Sunday, March 28, 2010

Outreach to Italy pays off for Coral Gables

By Priscilla Greear
Gables Home Page

In 2008 the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce and the Beacon Council of Miami-Dade County conducted their first joint international mission to Italy to promote the council’s new initiative to brand Miami as a destination for fashion and lifestyle businesses.

Representatives of the Beacon Council, the official economic development partnership of Miami-Dade County, and the chamber met with leading fashion and business organizations. The Italian business leaders outlined for the Miami delegation plans to develop a facility in the United States to promote tourism in and distribute products from Tuscany. As a result, the Italian delegation last November held the Wine & Fashion Florence mini-trade show at the Biltmore Hotel to test the market, showcasing Tuscan leather goods, jewelry tourism, fashion and culture.

At the March 18 Good Morning Coral Gables Breakfast sponsored by the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce at the Biltmore, Beacon’s president and CEO Frank Nero announced plans for Wine, Fashion Florence to make its first U.S. investment in Coral Gables: It plans to open a store in September on Aragon Avenue across from Books & Books.

“They had their attention on New York City and, of course, we came in and together pitched Miami-Dade County as a viable alternative,” Mr. Nero said. “This would not have happened without your help and support. Now that’s what I call a partnership. The Coral Gables Chamber gets it.”

The Beacon Council is currently working on 80 projects that involve businesses evaluating expansion or relocation to Miami-Dade, he reported. Among positive developments, VISA will open a new global customer service center, creating 366 new jobs, and U.S. Gas & Electric will expand operations, creating 125 new jobs. This work is critical when job losses continue in construction, manufacturing, retail trade, financial services and leisure and hospitality industries and the county lost 31,200 jobs between January 2009 and January 2010, he said. More here.

FSEDI trots globe in jobs pursuit

FRANKLIN—Officials with Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. criss-crossed the country and traveled to Europe once in its bid to bring jobs and businesses to Franklin and Southampton County.

“Much is learned from these contacts,” said John Smolak, the organization’s president and CEO. “Some trips are very industry-focused, so we learn about economic and business trends in that industry sector.”

According to information provided by Smolak and FSEDI’s Board of Directors, representatives of the organization went on 10 trips, officially called “marketing missions,” during the 2009 fiscal year.

How much was spent

The trips collectively cost $20,982.90. Most were to domestic destinations, but one was to Vancouver, Canada, and another was to Hannover, Germany.

FSEDI has a $700,000 annual operating budget, including $150,000 each from the City of Franklin and Southampton County. Two additional stakeholders, the Camp Foundations and Franklin-Southampton Charities, contribute the rest of the funds for FSEDI, which was founded in August 2005.

Based on its $700,000 annual operating budget, FSEDI allocated 3 percent of its budget toward travel expenses. However, FSEDI only spent $513,606 of the $700,000 it was given for fiscal 2009, so travel amounted to 4 percent of actual expenditures.

Comparatively, FSEDI spent $14,558 and $22,228 on travel expenses during the 2007 and 2008 fiscal years, respectively. Those figures represented allocations of 2.0 and 3.2 percent of their respective annual operating budgets, but they were 3.44 and 4.86 percent of the money FSEDI actually spent. The organization spent $422,872 in fiscal 2007 and $457,380 in fiscal 2008.

FSEDI has so far spent $5,649 on travel during the current fiscal year.

Where FSEDI went

Five of the trips were in tandem with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, and four were with the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance. HREDA membership costs FSEDI $54,000 a year.

“We partner with the region and the state economic development organizations to gain maximum marketing opportunities in a very cost-effective way,” Smolak said. “These missions are intended to develop business prospects interested in both the Hampton Roads area as well as the Commonwealth.”

Smolak and Tommy Miller, business development manager for FSEDI, each made five trips.

The trips began in August 2008, when Miller went to Vancouver with HREDA for a “corporate marketing mission,” which Smolak and the board noted was made because “HREDA identified several targeted companies as part of their international marketing program. FSEDI continues to follow up with contacts expressing a need for a U.S. location on the East Coast.”

The same month, Smolak traveled to the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta with representatives of VEDP. The trip was to target wood-products companies.

Miller made two trips in October, both with VEDP. The first was to the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals conference in Denver, the second for the Natural Products Expo East in Boston.

