educate local stakeholders. It is no surprise, then, that local leaders often have little trust or confidence in how development organizations are spending their time and money. The questions are: Are you doing the right things? Are you doing things right? Is your organization an effective EDO?

Click here to read the entire article.

Colorado loves California all over again: Marketing push targets Golden State companies

It's complicated. But Colorado, which loved California a year ago, is loving the Golden State all over again.

Last Valentine's Day, the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. unleashed a marketing push called "COlovesCA," focused on California companies in growth mode and ripe for expansion.

The message: Do that growing and expanding in Colorado, with its lower taxes and living costs, high quality of life and educated workforce, instead of in pricey, over-regulated, budget-befuddled, earthquake-and-mudslide-prone California.

The EDC last year hired a plane towing an 80-foot-long "Colorado loves CA" banner to fly over Los Angeles. It ran ads in California newspapers, inviting companies to expand to Colorado. And it sent Valentine-style marketing pieces to senior executives at hundreds of California companies.

Friday, Metro Denver EDC chief Tom Clark says Colorado is professing its affections for California once again:

• It's running an ad in the business pages of the Los Angeles Times touting Colorado's virtues.

• It's sending Valentines and chocolate hearts to executives of Fortune 500 and "clean tech" companies.

• And a street team of "Colorado Cupids" are in Los Angeles Friday, handing out candy. The cupids will pass out hugs and kisses outside Saturday's Colorado Avalanche-Los Angeles Kings hockey game.

"I hope our light-hearted campaign does convey that we are in this for the long run," Clark said in a statement. "The entire West needs California. It is the innovation hub of the nation and the source of many jobs that are spun out to the Western states."

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter issued a proclamation declaring Friday "Colorado Loves California Day" (and really, nothing says love quite like a gubernatorial proclamation).

Local eco-devo boosters can point to several recent "gets" of California companies, including the recent headquarters relocation of kidney-care company DaVita to Denver, SPG Solar's decision to open a regional office in the metro area, and local expansions by such California firms as Charles Schwab, SolarCity, SunRun and Intuit.

Of course, there's also Oracle's recent takeover of Sun Microsystems, which could lead to layoffs in Colorado. (Business, like life, is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get.)

Last year's campaign triggered a healthy degree of self-criticism in California.

"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, told KGO-TV, the ABC station in the city, in its report on the Denver initiative.

"Other Western states are taking note of California's unhealthiness," San Francisco Chronicle columnist Andrew S. Ross noted.

But Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., said last year that Colorado and other states that try to lure California business are missing the point behind what makes California companies so successful.

"It's the attitude, especially in Southern California. You have a lot of talent and a whole array of industries. We're very open to new things," Kyser told the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times. "A lot of people don't realize that's one of the keys to our survival."

(Oh, by the way, the Contra Costa Times is owned by MediaNews Group Inc. — a Colorado company — as are most San Francisco Bay Area newspapers.)

The Metro Denver EDC says it will follow up on this weekend's marketing blitz by setting up meetings with California companies, site selectors and news media.

New Orleans Saints, Super Bowl And Economic Development

What has been the impact of the Saints and the Super Bowl for the New Orleans region?

Here is a message and here are links to articles provided by the Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc, the economic development engine in the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan area:

By Michael Hecht:

The Saints have become a global metaphor for the resurgence of the New Orleans region.

Please enjoy this sampling of press from around the country that is rebranding New Orleans as a place of opportunity and achievement. The importance of this message cannot be underestimated.

Economic Development News

CNN Video: Saints Win Good For City
Click here to access the video

Chicago Tribune: Saints Huge Part of New Orleans Resurrection
Full story...

PBS Newshour: Hope, Healing For New Orleans As Champion Saints March Home
Full story...

Dallas Morning News: Cheers For a City That Never Gave Up On Itself
Full story...

Washington Post: After a Super Bowl Triumph, Joyous New Orleans Swings to Rhythm of the Saints
Full story...

ESPN: There Won't Be Another Story Like the Saints
Full story...

New York Times: Champs? The Saints, Dat's Who
Full story...

Boston Globe: For Fans, Saints Bring It All Home
Full story...

Los Angeles Times: Who 'Dat Rejoicing? Saints Fans
Full story...

San Jose Mercury News: New Orleans Triumph Another Reminder of the Power of Sports
Full story...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Selling Niagara to the world

One agency focuses on investment marketing for all of Niagara. The others deal with retaining businesses and expansion within their own municipalities.

Does that justify having several economic development offices in a single region?

Yes it does, says Patrick Gedge, chief executive officer for Niaga ra Economic Development Corp.

