Monday, June 28, 2010

Regional cities approve pursuing new economic development plan

Submitted by The City Wire staff on Wed, 06/23/2010 - 8:24pm.

The newly minted Fort Smith Regional Economic Development Alliance is moving forward with the creation of an economic development strategy that could be ready by September.

More than 30 city and chamber leaders from eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas met Wednesday (June 23) at the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce to review the strategy proposal, learn more about website tools for the alliance and to consider options for hiring an executive director for the alliance.

Efforts at a third attempt to create a regional economic development alliance began with regional meetings conducted by Rob Ratley, Arkansas manager for OG&E and chairman of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce Economic Development division, and Fort Smith chamber President Paul Harvel. They began meeting earlier this year with chamber and community leaders in cities and chambers in LeFlore and Sequoyah counties in Oklahoma and Crawford, Franklin, Logan and Sebastian counties in Arkansas.

Those meetings resulted in the formation of an alliance that gave all member cities two votes. The regardless-of-size voting structure helped convince smaller communities in the area that the alliance would not be dominated by larger towns. On May 3, an executive committee for the alliance was formed, with Harvel serving as the interim executive director in addition to his chamber duties. Also on the executive committee are: Ratley, chairman; Fred Williams (Van Buren), vice chair; Lundy Kiger (eastern Oklahoma), vice chair; Jerrod Yarnell (First National Bank of Paris), treasurer; Kay Johnson (superintendent, Greenwood Public School District); and, Linda Hixson, (Paris Chamber of Commerce).

Del Boyette, principal with Little Rock-based Boyette Strategic Advisors, was introduced by Ratley and Harvel as the person they thought should conduct strategic analysis for the alliance. Harvel noted that Boyette had conducted the targeted industries studies for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. Boyette was the AEDC director between 1993-1997, and has also served as the deputy commissioner for economic development of the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism.

The primary message Boyette presented Wednesday was “to compete globally, you must cooperate regionally.” He said regional cooperation allows for cities to share expenses and resources, maximize leadership resources and provide a broader range of options for consultants who help companies find places to locate new operations.

“From a site selection perspective, numbers are important ... and a regional alliance can deliver those (numbers),” Boyette said.

He also said the three keys to regional economic development success are that community leaders “embrace regionalism,” that they find a development niche and they support entrepreneurship and innovation.

“A region and its leaders can’t close the door on entrepreneurship and innovation,” Boyette explained. “That’s critical to economic development today.”

Boyette said the process pursued for a new strategy would include:
• Initial assessment;
• Interviews and discussions with key people and groups;
• Online surveys;
• Site location consultant input;
• Summary analysis and presentation to communities; and,
• Progress reports.

The plan would likely be a “three-year blueprint that could be extended to five years,” Boyette said. The blueprint would include 5-7 economic development targets and “niche opportunities” for job growth. It would also include suggested improvements required to become more competitive. The improvements, Boyette noted, could come in the areas of workforce development, infrastructure, incentives and the overall business climate. He also said it would include an outline on how the regional alliance could work together internally and externally with entities like the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

Harvel said the AEDC has agreed to pay one-third of the cost — estimated to be less than $100,000 — of strategic plan development. He told the group he was confident other financial support would soon be in place for the remainder.

“We have to do it,” Fred Williams, Van Buren resident and owner of a business based in Fort Smith, said during open discussion of Boyette’s proposal. “If we want to work regionally in economic development, we have to do this. ... We have to move this forward.”

Yarnell, with First National Bank of Paris, moved that Boyette’s proposal be accepted. Fred Romo, head of the Ozark Area Chamber of Commerce, seconded the motion and it was approved unanimously.

Alliance members also approved the interim use of “Fort Smith Regional Economic Development Alliance” as the group’s name. Part of Boyette’s work is to determine if the name will be the best fit for future marketing and other elements of the strategy.

Alliance members also agreed to initially hire a part-time executive director. Harvel would not say if a specific person is under consideration.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Perry taps corporate fund to market Texas for business development


Gov. Rick Perry put a spotlight on Texas with his recent 12-day trip to Asia, where he promoted the state as a place to do business. The trip also brought more attention to TexasOne, the corporate-backed economic development fund that footed most of the bill.

The fund's contributors are members of an exclusive club, who enjoy special privileges, according to the amount they pay to sit at the table where economic development is the agenda. Contributions range from $1,000 to $50,000 a year.

In 2009, the fund collected $2.2 million and spent $1.6 million marketing the state.

Top-dollar donors, including corporations such as AT&T Inc. and organizations such as the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, get opportunities to network with corporate officials looking to expand or relocate their businesses to Texas.

TexasOne typically invites a few donors to do that at "signature events," mostly major sporting contests (think Super Bowl or NBA Finals) in Texas.

This being Texas, a pair of custom-made cowboy boots is thrown in for yearly donations of $10,000 or more.

On TexasOne's website, the public can view the names of donors, but not the annual reports that tout the organization's successes and how it spends its money. The reports are on a members-only Web page, although Perry's office provided them for this story.

Perry's Democratic opponent, Bill White, has criticized the arrangement as a "slush fund" that Perry has abused to promote himself and to underwrite a lavish lifestyle. White demanded the release of TexasOne records, but Perry was in China and did not respond.

Perry's office declined interviews for this story.

Modern-day governors always have been concerned with, and held responsible by voters for, the state's economic well-being.

In 2003, the Legislature upped the ante by consolidating the state's economic development responsibilities in the governor's office. It authorized the governor to solicit private donations, which are tax-deductible, for economic development. Lawmakers also created the Texas Enterprise Fund — initially $295 million in public money — so the governor could give companies incentives for expanding or relocating.

The arrangement allows Perry to be seen as the CEO of the world's 12th largest economy, a deal-closer in a roomful of business executives and a globe-trotting head of state.

Because of the unique nature of the setup, the line between public and private can get fuzzy.

Salaries of select employees of the Economic Development and Tourism division of the governor's office are subsidized by the Texas Economic Development Corp., the nonprofit parent of TexasOne, according to the nonprofit's tax returns.

Aaron Demerson , a Perry staff member and executive director for economic development, received a $12,504 supplement as an ex-officio member of the nonprofit's board in 2007, the most recent figure available from the nonprofit's tax returns.

Likewise, TexasOne pays for certain Perry trips. TexasOne will pay the $170,000 cost of sending Perry, his wife Anita and eight staff members on the Asia trip, for example.

A company owned by Jennifer Lustina, a former campaign manager for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, helps raise money for TexasOne. The firm was paid $231,000 in 2007, according to the latest tax returns available.

The donations are kept in a separate account by the state comptrollers office, and by law are dedicated to economic development, although Perry's office maintains that the donations are not state money.