The latter “continues to be a targeted industry sector for Virginia and matches up well with FSEDI’s focus to assist agribusiness in our area,” Smolak and the board said of the Boston expo.

The next month, Smolak went to the CoreNet Global Summit in Orlando with VEDP officials.

CoreNet is “a national and international organization of real estate directors and managers for large worldwide corporations,” Smolak said. “VEDP sponsored both an exhibit and a special reception for networking with decision-makers. (I) made several new contacts to follow up with specific marketing information.”

In February 2009, Miller attended the Retail Industry Leaders Association Conference in Dallas with HREDA. Smolak said this show was attended by “major logistics and distribution directors for the retail sector, such as Wal-mart, Target and many others. HREDA sponsored an exhibit, plus the Virginia Port Authority also (attended the) conference (and had) an exhibit for networking sessions.”

Smolak returned to Dallas the next month with HREDA to attend a “major forum” by the Southern Economic Development Council.

More than 40 site consultants attended the seminar, “plus (FSEDI and HREDA) visited a consultant firm with a project for Hampton Roads. (It was) an excellent contact and networking opportunity with major site location consultants.”

Miller made the trip to Germany and the Hannover Industrial Fair in April with HREDA.

It is “the largest industrial trade fair in the world, hosting a variety of industrial manufacturers,” Smolak said. “A large emphasis was on renewable-energy projects. (Miller) made contacts with over 25 new firms, held several outside appointments and visited existing firms with operations in the Hampton Roads area.”

Also in April, Smolak attended a second CoreNet Global Summit with VEDP officials, this one in Dallas. It was the third trip to Dallas by FSEDI officials, and Smolak made back-to-back trips there.

He said he made 10 new contacts and followed up with several existing contacts and consultants.

“VEDP sponsored an exhibit to facilitate networking with participants,” Smolak said.

The last trip of the fiscal year was made by Smolak in May, when he traveled to Norfolk to attend the annual Virginia Maritime Association meeting, where he “made several new contacts with logistics and distribution providers and spent time with a third-party logistics provider company from Michigan with plans to consider the Hampton Roads area.”

© 2010 The Tidewater News, Inc.

Bremerton Port Gives Kitsap Economic Development Alliance a Quota

By Rachel Pritchett

Originally published 07:16 p.m., March 24, 2010
Updated 07:25 p.m., March 24, 2010


To see if it’s getting enough bang for its buck, the Port of Bremerton has negotiated a tough new professional-services contract with the local economic-development group it helps support.

For the first time, the port’s contract with the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance contains strict requirements for KEDA to make at least 200 contacts with defense contractors and generate at least 20 solid leads of some that might want to settle at the port.

It also requires KEDA to make at least 100 contacts with prospective businesses for port industrial and business parks, leading to 10 solid leads, plus more over the two-year life of the contract that the port supports with $35,000 annually. KEDA’s annual budget is about $370,000.

If KEDA doesn’t deliver in this rough economy, there could be a divorce.

“If it doesn’t perform, I’m going to be the first one to request or make the motion that the contract be discontinued,” said port Commissioner Larry Stokes.

“To this point in time, I have a big question, and I just don’t think it’s worthwhile,” he said.

Tim Thomson, port real-estate director, said the relationship between the port and KEDA is a “very healthy one.”

“They have access to resources that we the port don’t have, so it complements our efforts to recruit businesses to the port.”

This past year, however, port support of KEDA was yanked during port budget negotiations. It was later reinserted at the request of Commissioner Bill Mahan.

Mahan, at a port meeting Tuesday, assured Stokes that later this year the port will have enough data to quantify how KEDA is doing with its new directives, thanks to the new contract.

The Bremerton port is the only local port that lends support to KEDA. It’s KEDA’s second-biggest supporter, behind only Kitsap County.

Stokes has been concerned that the port isn’t getting enough love from KEDA.

“We’re paying these people $100 a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” he said.

He said he voted for the contract Tuesday because the port has a new marketing person on board and he wants to give Chris Case a chance to work with KEDA and get more results.

KEDA represents not just the port, but all of Kitsap to prospective new businesses. It currently is trying to attract Westbury Inc., an airport passenger systems manufacturer, to Twelve Trees Industrial Park near Poulsbo.