"It's a question of efficiency and effectiveness. Would you want 12 municipalities each individually marketing themselves to the world?" says Gedge.

"If we're doing it all together, then there's going to be a lot more effectiveness in terms of us going out and bringing those leads to all of Niagara. And over time, all of us recognize that even if a business ends up in one community, it benefits all of Niagara."

Critics such as Niagara Falls regional councillor Norm Puttick, however, don't believe NEDC is doing a good enough job for the $2 million it receives annually from regional government.

Cities such as Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Fort Erie already have business and tourism development offices, he says. So why does the region need one, too?

It's the issue that has frustrated Puttick most during his first three years on council, as he tries to rid the area of what he calls redundancy and duplication.

His persistence led to a consultant's review of the effectiveness of the NEDC, commissioned by the Region.

"Why do we have a corporation that is continually given a contract and they're not producing?" says Puttick.

"Why don't we put it out to tender, if we're going to spend $2 million a year? My guess is we'd get a lot more done for less money. More here.

Silicon Valley enters 'new phase of uncertainty,' groups warn

By Pete Carey

Two Silicon Valley groups warned today that decisive action by business, government and education is needed if the region is to retain its standing as the world's innovation epicenter.

The warning is contained in the Silicon Valley Index, a look back at last year's economic carnage prepared by Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network and Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which issue annual reports on about 40 indicators of economic strength and the health of the community.

The groups said the valley's long road to recovery from the recession is complicated by state budget gridlock, decreased education funding and competition from other regions. There are "clear warning signs" that the valley has entered "a new phase of uncertainty" in which its standing as a tech center is at risk, the report said.

"It could be that Silicon Valley has a different future coming," said Russell Hancock, president and chief executive officer of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network. "It's not a given that we will continue to be the epicenter of innovation."

Employment is back to 2005 levels, with 90,000 jobs lost in less than two years; the influx of foreign science and engineering talent has slowed; venture capital funding has declined; and there are fewer middle-income wage earners in a "hollowing out of the middle." Per capita income is down 5 percent from 2007, and the number of people working as contractors rather than full-time employees is rising.

Other regions are expanding their shares of federal spending, while the valley's share of federal procurement dropped from 2 percent in 1993 to 1.3 percent in 2008.

Adding to the valley's problems is a malfunctioning state government that is shortchanging investment in education and infrastructure, the report said.

"Who wants to come here to a state with a $20 billion annual deficit?" said Emmett Carson, chief executive and president of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

The two groups noted that there are plenty of candidates to take the valley's place as innovation capital: Austin, Texas, and Huntsville, Ala., are beating the valley in snagging federal funds, the report notes. India or China also could someday wrest the title away from the valley.

"We're sort of sitting on our laurels and singing 'We're Silicon Valley,' " Carson said, while the valley risks falling behind as it emerges from the recession. More here.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Swiss Tax Play Lures Business

Cantons Compete With Lower Rates to Land New Headquarters


ZUG, Switzerland—Low taxes have long given Switzerland a strong hand in the battle to lure the operations of big multinational companies. Now, an intramural war is on in which individual Swiss states are competing harder to attract business.

Switzerland's states, known as cantons, are offering rock-bottom tax rates meant to tempt multinationals into establishing regional headquarters or other operations in their jurisdictions. In doing so, other cantons are trying to take business away from Zug, the Swiss canton that has mastered the game of attracting business to such a high degree that it is beginning to run out of space.

Since the 1960s, Zug has set the pace in persuading multinationals to set up shop, drawing names such as Johnson & Johnson, Burger King Holdings Inc. and Siemens AG.

As Zug now runs short on housing and office space, small cantons nearby are getting in on the act. "Zug made an extremely good decision years ago to have a competitive tax code," says Georges Meyer, a tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Zurich. "Now you see a trend of neighboring cantons trying to attract business too."

Switzerland as a whole is battling with countries such as Ireland, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Germany for a share of multinationals' business. While Switzerland's top research universities, efficient public sector and strong intellectual-property protection are attractive, its low tax rates are a huge draw.

Switzerland's federal corporate tax rate is just 8.5%. When average cantonal and municipal taxes are included, the average corporate tax rate in Switzerland is 21.2%, compared to about 30% for Germany and 25.5% for the Netherlands, according to KPMG.

But in Switzerland, the cantons—which enjoy far more autonomy than do U.S. states—are the main drivers in luring multinationals. Two-thirds of total taxes are levied by the cantons, which also have wide autonomy on social-security contributions, business permits, residency requirements and construction rules. As a result, the cantons take the lead in pitching for companies to come to Switzerland.