Perry's economic development division has never been audited, although state law requires Demerson, as executive director, to have a private audit if the state auditor defers. Perry's office said its internal auditor has decided that the risk level is too low to warrant an audit.

Perry hires Demerson and appoints the overlapping boards of the nonprofit corporation and TexasOne.

Aside from paying for Perry's travel, TexasOne contributed $250,000 of the $425,000 required for Texas to have its own week of recognition at the USA Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010. Perry attended the expo and met with government and business officials in China, Taiwan and South Korea. The trip was intended to lay the groundwork for future business ventures.

Massey Villarreal, a Houston business executive and the first president of TexasOne, said the private donations are necessary.

He noted that the Legislature at times has questioned Perry's use of Enterprise Fund incentives.

"When you are talking about marketing, there's even more scrutiny," Villarreal said. "I guess the Legislature would want more oversight" if tax dollars were used for that purpose.

Over the past six years, membership in TexasOne has grown from 21 companies, cities and organizations to more than 150.

The annual reports also have changed as the operation became better funded and more sophisticated.

In 2004, the governor's office and TexasOne spent 80 percent of the money on hosting members and executives at the Super Bowl, a PGA golf tournament and a Major League Baseball All-Star Game — all held in Houston that year.

Super Bowl-related entertainment cost more than $65,000; the golf tournament and baseball game each cost about half that.

In each case, TexasOne claimed in its literature that the events led to corporate relocations or expansions, although the $48.75 million in public subsidies that Perry gave the four companies that later created jobs in Texas might have had something to do with it.

The 2005 report collapsed the details of spending, including entertaining at the sporting events, into categories such as "lead generation and development," "Texas recruitment activities" and "membership development."

In 2009, the report had added a "Big Picture" category. That's the one used for the donation from Perry campaign contributor Doug Pitcock, who loaned his construction company's private jet for the governor's 2009 trip to Israel to receive the "Defender of Jerusalem" award and meet with business and government leaders.

The cost of using the jet was $180,471, according to a TexasOne document.

Sometimes, TexasOne entertaining occurs out-of-state.

When the University of Texas played for the national football championship in the Rose Bowl in 2006, Texas officials had the opportunity to mingle with California executives.

"It's a good way to carve out time in their busy schedules," said Michael Rollins, president of the Austin chamber of commerce. "If we can get an executive there, we know we will get some one-on-one time."

He said the $300,000 that the Austin chamber has donated to TexasOne over the past six years is money well-spent.

He said 30 percent of the business leads that Austin pursues come from the governor's office.

Rollins cited Home Depot's decision to create a technology center in Austin in 2004 as one direct result of working through TexasOne and the governor's office.

Rollins echoes other TexasOne participants who say Perry is excellent at closing deals with business executives.

"He knows what's important, and he can speak about it at their level," Rollins said.

TexasOne's sliding dues-schedule allows even smaller communities to participate.

For its $1,000, the Buda Economic Development Corp. doesn't get invited to Super Bowls or the meetings reserved for big-dollar donors.

But Warren Ketteman, executive director of the Buda organization, said, "I just want to be a player and be part of the process."

He also subscribes to a trickle-down theory of economic development: "What's good for Austin, what's good for San Antonio, is good for me."

Andrew Karch, an associate professor of government at the University of Texas, said economic development has changed with global competition after an historic recession.

"Economic development has become more entrepreneurial," Karch said. "Governors are acting more like venture capitalists."

Governors not only lure large company expansions; they also try to identify emerging industries, as Perry did with wind power, to get their states in on the ground floor, Karch explained.

Bob Wingo, the co-owner of an El Paso advertising firm, is president emeritus of TexasOne and has served in almost every capacity on its board.

"We've become more masterful in talking to companies and having the governor close deals at our events," he said.

Some states, such as Michigan, are spending large sums to market themselves, Wingo said, while TexasOne has focused on networking with company officials, corporate site selectors and other decision-makers.

"Not only do we connect with them, we know them," he said. "We have their cell numbers. We can reach them with BlackBerry. We have an ongoing network of key folks."

Wingo said board members are personally involved, going on trade missions, monitoring the financial details and being part of closing deals.

But the key, Wingo said, is Perry: "He is the guy, our executive who has led the charge."; 445-3617

Group lures businesses to Lee

By Tim Engstrom • • June 26, 2010

Efforts to market Lee County as a prime place to do business have helped to spark a business expansion and a relocation that together will create 160 jobs, the county's economic development chief said Friday.

The companies' identities are still cloaked by confidentiality agreements, but one of the two could be named as early as next week, said Jim Moore, executive director of Lee County's Economic Development Office.

"We will make things happen for a company that wants to be here," Moore said. "We have made it work."

Moore mentioned the companies as part of a midyear update at Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort for about 100 members of the Horizon Council, the local public/private partnership; and the Horizon Foundation, the group's fundraising arm.
Moore recapped the group's "Together We Mean Business" advertising campaign within Southwest Florida that has included traditional media and online social networking, including about $300,000 worth of donated advertising.

The campaign also spotlights the county's incentive fund, which was created in late 2008 with $25 million taken from reserve funds.

"We have had people walk in the door who have had a second home or a vacation home here and they have seen our marketing said, 'I want to talk to you about that,'" Moore said. Donations from businesses to the Horizon Foundation, along with the in-kind donations, have paid for the campaign.

The group raised $338,000 last year and has raised $280,250 of its goal of $375,000 this year.

In six months, the campaign has generated 55 legitimate business prospects, of which about 20 percent - or 11 businesses - are expected to result in expansions or relocations, Moore said.

That would amount to up to 400 jobs, he said.

Doug Gyure, vice president of S4J Manufacturing Services in Cape Coral, said he was impressed by the efforts of the business community and the Economic Development Office.

"The office is certainly working very hard and making things come to fruition," said Gyure, whose company makes parts for medical equipment, such as hospital-grade blood pressure monitors. "We all know that this is a great place to do business and we just have to let everyone else know."

The economic development office is also adding an element in its marketing effort to encourage local business leaders to reach out to peers outside the area, including a website, and social networking sites.

One especially gratifying lead came from the business networking site LinkedIn, Moore said.

The owner of an information technology company in Cleveland posted a comment on the site asking about the business climate here, which prompted eight positive comments in response.

That business owner is now talking with the office about opportunities, Moore said.
"If it weren't for the folks in the community saying, 'You ought to take a second look at us,' I don't think we would be talking to him," he said.

John Rhodes, senior principal of Moran, Stahl & Boyer, a site selection firm, complimented Lee on the campaign.

"You are really hitting on every element," he said.

Rhodes spoke to the group about the factors that influence companies to relocate here and encouraged all business leaders to think about the area's attributes, including Southwest Florida International Airport.

"You are blessed to have what you have," Rhodes said. "You have tremendous air access for a community your size."