Port Chief Executive Officer Cary Bozeman said his organization is not trying to appropriate KEDA for use as its business-recruitment arm at the expense of others. Measuring results is “just a good business practice,” Bozeman said.

“That’s a policy we’re going to apply to everything we do now.”

Kitsap EDA Executive Director Bill Stewart seemed to be onboard with the new contract and said he actually wrote much of it.

Stewart admitted that of the group’s contracts with its 10 main supporters — mostly local governments — the port contract is the only one that has quotas.

The contract has a heavy focus on attracting military contractors to the port as part of an envisioned military campus.

“The market that is here is the military,” Bozeman said.

Green hires firm to improve economic development staff report
Posted Mar 23, 2010 @ 01:48 PM

GREEN — The city has hired Cleveland communications firm Dix & Eaton to help with economic development and marketing communications to encourage business development within Green.

Dix & Eaton specializes in public relations, investor relations and customer communications. It will work with officials to tout the city’s value as a high-quality place in which to live and do business, said information from the city.

“We are excited to work with Dix & Eaton to get our story out to businesses within Green, beyond our region and outside Ohio,” said Mayor Dick Norton. “Our goal is to bring more jobs to our city by attracting businesses from outside of Ohio to Green.”

Economic development is one of the four strategic initiatives outlined by Norton in his 2008 strategic plan.

An economic development committee of city employees and community members has identified four goals: business attraction, retention, expansion, and marketing available commercial property.

“Hiring a firm such as Dix & Eaton to help us tell our story is the next logical step toward achieving those goals,” said Wayne Wiethe, director of planning.

The firm will gather information about Green from a variety of sources, including interviews with city employees, elected officials, and business and community leaders, the release said. Once the information-gathering is complete, the firm will help the city identify key themes, assist with national media relations and offer specific marketing recommendations.

Copyright 2010 Some rights reserved

County IDA pays firm $150 hourly fee for PR [The Buffalo News, N.Y.]

(Buffalo News (NY) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Mar. 24--The Erie County Industrial Development Agency is paying $150 an hour for a public relations consultant that is performing work that most similar agencies are handling in house.

The ECIDA's current public relations firm, Travers Collins and Co., does a lot of routine work, such as writing news releases, and last year played a central role in the agency's efforts to defuse criticism of its decision to give a $50,000 loan to One Sunset without vetting the restaurant's application.

The ECIDA paid an even higher fee -- $190 an hour -- to its previous public relations consultant, Eric Mower Associates.

--Outrages & Insights blog: What $150 an hour will buy you ------ That's about what the agency pays for legal help. Harris Beach, the agency's law firm, charges $125 an hour for the time of associate attorneys. The going rate for partners in the firm is $150 to $175 an hour.

County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz is among those who believe that the agency's contract with public relations consultants is an unnecessary expense.

"It doesn't seem to me they need to retain a public relations firm to do what a high-level member of their staff ought to be doing," he said.

"Considering it's an entity that's supposed to be developing business, you'd like to think it's spending its resources developing business rather than defending its actions," he added.

ECIDA officials defend their use of public relations consultants, saying that, among other things, they help facilitate media coverage that informs businesses of what the agency has to offer.

"To get the message out, we need some help. We don't have the staff time to do it," said Al Culliton, the agency's executive director, who said the ECIDA's staff has dropped from more than 25 to 16 in recent years. More here.

Piedmont Triad Representatives Marketing the Region to Atlanta Area Site Location Consultants

PIEDMONT TRIAD - Representatives from the Piedmont Triad visited Atlanta, GA this week to call on site location consultants. PTP representatives were Kelly Stuart, Vice President, Client Development, and Dawn Booker, Vice President, Marketing. Piedmont Triad regional representatives included: Judy Stevens, Executive Director, Montgomery Economic Development; Alan D Wood, Director, Stokes County Economic Development; and Todd Tucker, President, Surry County Economic Development Partnership.

While in Atlanta, the regional representatives met with representatives from 12 site location and national real estate development firms based in the area. The trip is a continuation of the Piedmont Triad Partnership’s ongoing direct-contact program targeting third-party advisors to businesses on matters regarding facility expansion and relocation.