"Switzerland is such a popular choice for multinationals that it was high on our list from the start," says Rich Riley, senior vice president for Europe at Yahoo Inc., which established its European headquarters in the canton of Vaud in late 2008. "We looked at multiple countries and multiple cantons within Switzerland."

The battle for multinational business comes as companies have become savvier about relocating more activities to regional headquarters to lower their tax burdens. According to consultancy McKinsey & Co., Switzerland attracted more than 180 regional headquarters of large foreign companies between 1998 and 2008. In just the last several years, Kraft Foods Inc., Yahoo and Google Inc. have established European headquarters in Switzerland, and more than 150 U.S. companies now have a presence here.

In 2007, Zug attracted 1,600 new businesses. Last year, as many companies put relocation plans on hold due to cost-cutting, it drew only about half that, but Zug officials say they are satisfied, given the economic slump.

But Zug is a victim of its own success. International schools here are scrambling to expand to accommodate requests for new students, and housing and office space are in short supply. More here.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Regional partnership's spending questioned

Critics raise concern about the group's finances, efforts to recruit new businesses.

By Kerry Hall Singe
Posted: Saturday, Feb. 06, 2010

Faced with a $250,000 deficit, Charlotte Regional Partnership chief Ronnie Bryant stood before his bosses last July and put his job on the line.

The economic development group, which gets half of its $3 million budget from state and local taxpayers, was seeing cuts in state and private dollars. It needed to cut more costs or raise more money. Bryant said he'd plug the hole himself. "I said it would rest on my shoulders," he recalls.

Seven months later, he tallies $204,000, or 80 percent of the goal. Filling this year's shortfall is only one of the pressures weighing on Bryant these days.

Also in July, a group of senior economic developers wrote the partnership's chairman, questioning the group's spending and heavy administration costs.

Amid falling tax revenues, the state could continue to trim funding for the group, which markets the 16-county region as a good place for business.

Local governments, which contribute more than $793,000 to the partnership, face shrinking budgets. At least one member county, York, is considering withdrawing from the group, questioning whether it's worth the $53,000 in the difficult economy.

And one business leader with first-hand knowledge said companies are having "a lot of informal conversations" about whether to stay on as paying members or whether the partnership should be restructured. More here.

Hernando County gets 'branded'


Hernando Today
Published: February 2, 2010

BROOKSVILLE - About 15 years ago, the county tourism and economic development officials marketed Hernando County as, "The Gateway to Tampa Bay."

But sometime between then and now, that slogan got lost.

At Tuesday's economic development workshop, Sue Rupe, the county's tourism development coordinator, unveiled a new "brand" she hopes will entice tourists to come here: "Hernando: people, places, progress."

The slogan is embossed in blues and greens.

County commissioners and audience members liked it to an extent. But they're likely to tweak it and include the words "Tampa Bay" somewhere in the slogan.

And Business Development Director Mike McHugh said that, while the brand may work for tourism-related events, it's not strong enough to work as an economic development tool.

Marketing Hernando County was a major thrust of Tuesday's workshop.

Commissioner Rose Rocco stressed the importance of marketing Hernando County and bring in more manufacturing and pharmaceutical jobs.

Jim Kimbrough, chairman and chief executive officer of SunTrust Bank, Nature Coast, said he still likes "Gateway to Tampa Bay."

"Tampa Bay is the star we need to hook up with," Kimbrough said. "People don't know where Hernando County is but they know where Tampa Bay is."

McHugh said it is "difficult, if not impossible" to market a county.

"A county has no geographical location or identity that resonates with people outside the state or country, he said.

For example, how many people in the north know that Tampa Bay is in Hillsborough County? he asked.

Instead, McHugh said any marketing strategies must revolve around a regional theme and play up the Tampa metropolitan area.

He also believes there is a strong marketing opportunity in playing up the city of Brooksville, which, for many in the region, is better known than the county itself.

Commissioner Jeff Stabins said he is not thrilled to go back to the original logo because all it mainly did was to create a bedroom community of Tampa and added to the commuter workforce.

Instead, Stabins suggested the words: "Gateway from Tampa Bay" be added to the brand.

Jennifer Taylor, vice president of business development with the Tampa Bay Partnership, said Manatee and Sarasota counties have had success marketing themselves as "South Tampa."

Perhaps Hernando County could refer to it in its correspondence as "North Tampa," she said.

McHugh will work with Rupe on developing a brand and report back to commissioners at a future board meeting.

Reporter Michael D. Bates can be reached at 352-544-5290 or

Daniels to wrap economic development into Super Bowl trip

Business First of Louisville - by Brent Adams Staff Writer

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels plans to do more than watch football when he travels to Miami this week to watch the Indianapolis Colts take on the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.