Ryan Goldberg, president of Regions Bank in Lee and Charlotte counties, said he is impressed by the local business development efforts.

"I think they are right on track," Goldberg said. "I think good things are starting happen."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Glendale’s Identity Crisis

By Jessica Selva

Quick question: What comes to mind when someone mentions Glendale?

City and business officials hope you think of more than just that place between Burbank and Pasadena.

To better define the city economically and as a community, officials are in the midst of gathering input from business leaders and others about how to brand the city in hopes of creating a new marketing campaign.

Meanwhile, city leaders are trying to develop the city’s nightlife with an arts and entertainment district while also planning a creative corridor for media and design businesses.

“We’re trying to create brand awareness of what Glendale is,” said Philip Lanzafame, director of the city’s community redevelopment and housing department. “We want to make sure that when somebody says ‘Glendale,’ there is a positive impression.

Lanzafame added that the city’s promotional campaign, which could be implemented starting early next year, is meant to promote the city and its business community to those outside of Glendale.

However, how the city will define itself is still being determined through research conducted by North Star Destination Strategies, a city and community branding company based in Nashville, Tenn., hired by the city in October.

“This will not only inform us about who we are and the message that we want to project to the world, but it will also identify areas that will help in our strategy in the marketing plan,” Lanzafame said.

City staff launched a Web site with a community survey this month to help officials learn how those living in, working in and visiting Glendale perceive the area. The survey, which can be found at www.brand, is the last stage of North Star’s research process.

The survey is expected to be available until the end of summer. North Star will then create and present an implementation plan based on the data by the end of the year. The plan should be ready for use next year, said Annette Vartanian, administrative analyst for the city’s department of development services.

Since February, the company has already spent time researching information about the city, released a vision survey to about 400 community stakeholders, conducted focus groups and performed random interviews on the streets of Glendale.

“A brand is what people say about you when you’re not around, and branding is what you do about it,” said Ed Barlow, North Star’s director of client services. “Our process is taking research to strategy to creative (recommendation) to action.”

North Star has been involved with the branding of about 110 communities across North America, which include Lancaster, Calif.; Providence, Rhode Island; and Jackson, Miss.

A different approach

The new marketing plan differs from past efforts to promote the city because it does not simply focus on one industry area. Instead, it will provide an anchor message that defines Glendale and tier off into other campaigns, Lanzafame said.

Businesses and organizations within the city will be able to implement the campaign into their own marketing plans if they choose to do so, he added.

Rick Lemmo, president-elect for the Glendale Chamber of Commerce and senior vice president of community relations for developer Caruso Affiliated, said a more cohesive marketing plan for the city has been needed for some time.

“I do really think the city needs a more consistent branding approach,” said Rick Lemmo, who participated in the focus group research process. “(Before) everybody was going their own way. There was not a consistent umbrella. There were many great ideas, but none that went out of their way to work together.”

Lemmo said the city and North Star are taking the right steps by involving the community in its marketing strategy, though he said he added that he wishes the input was more heavily weighted toward the business community.

Several business sectors identified by city staff as Glendale’s strengths include its auto dealership area called Brand Boulevard of Cars, its retail centers, health care providers, manufacturing sector and media and entertainment sector.

Creative businesses

The planned arts and entertainment district, which would run primarily along Maryland Avenue, would potentially boost the city’s nightlife with the addition of establishments such as museums, art galleries, nightclubs, restaurants, music venues and concept stores.

The city is also currently in negotiations with the Museum of Neon Art to relocate from its site in Los Angeles to Brand Boulevard, which would it make it Glendale’s first museum, Lanzafame said.

The Creative Corridor, located along San Fernando Road, would build on the city’s existing media anchors, such as KABC, DreamWorks, Walt Disney Imagineering and Technicolor. The corridor would be an attempt to attract more media, design and other creative companies to the area.

Lemmo said the new corridor combined with the marketing plan should make a positive impact.

“In the short term it will build awareness for the city, and that awareness will absolutely cause a more positive impact on economic development,” he said. “But in the long run, it will make people of all areas of Southern California more familiar with our city.”

Partnership 2020 hopes to lure jobs in five main sectors

By Randy McClain, The Tennessean

When Mayor Karl Dean and Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce's top executives today unveil a new five-year plan to attract more jobs and help existing businesses expand, expect the words innovation, technology and regionalism to ripple through their report.

After several months of work that included comparing Nashville with peer cities such as Atlanta, Austin and Indianapolis, chamber officials will divulge a 16-page study designed to guide economic development in Middle Tennessee over the next several years.

The plan, dubbed Partnership 2020, targets five broad economic sectors for new jobs, including:

-Attracting national and regional headquarters, including major firms' information technology operations, data centers and call centers.

-Adding to Nashville's already vibrant health-care community by attracting new medical headquarters operations, hospital companies and research labs and trying to build drug and medical device manufacturing in the region. Another key focus will be getting a massive medical trade mart up and running on the site of the current Nashville Convention Center downtown.

-Luring more companies in advanced manufacturing, including firms tied to solar energy and other "green" jobs. Chamber officials say such high-tech manufacturers generally have strong pay and benefits and help boost an area's per-capita income quickly.

-Expanding the area's music industry and helping businesses in that sector make the tricky transition to greater digital delivery and marketing of music. Jobs that will be sought go far beyond songwriting and studio work, the chamber said, suggesting the evolving industry will have as much to do with computer software as with lyrics and guitar frets.

Supply chain management is another area of interest. Trucking, air cargo, warehouses and logistics management to move goods into and through the Nashville area will remain a solid job producer because of the city's location as the hub of several interstate highways.

Dean and Ralph Schulz, president of the chamber of commerce, said economic development must take a regional approach as the economy recovers over the next five years.

Innovation wanted

The mayor said greater emphasis on mass transit and improved education are two key areas of concern that the Partnership 2020 plan intends to address. "Nashville's vital core needs to be served more and more by transit," Schulz said.

Nurturing innovative companies and novel business ideas are other planks of the Partnership 2020 plan. Schulz and Dean said the plan calls for economic diversity, including creating an entrepreneur center here to help startup companies get off the ground by putting new business owners in touch with specialists in their field and with possible collaborators or investors.

Jim Wright, chairman and CEO of Tractor Supply, will join Dean as a co-chairman of the Partnership 2020 group.

Avenue Bank President Ron Samuels, who has been involved with the chamber over 20 years of economic development plans, said job-hunting tactics in the past have helped the Nashville area add nearly 234,000 jobs, attract more than 600 new companies and grow the local population by 60 percent over the past two decades.

Samuels said one area where he believes more could be done is with technology transfer from area universities into the business world, basically taking researchers' or professors' bright ideas and using them to build new products, companies and jobs.