“The Atlanta site consultant community is the largest single market in the U.S. for our contact efforts,” says Don Kirkman, President and CEO, Piedmont Triad Partnership. “Many of the advisory groups with offices in the Atlanta area serve clients with operational interests that include the southeastern United States. Therefore, we want to make sure that those advisors are regularly updated on the advantages and assets available to companies operating in the Piedmont Triad,” adds Kirkman.

The Piedmont Triad Region also hosted a reception and regional briefing for several Atlanta area site consultant and development firms. The reception was held at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

The Piedmont Triad Partnership (PTP), one of seven regional economic development partnerships in North Carolina, is the economic development organization representing the 12-county Piedmont Triad region. The PTP is the lead organization for the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) initiative, which supports the development of an integrated regional economic development and workforce development strategy for the Piedmont Triad. The Piedmont Triad, the nation's 37th-largest metro region with more than 1.6 million residents, includes the counties of Alamance, Caswell, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Montgomery, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, and Yadkin.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Signals indicate RadioShack will remain in Fort Worth

The Fort Worth Business Press
March 12, 2010

The tide looks to be turning for RadioShack Corp. to retain its corporate headquarters in Fort Worth after just last fall reportedly shopping the country for a new corporate headquarters location.

RadioShack extended its lease at its current location within The Tarrant County College District’s Trinity River campus, allowing the electronics retailer to remain in the space until June 30, 2016.

The lease extension, however, is contingent upon RadioShack receiving unspecified tax incentives with from the City of Fort Worth and the Tarrant County Commissioners Court.

“This amended lease agreement is a significant step toward a final decision on our headquarters location,” said James F. Gooch, executive vice president and CFO for RadioShack in an announcement of the lease. “We still need to work out some details concerning tax incentives with both the City of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. We are in discussions with officials from both bodies and we hope to bring the process to a conclusion as quickly as possible.”

According to the lease extension, terms call for RadioShack to pay TCCD lease rates comparable to Class A/B space for not more than 150,000 square feet and lease rates comparable to back office and shared service space for not more than 100,000 square feet. RadioShack’s option for extending the lease for the control center and the data center is unchanged.

Rumors flew nationwide in November 2009 that RadioShack was in the hunt for a new headquarters’ location. Though the Fort Worth electronics company issued a statement to the Fort Worth Business Press saying it does not comment on rumors or speculation other than to say no changes have been made to its lease, which runs through 2011, the buzz among Fort Worth dealmakers was that the search was on.

David Berzina, executive vice president of economic development for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, said Fort Worth competed with five top-tier communities for RadioShack’s headquarters including Irving; Tampa, Fla., Albuquerque, NM, Raleigh, NC, and Nashville, Tenn. more here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Report suggests revamping Economic Development Corp.

The Kansas City Star

A critical evaluation of how Kansas City handles economic development got a mixed reception Thursday amid signs of another split between the mayor and City Council members.

The analysis, prepared for the Economic Development Corp. by Boston Consulting Group, contended that the city trailed its national and metropolitan competitors in economic development. It suggested sweeping changes to make the city more business-friendly.

The report’s most aggressive recommendation calls for dismantling much of the EDC and handing most of its development and incentive programs over to City Hall.

It says that would allow the agency to concentrate on retaining and promoting existing businesses.

That’s the preferred option of EDC Chairman Mike Chesser, who is CEO of Great Plains Energy. Chesser, with the backing of Mayor Mark Funkhouser, is leading the effort to revamp the city’s economic development efforts.

“This is not working for us,” the mayor told a special EDC board meeting. “We need to do something differently.

“In terms of our market share, Kansas City, Missouri, even with the Northland growth … our proportion of the metropolitan population has declined, as well as the concentration of wealth.”

The mayor also said small-business owners told him they never hear from the EDC.

“The best return on economic development is to help existing businesses stay and promote organic growth,” he said.

But the idea of overhauling the EDC got no support from three council members at the meeting — and any changes would require council approval.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of us beating up on ourselves,” said Councilwoman Deb Hermann, noting the city’s previous focus on downtown redevelopment is paying off as Big 12 tournament fans enjoy new amenities.

She also called the development and population boom in the Northland another success story.

More pointedly, Hermann said Chesser and others had not done enough to include council members in their discussions.