On Friday afternoon, Daniels will conduct a series of economic development meetings with business representatives from Indiana, Florida and other parts of the country.

Daniels held similar economic development gatherings in Miami prior to the Colts’ victory in Super Bowl XLI in February 2007, Daniels’ spokeswoman Jane Jankowski said Thursday during a telephone interview.

It is a matter of laying the groundwork for businesses that might bring jobs to Indiana or expand current operations in the state, Jankowski said.

On Saturday afternoon, Daniels will host an Indiana Economic Development Corp. reception at Villa Woodbine in Coconut Grove, Fla.,

The reception, which is expected to be attended by about 300 people, is sponsored by Indianapolis-based businesses ProLiance Energy, Ice Miller LLP law firm, Clarian Health. Corona, Calif.-based Lucas Oil Products Inc., which has operations in Corydon, Ind., also is a sponsor of the event.

“Right after the Colts beat the Jets for the AFC Championship, the first thing the governor asked is ‘Who are you going to find me to meet with?’ ” Jankowski said. “The governor will go anyplace and talk to anyone to sell the state of Indiana and its pro-business environment, and the Super Bowl is a great opportunity to do that.”

Economic development officials are using the Super Bowl spotlight to rebrand Louisiana

With the underdog New Orleans Saints making it to the Super Bowl, Louisiana Economic Development officials are taking advantage of the spotlight to tell the story that Louisiana is also ascendant.

Stephen Moret"What’s really great for our state is that there’s a halo effect. They’re thinking about the Saints in a new light, and they’re thinking about Louisiana in a new light," said Stephen Moret, secretary of economic development.

Rather than courting Corporate America, state economic development officials see the Saints’ Super Bowl debut as a powerful start to a long-term rebranding of Louisiana’s image.

For many people around the country, Hurricane Katrina was the last good look they got at New Orleans. The Super Bowl creates a chance to show that the city is strong and rebuilding required of ordinary New Orleanians the same sort of character and teamwork that the Saints display on the field and in their philanthropic efforts.

"It’s that we’re not just back, but we’re better. I think that same sort of concept can be applied to the state as a whole," Moret said. More here.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Marketing logistics cluster crucial for development, official says

By GENE ZALESKI, T&D Staff Writer
Monday, February 01, 2010

“If we are going to increase the per-capita income in our state, we just can’t do it in Columbia, Charleston and Greenville. We have to do it in every corner in our state and in every community in our state.”

In order to help reach the goal, Deepal Eliatamby, president of Columbia-based Alliance Consulting Engineers and cochair of the New Carolina Distribution Cluster, told about 100 gathered at the Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College Student and Community Life Center Thursday evening that the strengthening and aggressive marketing of the local and state’s Transportation, Distribution and Logistics Cluster is a key component to economic success.

“TDL is both high tech and rural and low tech,” Eliatamby said. “Everybody relies on the TDL either directly or indirectly.”

Eliatamby was the featured speaker at the Orangeburg and Calhoun County Industry Appreciation Banquet.

Eliatamby said the TDL cluster is a “huge job creator,” noting the Port of Charleston alone is estimated to be $45 billion or 30 percent of the state’s gross domestic product and roughly 250,000 people associated with jobs related to Port activity.

“The TDL customer plays a huge role in South Carolina,” Eliatamby said, touting the state’s location as ideal. “The Port of Charleston is our biggest economic development asset in the state.”

ACE launched a “strategic communications” plan last fall to help bolster the state’s TDL Cluster.

The TDL cluster consists of World Trade City Orangeburg and the Orangeburg County Development Commission. The cluster has about 40 participants.

The plan outlines five main goals and strategies to accomplish over the course of the next year, including raising awareness and recruiting stakeholders; marketing the importance of the cluster; establishing a TDL council composed of industry and government members; and raising funds to support the cluster’s growth, development and projects.

The TDL Cluster has been working over the past two years to develop a strategic communications plan that industry leaders identified at a statewide summit held in May 2008.

The state’s seaports, airports, interstate system, 2,600 miles of rail, five major interstates and work force development programs are all touted as assets for the state and the TDL.

“We need to improve our per-capita income so that our kids and our grandchildren have a place to work and live,” Eliatamby said. “So they can stay right here in our state and contribute to the well being of our state.”

As part of his presentation, Eliatamby encouraged all in attendance to join the cluster, provide contact information for stakeholders, identify legislators who can help bolster the cluster and give financially.

T&D Staff Writer Gene Zaleski can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 803-533-5551.