Schulz said the chamber also plans to work with colleges to make sure degree programs are offered in sectors projected to create jobs over the next decade. "We want to think about what programs business will need on college campuses," he said.

Chamber officials said their economic development plan doesn't intend to focus only at the top end of the financial food chain.

"We'll also put some effort into anti-poverty initiatives; we want to work on both ends of the prosperity scale," Schulz said. "We're one of the few chambers in the country taking that approach, and we're very proud of it."

Horizon Council: Online referrals help effort to bring business to county

The Fort Myers Regional Partnership launched a new website, BringThem2Lee. com, as an interactive communications tool and companion element to the successful, grass-roots "Together We Mean Business" campaign.

Site visitors are encouraged to select an e-card or video and share it with their professional networks and colleagues to attract new and diversified businesses to locate or expand in Lee County.

Recent studies show that 89 percent of U.S. adult Internet users send content to others; 63 percent do so at least once per week, and an amazing 25 percent share content almost daily.

"Referrals are the most powerful form of marketing and we understand the power of online exposure and social media as important elements of our continued success," said Jim Moore, executive director of the Fort Myers Regional Partnership, Lee County's Economic Development Office.

"Yet, it is our people, our personal touch and commitment within our business community that brings companies to Lee County. All elements working together are key to economic development and planned growth," continued Moore.

As an extra incentive for participating in the viral marketing initiative, senders are entered to win a limited edition print by renowned local artist, Ikki Matsumoto. More here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

B-to-b marketers still looking for return on tweets

Paul Gillin
Story posted: June 14, 2010 - 6:01 am EDT

BtoB's survey of nearly 400 U.S. marketers found uneven satisfaction with Twitter's ROI as a marketing channel. Nearly half the respondents to the “Twitter in B2B Marketing” survey, which was conducted late last month, said they are dissatisfied with their return on tweets. That's despite the fact that nearly 70% said they spend less than 30 minutes per day managing their Twitter stream. Four of five marketers also said they could not directly attribute revenue to micro-blogging.

“Twitter has proven to be an effective communications tool, but in all likelihood its relevance will fade over time,” said Mike Neumeier, principal at Arketi Group. “Twitter is not a marketing strategy, but rather a single communications channel.”

To its enthusiasts, however, Twitter is a powerful channel. The survey revealed a striking contrast between occasional and heavy Twitter marketers. The 20% of respondents who attribute tangible revenue to Twitter are one-third more satisfied with their return than those who are still awaiting sales. And successful Twitter marketers are also more optimistic about Twitter's future.

In addition, the survey suggested that marketers who generate revenue via Twitter are more active and commit more of their time to using Twitter, both to promote their own content and the work of those they want to influence. Indeed, some say Twitter is now more effective at driving traffic than search engine marketing.

“It's the cheapest form of wide- spread advertising you can get,” said David Pittman, senior director of marketing communications at Initiate Systems. “It's extremely difficult to put a value on that, but we think it's high.”

About half of the survey respondents said they tweet at least every other day; around the same percentage use the service weekly or less frequently. However, frequent users report higher overall satisfaction, more followers and higher overall spending on social media programs.

One interesting paradox of the ROI equation is that so few respondents have figured out how to calculate it. In fact, “tracking ROI” was identified as the most challenging variable in the Twitter equation by a significant margin.

On the other hand, marketers who report high overall satisfaction with Twitter don't seem to care too much about ROI metrics. In-depth interviews revealed that marketers who describe themselves as satisfied with Twitter's overall value also say they aren't paying significant attention to measuring returns.

“We can't attribute any hard-dollar sales to Twitter, but that's not the point,” said Patrick Kusior, social media manager at Analog Devices. “We're building the image of Analog as a responsible organization.”

In a series of case studies featured in the report, successful adopters outline some of their strategies for making the most of their tweets. Tactics include scheduling messages for optimal visibility, retweeting messages from influential bloggers, adopting a rigorous schedule for sending tweets and concentrating messages around important events.

Printed production parts maker Industramark has fewer than 150 Twitter followers, but its use of Twitter as a way to promote its participation in a major plastics exposition has already put leads in the pipeline. “I'd say 90% of the prospects we contacted through Twitter actually showed up at our booth,” said Bob Sadowski, communications manager. “One told me that we were the only company who had approached them on Twitter. That intrigued and impressed them.”

The “Twitter in B2B Marketing” survey was open from May 12 to May 24, using the online survey tool Zoomerang. Responses were solicited via e-mail, Twitter and mentions in BtoB. Of the 592 completed survey forms, 205 were screened out because the respondents said they did not use Twitter for business. The research results are based on 387 targeted responses, of which 92% identified themselves as being involved in b-to-b marketing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rockford development council sells itself at this trade show

By Jeff Kolkey

ROCKFORD — Rockford Area Economic Development Council officials showed off what they are doing to market Rockford to potential new industries and employers while touting the council itself to potential new members and investors during a membership event Wednesday night.

Organizers turned a conference room inside the Radisson Hotel into something that resembled a life-size version of the council’s website. Booths and tables set up around the room each featured a different aspect of regional economic development and offered reams of information, brochures and pamphlets.

Council President Janyce Fadden said the idea was to turn the its typical second-quarter event into a trade show that taught people a little more about what it does.

“In a short period of time you can go around the room and pretty much touch everything we are working on,” Fadden said. “We are really showcasing to our investors and attendees what we do, how we spend money on marketing materials, what our marketing message is and how we interface with prospects.”

Fadden said the council is ready to debut social media tools like Twitter and Facebook for its websites. As a not-for-profit economic development organization, Fadden said, the council had tested social media tools with its EIGERlab website and wants to expand its use because prospective employers, site selectors and others could be using social media tools.

Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp said a regional approach to economic development is a key to improving the economy. Improvements in the Rockford economy are a boost for Freeport as well, he said.

“The economy will turn around sooner or later, and whoever is poised on the cusp of renewal is going to be the winner,” Gaulrapp said.

Bill Roop, the council’s chairman and CEO of Alpine Bank, said the group’s primary focus is bringing jobs and wealth to the community through marketing Rockford to potential new employers and companies while helping businesses expand.

Roop also made a sales pitch for any companies that aren’t investors to join the council.

“It’s the vitality of the community we are talking about,” Roop said. “If you aren’t at the table, I think you need to be.”

Fadden asked council investors to aid in economic development by referring potential entrepreneurs to the EIGERlab, referring the council to companies that might consider Rockford, attending Bioenergy Days 2010 or contacting the council if they hear a company could expand or relocate out of the area.

“Companies are going to be coming out of this recession hard and fast, and they are going to have issues to get product to clients,” Fadden said. “If there are ways we can be of assistance, then give us a call.”