Chesser cautioned that the review was only at the “midway point” and was seeking suggestions from the EDC board and others. A concrete set of recommendations is not likely until April.

The study said the Kansas City metropolitan area, both Missouri and Kansas, was below the national average when it came to job creation or business growth in recent years. If the area had kept pace with the nation, it would have added 17,000 jobs and $6.5 billion in business activity since 1990.

It found that within the area, Jackson County employment was roughly at its 1990 level, and the rest of the area had grown 30 percent during that period. The report did not break out the city of Kansas City itself; the city occupies not only part of Jackson County but parts of Platte, Clay and Cass counties.

The report suggested three options for the EDC:

•An “all-inclusive” option, where the EDC continues its current economic development activities, including full support of its development agencies.

•An “independent service provider” option, where the EDC continues to run its administrative and development programs but transfers the fiscal analysis of development incentives to the city.

•A “focused advocate for business” option that would transfer all development programs to the city. The EDC then would become a more public-private organization for business retention.

A major point in the report was that the EDC now allots just 10 percent of its budget to business retention programs. The rest is devoted to running several development agencies, including the Tax Increment Financing Commission, and administrative costs.

The analysis suggests that if the development programs were handed off to City Hall, the EDC would become much more focused on business retention and could attract private financial support.

None of the current recommendations calls for creating a chamber of commerce focused strictly on business within the city limits of Kansas City.

The mayor suggested that Kansas City might want to follow the example of suburban communities that have their own chambers: “Kansas City, Missouri, is competing against other cities in the metro. … We have no army for us. We have no chamber of commerce.”

Others suggested that if the EDC needs to do a better job reaching out to existing businesses, it needs more funding.

Jeff Kaczmarek, the EDC’s president and CEO, said his agency had seen its city funding drop over the past three years from $1.1 million to $800,000.

“We used to have an outreach effort when we had funding,” he said.

The EDC still had 184 direct meetings with existing city businesses last year, he said, and sent a representative to 96 business association meetings.

Councilman Ed Ford suggested that the EDC form more alliances with existing business associations such as the Black Chamber of Commerce and community improvement districts.

Ford also said he wouldn’t support shifting development functions back to City Hall.

Councilman John Sharp supported beefing up the EDC’s effort to retain and promote current businesses.

“The city isn’t pulling its weight in economic development,” he said. “We have let our funds decrease over the years, and a modest increase would make a difference.”

David Frantze, a development lawyer, noted that overhauling the EDC would not address the city’s trouble handling permits, inspections and other bureaucratic functions.

“Capital goes where it’s wanted. Right now we don’t have an environment where capital is wanted. Right now we have a city where it takes five months to get permits.

“Pulling more development functions to the city could make it more difficult to bring business to the city."

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Regional Alliance restructures, focuses efforts on recruitment

By Sharon Hayes

He’s been on the job as interim president and CEO of the Regional Alliance for Economic Development for just over a year now. And already Tom Ferguson has restructured the organization, cut its staff in half, and changed its focus from marketing to recruitment.

Ferguson — who admits he wondered a year ago if the alliance was savable — believes the organization now has a fighting chance, and is hoping it can eventually realize the ambitious goals for job creation that its founders envisioned five years ago.

High hopes

The alliance founders — including some of the most influential business people in the area — had high hopes when they announced their plans in 2005. They wanted to create 7,200 high-paying jobs in five years and increase the region’s average industry wage by 20 percent.

They wanted to launch a regional branding and marketing effort to showcase the region to the rest of the world.

They wanted to commission a study to determine businesses and industries whose needs matched the region’s existing infrastructure, resources and assets.

They wanted to hire an economic development professional with global marketing experience to lead the initiative.

And they wanted to investigate how to work with the region’s World Trade Center effort to help market the area around the globe.

The alliance launched a campaign to raise up to $5 million in public and private commitments to fund the first five years of the effort. And it hired veteran economic developer Andrew Burke, who brought with him an impressive resume of successes that the alliance hoped would be duplicated here. He started his new duties in September 2005.

Under Burke’s direction, the alliance conducted an industry cluster analysis and workforce profiles of the region.

It also launched a new marketing effort, branding the region as “Performance USA.”

And it purchased the license for the Mountain South World Trade Center, resulting in a one-time cost of $250,000, plus an annual $10,000 membership fee. Alliance members were hoping the WTC license would connect the region with other World Trade Centers around the globe, generating new business for the area.

But business leads began drying up as the national economy headed downhill. Burke retired at the end of 2008, and Ferguson — another veteran economic developer who was known for his successes in Greene County — was asked to help the organization find a replacement.

The alliance, however, was in the fourth year of a five-year funding plan, and Ferguson knew finding a replacement would be tough. So he put his own company in mothballs and stepped in to serve as the interim president and CEO.

Changing direction

Right away, Ferguson knew he had his hands full. Financial support for the organization was waning, and too much emphasis had been placed on marketing and not enough on recruiting, Ferguson said.

“I told the executive committee right here in this room — ‘I don’t know if this thing is savable.’ I didn’t think we’d last a year,” Ferguson said.

He dug in his heels and announced internally that he would reorganize the alliance, first by downsizing the Mountain South World Trade Center. That meant the elimination of two positions.

Ferguson also cut a separate administrative job and outsourced part of those responsibilities.

Since then, the alliance’s main marketing guy, Brandon Talbert, left to take a job in Indiana. Ferguson said he’s working to fill that position now.

“When we get that job filled, we’ll have basically three full-time people compared to five or six which is what they had in the past. And we won’t miss a beat,” Ferguson said. “We’re more focused on what we’re doing now than we’ve ever been before.”

Last March, the alliance launched a new Web site at that could lead site selection consultants directly to the region. The Web site provides detailed information about the area, giving site selection consultants the data they need in considering a move here.

Ferguson plans to host consultants in town for the races at Bristol Motor Speedway, which as an alliance member, has provided the organization with a suite to use during NASCAR weekends.

In addition, Ferguson has contracted with a communications firm in Knoxville to craft press releases each month about topics pertaining to the region. The releases, which have included information about the region’s healthcare industry and its plastics and rubber industry, are sent to a network of 85,000 journalists and 4,000 news outlets.

Ferguson said the news releases are simply a way of getting information out about the region.

One of the first news releases the alliance issued was about the Academic Village in downtown Kingsport and the city’s efforts to boost its workforce development. Ferguson said the release caught the attention of Business Expansion magazine, an industry trade publication.

“They’re doing a work force development story, and as they began to look up things, they came across this press release,” Ferguson said.

He said a journalist from the magazine interviewed him and Kingsport City Manager John Campbell for a story.

“That’s why we do it — to get it out there in space. And they found it,” Ferguson said.

He’s also cut back on trade show attendance and is instead focusing on meeting directly with consultants. He said he’ll attend one trade show this year as opposed to six last year, and plans to visit Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston and New York for face-to-face meetings with more than 35 consultants.

Ferguson said the alliance is now focused on creating jobs — and achieving the goals that were put into place when the organization was formed five years ago.

“We are a different organization than what we were a year ago,” he said.

Another two years

The alliance’s board of directors has voted to move forward with a two-year funding plan to keep the organization alive. Ferguson said most of the major investors are back on board. Others have cut back their commitments due to economic conditions, and others have pulled their support altogether.

“They’re struggling, and we’re not going to twist their arms. But we’re not going to drop them off our membership roles. When things get better, we know we can count on them being back,” he said.

The alliance’s budget for 2010 is $557,000, vs. about $800,000 when the group first started.

The bulk of that funding comes from about 75 private investors.

And while the organization covers a 10-county area, its financial support from the public side comes from only a handful of communities.

“The fact is, when we get companies interested, we focus on the people who are putting the money in. Otherwise, we’re going to lose their support,” Ferguson said.

Local communities contributing the majority of public money are Sullivan County, Washington County and Greene County.

“We’re very frank about it. Most of the economic development is right in those three counties, and that’s where our efforts are going to be focused,” he said.

Moving forward

Last year, the alliance was asked to compile 14 proposals for companies looking to expand or relocate. None of those companies moved here, but three of them short-listed the area and visited, Ferguson said.

“What happened with most of those — they fell off the table. They were delayed, the projects were killed altogether, and there are a couple of them that are on hold and it all has to do with them waiting to see what happens with Cap -N- Trade (legislation),” Ferguson said.