Reach staff writer Jeff Kolkey at or 815-987-1374.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ads herald business opportunities in Maryland

Posted: 7:21 pm Tue, June 15, 2010
By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

With a much tighter budget than in prior years, the state Department of Business and Economic Development has launched its first new advertising campaign in more than a decade.

On a $150,000 budget — less than a third of the roughly $500,000 allotted in 1999 — “Maryland of Opportunity” touts the job, business and growth opportunities in the state by featuring business owners’ stories. The 1999 DBED campaign was called “Come to Work, Stay to Play.”

Signs at Baltimore’s Penn Station, Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and a billboard near the Pleasant Street exit off the Jones Falls Expressway went up last week, while radio and online ads launched earlier.

The billboards and signs prominently display lesser-known Maryland success stories such as Volt restaurant founder Brian Voltaggio of Frederick, a finalist on Bravo’s Top Chef reality show, and Mei Xu, a Chinese immigrant and founder of Annapolis-based Chesapeake Bay Candle.

“People know Kevin Plank,” said Andrea Vernot, DBED’s assistant secretary of marketing and communications, referring to the founder of the sports apparel company Under Armour Inc. “We perused the business market and looked for people who really represented Marylanders doing great things in our core industry sectors — people who stood out and are good examples but might not have been a household name.”

The state agency launched the ad campaign in the midst of a gubernatorial race in which former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, is criticizing the administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, for an “anti-business reputation” and calling for new state efforts to make Maryland more attractive to business.

With $150,000 to spend on the ad work by Baltimore firm Trahan, Burden & Charles and the media placements by Owings Mills-based Media Works, DBED had to get creative, said Sherri Diehl, the department’s director of marketing.

She estimates that DBED is getting a $250,000 value for the campaign by working with county marketing agencies, the campaign’s featured business owners, and trade organizations — who can all tweak the “Maryland of Opportunity” slogan for their own advertising. Last week she and others met with Baltimore County marketing officials about how to use the campaign to showcase the video gaming companies based there. DBED has similar meetings planned across the state in the coming weeks.

Diehl said she expects county advertising to pick up later this summer. The Baltimore City outdoor ads will run through July 9 and another round of outdoor advertising launches this September in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

“One of our goals with the campaign was to create something … that was adaptable,” she said.

That was the case when the state Office of Tourism, which launches a new campaign each year, saw “Maryland of Opportunity” and wanted TBC to develop something similar. That led to the “Land of …” campaign launched in May, with ads featuring Maryland as a land of adventure, romance or history, just to name a few.

“[In our research] we found people who haven’t been here don’t really know what we have to offer,” said Margot Amelia, the tourism office’s director. “So it wasn’t that we had a bad image, we just didn’t have much of an image.”

The Office of Tourism’s budget for its ad campaign is roughly $1.5 million, down from about $2 million spent last year on its “Maryland. Pretty. Close” campaign. Unlike DBED, the tourism office’s market is primarily regional visitors and its advertisements are seen in the Washington and Philadelphia markets in addition to Baltimore.

“This is a really unusual example because they are two different audiences we’re marketing to,” said Amelia. “But it’s a chance for us to create some kind of synergy … and statewide branding.”

Monday, June 14, 2010

Huntsville among top cities to place data security center

Marian Accardi, The Huntsville Times

HUNTSVILLE, AL - Huntsville is ranked among the nation's top cities where financial services companies can place their data security operations, according to a study by a site-selection consultant.

The study, released this week by Princeton, N.J.-based The Boyd Co., found Huntsville to have the second-lowest annual cost - $11.38 million - for running a data security center. The report compared the costs of operating such a facility in 45 U.S. cities, including cities with the largest financial institutions like New York, Chicago, Charlotte, Boston and San Francisco and other metro areas that could meet certain site selection factors.

Another plus for Huntsville, said John Boyd Jr., a principal with the company, is that the University of Alabama in Huntsville houses one of Alabama's three National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education certified by the National Security Agency and the Homeland Security Department.

"That distinguishes Huntsville tremendously," Boyd said.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley is a "pro-business governor," Boyd said, and "doesn't attempt to balance the state budget on the back of the business community disproportionately."

Financial services companies continue to seek data security space to handle disaster recovery and risk management, according to the report, and new government regulations add to companies' data security and storage needs.

"The result is more information will be stored and stored securely, so we'll see more data security centers," Boyd said. "Huntsville is on the radar screen and being looked at by a number of companies.

"The news is good for Huntsville."

The Boyd study looked at operating costs that are the most critical in a decision on locating free-standing data security facilities. The costs are for skilled labor, land and construction, taxes, utilities and corporate travel. Costs are based on a new 125,000-square-foot data center with 125 workers.

Annual operating costs in the study range from a high of $26.1 million in New York to a low of $10.9 million in Sioux Falls, S.D. Birmingham was ranked 11th on the list, with annual operating costs of almost $12.3 million.

The Boyd Co. provides independent location recommendations to major corporations, many of those in the banking and financial services field, including JP Morgan Chase and Visa International.

© 2010 All rights reserved.

Group pressing area's advantages


Drum Country Business soon will have a new tool to attract companies to the north country.

Consultant Ady-Voltedge, Madison, Wis., is completing a regional prospectus to send to site selectors for businesses. It also is making industry-specific inserts that highlight employment and other statistics.

Together, the five pages of information will highlight the region's competitive advantages: high quality of life, Fort Drum, high quality and availability of work force and low wages compared with other places in New York.

"Those are the things the three counties are looking to market," said Michelle L. Capone, who has worked with Drum Country Business as the senior project development specialist with the Development Authority of the North Country. "More and more in today's global economy, we have to work together and we're identified as a region — that's how businesses are siting themselves."

The initiative started with a "North Country Business and Resources Gap Analysis," commissioned by the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization and completed in 2007.

Economic development agencies behind the Drum Country Business initiative include Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties' industrial development agencies, Lewis County Office of Economic Development and the Fort Drum organization. National Grid has contributed to the effort.

"The consultant gives us a head start with some contacts with site selection and businesses," said Eric J. Virkler, Lewis County economic development director. "It gives us the possibility of attracting something new."

For this approach, the consultant identified back-office support services, renewable energy and food processing industries as the best fit for the region.

Many support services firms, including real estate, insurance and financial services, are in the New York City metropolitan area.

"We provide a location that is competitive," Ms. Capone said.

The region recently was named "Energy Valley" by the state Senate. And the region hosts cheese, meat packaging and chick hatching facilities.

Lowville has the Kraft Foods cream cheese plant and New Bremen has the kosher dairy processing plant Lewis County Dairy.

"There's more potential," Mr. Virkler said. "There are definitely opportunities with the work force to continue to build in that industry."

Economic developers talk to defense-related firms as they try to attract them to stay after they come to work at Fort Drum.