And although business activity has slowed, Ferguson said, he still hopes to bring 10 prospects to the region this year.

Meanwhile, the alliance continues to pay the $10,000 annual membership fee for the Mountain South World Trade Center. But Ferguson isn’t so sure that money is being well spent.

“What we found out is — most of these World Trade Centers around the world are privately owned, they’re not not-for-profit groups like we are. and they all have a monetary mission — make money. And many of them are very much involved in real estate. We just couldn’t get it to work,” Ferguson said.

He said some organizations have stepped forward and talked with him about possibly buying the WTC license for the region.

Asked if the alliance could recoup its initial investment of $250,000, Ferguson shook his head. “We could never achieve that kind of value. Not even close,” he said.

“We can sell it. But we want to be very careful that it’s not seen as something that is lining someone else’s pockets with public money,” he said.

He said the future of the alliance will be determined in the next 24 months.

“People will support organizations that are relevant and are producing results. We got refocused, we reorganized, and started working in some areas that they had not been working in. And we started getting some results,” Ferguson said.

“It’s all going to be based on results. If we get results starting this year and in the next 24 months, we’ll be here in five years. It’s that simple.”

Friday, March 05, 2010

Waterloo area has no brand issues — but no real name either

By Martin DeGroot

Does this region really have a “branding” problem?

Some people think so, most notably of late the proponents of the amalgamation of Waterloo and Kitchener.

I’m not so sure. Other than the big metropolitan centres, various provincial capitals and maybe some resort areas, the Waterloo-area “brand” is arguably the most recognizable, authentic and positive in all of Canada.

There may be some challenges related to the way the area is perceived, as indicated by that snooty reference to Waterloo as a “cultural wasteland” in a metropolitan daily a few years back, or stories about doctors not wanting to come to what they think of as a predominantly rural community.

Such challenges, however, have nothing to do with our peculiar municipal structure. And they certainly won’t be solved by an amalgamation of two of the region’s three cities. On the contrary, a bilateral deal to unite Kitchener and Waterloo (which strikes me as more a separatist movement than a move toward an integrated municipal order) would only add to the confusion.

Paris, France, has to be one of the most successful urban “brands” in all the world. The fact that the “City of Light” is made of more than 1,300 separate municipalities doesn’t diminish it in any way. It is a reputation that has been earned through achievement, especially cultural achievement, over many centuries.

Here, too, we have branding assets rooted in achievement: learning, enterprise, a distinct heritage, deep-rooted cultural patterns, and the beginning — but only the beginning — of what can be considered exceptional artistic achievement.

There is no branding problem as such. What we do have, though, is a naming problem.

First, there’s the triple-W confusion: It’s the Waterloo name that carries the most weight, but there’s Waterloo the city, Waterloo the university, and Waterloo County/Region.

The arrogant North Waterloo habit of equating “K-W” with the whole muddles things even more. Kitchener and Cambridge are now almost as contiguous as K and W have long been. And the four townships are as significant to the character and reputation of this region as the cities are.

The K-W designation sounds increasingly parochial and anachronistic as time goes on. The unfortunate association with worn-out brands like K-Mart and the K-Car makes it even more unappealing.

My views on these matters have been shaped by the fact that for almost 10 years now I’ve been employed by the Waterloo Regional Arts Council, and therefore obliged to think in broad regional terms. But what started as a duty became a habit and eventually, a conviction: I’m for the county (or region), the whole county, and maybe more.

But I don’t know what to call it.

“K-W and Cambridge” is awkward. “Tri-city” or “CKW” ignores the townships. “Kitchener and surrounding area” or the “Kitchener CMA” is too K-centric.

The founders of the arts council and the management of this newspaper chose “Waterloo Region.” But Waterloo Region is not a place; it’s an administrative unit. A “region,” with or without a capital “R”, is a portion of something larger, not a distinct entity in and of itself, as a town, city or county can be.

The amalgamated K-W and Freeport hospitals and the Philharmonic family of choirs chose “Grand,” which certainly has merit.

So does “Waterloo-Wellington” in certain contexts, or “the heart of the 519.”

But none are ideal for Waterloo Region and its constituent elements.

Surely someone, here in what has been formally recognized as one of the smartest communities in the whole wide world, should be able to come up with something better.

Martin DeGroot is executive director of the Waterloo Regional Arts Council. He comments on arts and culture Saturdays in The Record. You can reach him by email at

Monday, March 01, 2010

Ohio's pain is Atlanta's gain

By Dan Chapman

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
6:02 p.m. Monday, February 22, 2010

First up was NCR, the famed, 125-year-old cash register company that moved its headquarters from Dayton, Ohio, to Duluth last June.

Then came Fischbein, which announced in July that Suwanee, not Cleveland, would be the site for a new production line.

Finally, earlier this month, aluminum can maker Novelis quit Cleveland and moved its North American headquarters to Buckhead.

For those keeping score: Atlanta 3, Ohio 0.

And that’s just in the last eight months.

Poaching business from the Rust Belt isn’t a new phenomenon. Midwest companies have been heading to the Sun Belt for decades to take advantage of balmy weather, tax breaks and non-union workers.

But the quantity, and quality, of the relocations augurs well for Atlanta. NCR, Novelis and Newell Rubbermaid moved headquarters – and hundreds of well-paid, white-collar jobs – from the Midwest to Atlanta, burnishing the city’s reputation as a corporate magnet.

In all, 43 Midwestern companies have established headquarters, warehouses, distribution centers, factories, branch offices or testing labs across the region since 1999, according to the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Ohio alone has shipped 20 of those companies or their units down Interstate 75. Only three other states -- California, Florida and Texas -- have been more generous toward Atlanta.

“We don’t have a ‘Target Ohio’ strategy,” said Hans Gant, a top Chamber recruiter. “And we’ don’t really say to the Rust Belt: ‘Come to the New South.’ We always target companies that have essentially out-grown their current locations. As companies become global players their needs change dramatically.”

While the loss of NCR, in particular, sticks in Ohio officials’ craws, they outwardly profess no strong animus toward business-stealing Atlanta.

“No one company moving from one place to another is a body blow,” Mark Barbash, chief economic development officer for the state of Ohio, said Monday. “Everybody looks at Ohio as the Rust Belt; we have to get rid of that impression. The whole national economy is in transition.”

Every relocation, of course, is different. Fischbein found cheaper accommodations for a new factory to make packaging equipment. Novelis’ global headquarters was already located in Atlanta; it made logistical sense for the North American headquarters to follow.

NCR – the Fortune 500 relocation coup of the year – chose Gwinnett for numerous reasons, according to CEO Bill Nuti and others. Hundreds of NCR employees already had white-collar jobs in Duluth and blue-collar ones in Columbus. A research tie-in with Georgia Tech was crucial. And Georgia and local communities gave the ATM maker $109 million in incentives to seal the deal.

Georgia business recruiters downplay state-specific targeting. Gant, for example, says corporate research, trade shows, site-selection consultants and cold-calling potential recruits around the country and the globe introduce prospects to Atlanta.

The state’s economic development department, for example, runs business-recruitment offices in Pennsylvania and California but not Ohio. Gant and Ken Stewart, the state’s economic development commissioner, travel extensively. Stewart, reluctantly, acknowledged he has visited Ohio “a few times” since becoming commissioner in January 2007.

“That’s no more than anywhere else,” he said. “We go where the companies are and where the opportunities are. State lines don’t matter. Country lines don’t matter. We’ll always be calling on new customers in order to keep the pipeline flowing.”

Ohio officials were miffed when NCR left Dayton for Atlanta. Barbash was more subdued Monday.

“We think Atlanta is a fine community,” he said. “Contrary to some, we don’t subscribe to the idea that economic development ought to be a zero-sum game. We don’t take the approach (of) stealing companies from one place or another.”

Barbash points to Ohio’s No. 4 spot in Site Selection Magazine’s 2009 ranking of best business climates as proof that, despite recent defections, Ohio remains a good place to do business. Georgia ranked No. 8.

Still, there’s no getting around that Ohio's loss has helped cushion Atlanta's recessionary pain.

“Obviously, it’s nice to know more Ohioans and Midwestern folks are settling down here, but when I start thinking about the economic well-being of my home state, I do have concerns,” said Shawn Murnahan, president of Ohio State University's growing alumni and booster club in Atlanta. “But if other Midwesterners are following me down here, it could be a good move for them.”