The mailings should be ready in a month or so. The Drum Country website,, also will be updated soon to include more information.

'Faster, cheaper, better': Memphis touts its assets to site selection pros

By Wayne Risher
Memphis Commercial Appeal

The Peabody ducks aren't the only residents of the South's Grand Hotel getting the royal treatment this week.

Memphis business and economic development leaders are rolling out the red carpet for 13 influential visitors whose opinions can make or break a city's chances of landing an industry.

This year's installment of the Greater Memphis Chamber's biannual Red Carpet Tour is touting Memphis assets and amenities to 10 consultants who have collectively aided thousands of industrial and corporate site decisions. Along for the ride are editors of three key publications that inform the site selection industry.

"I want to thank you for agreeing to come and let us show you our assets and what Memphis is all about for you and your customers," chamber president John Moore told the visitors Wednesday.

Referring to strengths in transportation, logistics and distribution, he said, "We continue to leverage what we believe your clients are looking for: faster, better, cheaper."

Spencer Sessions, a Memphis-based economic development specialist for TVA, said the event "gives you one shot to really market yourself to a wide array of decision makers. It's immensely valuable, because we don't usually have an opportunity to get in front of this many decision makers at once."

Building relationships with site selection consultants and business journalists who cover them is crucial to attracting new industries and jobs, Moore said.

"It's like anything else. You've got to get in front of the customer. This opens the door," he said.

Lodie Biggs, a Baker Donelson attorney who advises industrial clients, said, "This is 100 percent about job growth and economic development. Memphis has a lot of assets."

The event, which began Tuesday night, packs a lot into three days: VIP receptions at The Peabody and Graceland; tours of the FedEx World Hub, railroad yards, distribution centers and health-science industries such as Medtronic and the Memphis Bioworks Foundation; and passes to the St. Jude Classic golf tournament.

Participants include consultants from across the country and representatives of Site Selection, Inbound Logistics and Business Facilities magazines.

Andrea Abbott, senior research/GIS specialist with Mohr Partners in Dallas, said her firm represents a pharmaceutical third-party logistics company that is choosing among Memphis, Louisville or Indianapolis.

"This happened to be an opportunity for us to come out and find out more about this market," said Abbott. "This kind of event helps us a lot when we have a client that we can come and tour the site for them."

--Wayne Risher: 529-2874

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Vancouver begins re-branding effort

by Joe Smith, KGW

VANCOUVER, WA. There maybe two Vancouver's, but Vancouver, Washington is not taking a back seat to anyone.

Fed up with the confusion, an all out effort began last September for Vancouver, USA to find it's own voice.

"We've been pre-occupied telling people what we're not," said Ron Arp. He's been called the brains behind a group of business and civic leaders to brand Vancouver.

"See it, say it and sell it", he said Wednesday before a large group of business owners at the Hilton Hotel in Vancouver.

After ten months of strategies, a new logo and tag line were introduced.

"Land here, live here," said Ginger Metcalf, Executive Director of Identity Clark County.

"We think we came up with the best reasons to even look at this area," she said.

Originally the focus of the campaign was concentrated on Clark County. Over time it expanded to include the entire Portland-Vancouver area.

"I as the Mayor of Vancouver am fully committed to a regional partnership in getting the work out to the rest of the country and around the world about who we are as a region," said Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt.

Where other groups have tried to bridge the gap between the two cities, Vancouver is taking the lead. The Portland Development Commission is taking notice.

"I think they've kick started a conversation in the region that should allow us to expand the branding of the region and make it unified," said Patrick Quinton, with PDC.

A marketing kit was created for businesses to use to help bring new business to the area. The logo, of muted tones of blue is a mountain with a river running through it.

Patrick Hildrenth, a partner with Tribe 2 Studios in Vancouver created it.

"The mountain symbolizes strength, upward momentum,the river has this community aspect between the two states".

Business are asked to pay a licensing fee of $199 to use the marketing material. The fee will be used to support more marketing.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Nevada launches ad campaign to get firms to leave California

The TV commercials tout Nevada's lack of corporate and personal income taxes.

By Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times
June 11, 2010

Nevada released a series of television ads Thursday mocking the California Legislature in an attempt to lure businesses from the state.

It's the latest effort by Nevada's development authority to woo Golden State companies. This time around, the commercials portray California lawmakers as talking orangutans.

"Las Vegas is driving me bananas taking business from California," says one primate (with the help of a human voice-over). "Please don't go."

The spots tout Nevada's lack of corporate and personal income taxes, calling the state the "capital of the new mega-West."

For years, business leaders have alleged that California's business climate drives companies out of state. Labor and environmental regulations make it costly to do business here, they contend.

"Businesses are leaving the state — they go to Texas, Illinois, New York," said Jack Kyser, an economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., which works to make the county more business-friendly.

But other data show that business relocation has a minimal effect on California's economy. The number of jobs lost because of business relocation each year — about 11,000 — is "relatively inconsequential," according to a 2007 study by Public Policy Institute of California, a nonprofit and nonpartisan think tank.

Most employment creation comes from start-ups or the expansion of existing establishments, while most job losses are the result of companies shutting down or shrinking operations here.

"Relocation accounts for very little job creation or job loss," said Jed Kolko, associate director of research at the policy institute.

The threat of relocation is strongest in places where companies have only to move short distances and can keep most of their existing workers, he said. But in California, little business activity takes place near state borders, so that's not practical for most firms.

"California and other states put a lot of effort into encouraging businesses to move in and prevent businesses from moving out," Kolko said. "But it's true in California and elsewhere that very few businesses actually move across state lines."

There are some benefits to doing business in California. With more than 38 million residents, the state boasts the nation's largest consumer market. Corporations pay relatively low property taxes thanks to Prop. 13. They also benefit from a large tax credit for research and development.

A recent study from the Council on State Taxation found that businesses pay 40.7% of all state and local taxes collected in California — a lower share than in Nevada (49.9%) and Texas (61.2%).

One reason Nevada is going ape to get California's businesses: It needs them. Nevada's unemployment rate in April was 13.6%, higher than California's 12.7%.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dubois County Outlines Economic Development Plan

JASPER, IN (June 9, 2010) – The Dubois County Area Development Corporation (DCADC) unveiled its new Economic Development Blueprint for the county during its 2010 annual meeting luncheon held today at The Huntingburg Event Center.

With the new economic development plan, labeled the Blueprint, the DCADC is redefining itself and re-emerging as an aggressive, proactive agent for Dubois County’s economic advancement.

“The Dubois County Area Development Corporation has been investing a majority of its resources into supporting existing industries and that has been a wise investment” noted Bob Grewe, President of the DCADC. "However, we realize that in order for our existing industries to grow and our local communities to prosper, we need to diversify and grow our local economy, and help provide the re-trained workforce talent that our companies will require in the future.”

The national and global economic downturn emphasizes the need to do more to diversify and strengthen the area’s economy. Dubois County’s manufacturing industries and their supporting businesses have historically been largely tied to and reliant upon only a couple of market sectors, primarily wood furnishings for the commercial and residential markets.

“Over the last several years, Bob and the DCADC have done a great amount of work on behalf of the county in supporting our existing local businesses, including money for the Purdue Technical Assistance Program for worker technical training, as well as providing seed money for local start-up companies through the DCADC’s Enterprise Loan Fund,” said John Burger, DCADC Chairman, “With the current state of the economy, we feel it’s important to “level-set” expectations with the public.”

Given the historic strength of local businesses and the county’s overall economy, in the past there was little need to spend time or resources to recruit new companies, so DCADC took a more passive approach to marketing. Instead, when opportunities arose, DCADC stepped up to fully assist those businesses that expressed an interest in possibly relocating into the county. However, the new plan calls for proactive business attraction efforts, contacting targeted industries or businesses that research identifies as being a good match to the area’s communities, workforce and infrastructure.

Recently, the DCADC announced it would prepare a Targeted Industry Study (TIS), to identify growth-oriented business and industry sectors most suitable to locate in Dubois County. Results of this research will form the basis for these marketing efforts.

“Our goal is to take a more aggressive approach to actively recruit new businesses into our communities,” said Grewe. Previously, the focus was on a Business Retention and Expansion approach, to help the existing local companies. Going forward, the Blueprint calls for equal efforts on business retention, new business recruitment, and utilization of existing location capacity.

Developed with support from Adam Prager, professional consultant and principal of The Prager Company, the new Blueprint plan provides a framework to guide DCADC activities, priorities and accomplishments to achieve a high level of successful outcomes.

The DCADC has embraced its mission and seeks to emphasize its identity as a proactive champion for economic investment in Dubois County. However, both the Targeted Industry Study and the Blueprint plan provide strategic insights that will enable objective, critical decision making.

As Grewe stated, “We have a lot to offer in Dubois County, and we are keeping our citizens in mind, protecting their best interests.”

A summary version of the Economic Development Blueprint for Dubois County is available on the Dubois County Area Development Corporation website at:

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Land here, live here

By Aaron Corvin
Columbian Staff writer

Regional business and civic leaders on Wednesday unveiled a campaign to lure companies — and more jobs — to the Portland-Vancouver area by effectively branding and marketing its strengths.

The campaign, spearheaded by Identity Clark County, an advocacy group of regional business leaders, is based on a theme that describes the region as Portland-Vancouver USA. It features a stylized image of Mount Hood and the Columbia River with the words “Land Here, Live Here.”

The idea is to spread that theme in campaign materials, including everything from putting the logo on the back of a business card to draping a huge banner with the logo on it on the old Post Hospital at Vancouver Barracks — which organizers did Wednesday morning.

Ron Arp, president of Brush Prairie-based Amplify Group, is donating his time to lead the grass-roots campaign. “We’re not going to be picky. What we want is to get our people back to work,” he told more than 100 attendees at Wednesday’s kickoff, held at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

Planning got under way 10 months ago. It involved more than 200 businesspeople. Five area design firms provided graphic design options for the campaign. Vancouver-based Tribe2 Studios created the winning logo design and campaign concept.

Arp said the point of adopting a regional brand was to prevent the area from being overlooked by companies eyeing Vancouver, B.C., Seattle or Los Angeles, to start heightening awareness of the Portland-Vancouver area, and to “create curiosity.”

Ginger Metcalf, executive director for Identity Clark County, said the campaign is grounded in the best of what the region has to offer prospective employers: low energy costs; a high quality of life; business clusters, including the technology, manufacturing, clean energy and apparel sectors; and access to rail, roads and other important infrastructure.

“We have land here,” Metcalf added, “which is what site selectors want.”

The campaign theme — “Land Here, Live Here.” — and related materials are available in the form of “kits” to businesses, local governments, industry groups and nonprofits for a licensing fee of $199, Arp said. The proceeds will go into a special account set up at Identity Clark County, and will be invested in further advancing the campaign. Backers say they will track queries in response to the campaign to gauge its effectiveness.

The campaign kits are designed so they may be tailored to individual businesses or communities, Arp said. If, for example, the city of Ridgefield wants a logo that says, “Land in Ridgefield, Live in Ridgefield,” it can do that.

“This can be done for any community,” Arp added.

To her knowledge, Metcalf said, the “Land Here, Live Here.” campaign is the first of its kind for the region. Arp said the regional focus is based on the fact that experts who choose new sites for businesses think in terms of metropolitan areas rather than individual cities.

Backers of the campaign emphasized its grass-roots nature, noting that it involved plenty of volunteer work and little in the way of cash. Members of Identity Clark County contributed roughly $10,000 to $12,000 to help launch the campaign, Arp said, including covering printing costs.

Susan Bladholm, senior marketing manager for the Port of Portland, said the new campaign is an important vehicle for both Portland and Vancouver “to work together to get the word out.”

Tom Nelson, economic development manager for the city of Sherwood, Ore., also serves as chairman of the executive committee of the Portland-Vancouver Regional Partners Council for Economic Development. He said he believes the Portland and Vancouver areas have interconnected economies that will benefit from the branding campaign. If a business decides to set up in Vancouver, Nelson said, then it “helps the region and Sherwood.”

The campaign includes a website,, and testimonial advertisements. And while the campaign is intended to bring employers to the region by providing the numbers and facts that business executives want, Arp said, it also makes an emotional appeal by showcasing the region’s people, environmental amenities and sense of adventure. To that end, campaign signs and posters feature local businesspeople, including John Rudi, president of Vancouver-based Thompson Metal Fab, standing in front of iconic backdrops. And they show scenes of people boating and fishing in spectacular settings. “We’re not an uptight group,” Arp said.

Aaron Corvin: 360-735-4518,

Monday, June 07, 2010

City Rolls Out Red Carpet to Tout Assets

ERIC SMITH | The Daily News

The Greater Memphis Chamber will give prospective businesses and national trade publications the proverbial star treatment next week when it hosts the Red Carpet Tour.

Set for June 8-10, the event is designed to showcase the economic advantages that Memphis can offer – from inexpensive commercial real estate to a logistics-laden work force, from the world’s busiest cargo airport to robust rail, road and river infrastructure.

The chamber’s team has invited companies, site selectors and journalists from around the country to Memphis for the Red Carpet Tour, which this year has attracted 11 site consultants, three members of the site selection media plus local reporters.

The event most recently was held in 2006 and 2009 but hasn’t been a regular annual occurrence.

Mark Herbison, senior vice president of economic development for the chamber, said that will change.

In the past the chamber held the tours based on the organization’s resources, but with the new MemphisED (economic development) program and some additional resources, Herbison said, the chamber hopes to host one each spring.

“Our plan, starting last year, was to do one every year,” he said. “It’s going to be an annual event.”

The Red Carpet Tour is designed to be just that – a first-class, behind-the-scenes look at the city’s assets. That means visiting the FedEx Super Hub as well as intermodal facilities like the CN-CSX Intermodal Gateway-Memphis, bioscience companies and Memphis International Airport.

“I can’t tell you the impact it has on these consultants when we’re able to bring them here and show them what we have to offer instead of them reading about it on a website,” Herbison said. “When they can go out and see our airport and see our rail facilities and see our port on the river and see our Pidgeon Industrial Park, there’s not a lot of cities that have the kind of things to offer that we do. It’s a real positive thing for Memphis and it generates a lot of activity for Memphis.”

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr., who will have lunch one day with the visitors and speak to them about the Memphis advantages, said these types of tours help lure businesses to the city.

Wharton said it’s “critical” to get companies’ site decision makers to Memphis to see firsthand what the city has to offer in everything from transportation and distribution capabilities, to financial relationships and qualified work force.

“We need some ‘affirmative action’ there simply because we have not marketed ourselves as aggressively as we should,” Wharton said. “I won’t say there’s a negative perception of what we are, there’s just a lack of knowledge. There’s a void. Once people see it, they go crazy. They’re shocked at the quality that we have here in so many respects.”

The purpose of this event and others, Wharton noted, is for Memphians alone to tell the Memphis story.

“If we don’t tell it, who else will?” he said. “If others tell it, it’s going to be negative. We’re the only ones who can give a true story, a true picture of what we have to offer here. Competition is stiff. Our competitors are selling their virtues and their strengths every day through social media, through personal calls, through trade conferences.

“We’ve been pretty well missing in action, and we’ve got to take some affirmative action to catch up. That’s what we’re doing.”

Another aspect is a panel discussion, featuring players in the city’s chief industry sectors like manufacturing, logistics, bioscience and commercial real estate.

The tour closes Thursday with a visit to the St. Jude Classic golf tournament at TPC Southwind.

New bio tech region a brilliant future for economic development

Is our Innovation Crescent the new Research Triangle?
Gwinnett Business Journal

Move over North Carolina. The Research Triangle is definitely coming up on some competition. Georgia is on the brink of becoming one of the biggest biotech centers in the world. The state's relatively new Innovation Crescent – a spectacular 13-county swath of vibrant science community between Atlanta and Athens – represents the future of things to come.

But, competition aside, the real story here is that collaboration is a beautiful thing. The far-reaching effects of cooperation have been seen for the last 50 years through the efforts of North Carolina civic leaders, high-tech companies, research facilities and universities that came together with a vision in the 1950s to create The Research Triangle.

Now, leaders in the state of Georgia have gained momentum just two years after collaborating to create their own science corridor called the Innovation Crescent. In early summer of 2008, an Innovation Crescent Regional Partnership (ICRP) was formed to boost economic development for the life science industry, attract companies, create jobs and establish the Atlanta-to-Athens region as a unique hub of life science talent.

Containing more than 95 percent of Georgia's life science assets, Innovation Crescent was conceived by regional leaders from chambers of commerce and economic development organizations including Georgia Bio Organization, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Atlanta Development Authority, Athens-Clarke County, Barrow County, Clayton County, Cobb County, DeKalb County, north Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Jackson County, Madison County, Morgan County, Oconee County, Ogelthorpe County and Walton County.

"Georgia's Innovation Crescent was definitely modeled after The Research Triangle," said Demming Bass, Gwinnett Chamber vice president of communications and public policy who previously worked for a chamber of commerce in The Triangle. "The Chamber's strategic leadership team visited North Carolina a few years ago and noted what a great job the Research Triangle Regional Partnership was doing to market their region as a brand."

In May of 2010, the ICRP became an official organization with 13 communities and organizations signing legal documents to become their own economic development entity. Nick Masino, the Gwinnett Chamber's vice president of economic development was named as the ICRP board chairman. The partnership is the marketing organization for Georgia's Innovation Crescent, which is made up of 30 research and/or educational institutions working to develop workforce to meet the demands of the rapidly growing biotech industry.

"Any time you have public and private entities come together across county lines in a region like this, it provides a united front and automatically gives you an advantage," said Masino. "Instead of competing against each other, we are working together. As the Innovation Crescent begins to build a reputation, we'll start seeing more and more life science companies join the cluster of those that are already in the area." Masino said Gwinnett will benefit from its unique position at the geographic center of The Crescent, surrounded by the major research universities and other major life science entities between Atlanta and Athens.

And so, anchored by Georgia Tech, Emory University and the University of Georgia – and boasting the world recognized Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Arthritis Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture and American Cancer Society – the foundation of Georgia's Innovation Crescent appears to be very strong.

Add a wide range of leading tech and bioscience companies with the region's highly educated workforce, and now we're talking. Game on Research Triangle. Georgia's Innovation Crescent has been launched into the science stratosphere with some high-profile players.

Does Location Really Matter?

For innovation-based companies, being located in an industry cluster has long been thought to enhance long-term financial prospects. This research suggests otherwise.

by Matt Palmquist
Title: Agglomeration Economies and Firm Performance: The Case of Industry Clusters (Subscription or fee required.)
Authors: Sal Kukalis (California State University at Long Beach)
Publisher: Journal of Management, vol. 36, no. 2
Date Published: March 2010

It is generally believed that industry clusters — geographic concentrations of companies and institutions in a specific field — play an important part in facilitating the development and long-term prospects of innovative industries. The semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley, Hollywood’s movie business, and the pharmaceutical industry in New Jersey and Massachusetts are three prominent examples of such clusters. Some of the most commonly cited benefits of these regional arrangements are better collaboration between firms; lower production costs, such as those incurred when infrastructure and service resources are shared between firms; access to a skilled labor pool; and knowledge spillovers as a result of “informal socializations” among employees from different firms.

But do these clustering benefits necessarily benefit firms financially? And can outsiders hope to compete against firms that are entrenched in developed industry clusters? To answer these questions, the author looked at the financial advantages, and costs, that clusters provided for firms throughout the life cycle of two innovative industries — semiconductors and pharmaceuticals. He examined 31 years of data on 194 publicly traded companies, which enabled him to see how clustered and nonclustered firms performed at various points in an industry’s life cycle. Surprisingly, the author found no clear evidence that clusters enhance a firm’s financial performance. Even early adopters in a cluster failed to outperform their more isolated counterparts. And late in an industry’s life cycle or during periods of economic contraction, the nonclustered firms outperformed their clustered rivals in both return on assets and return on sales, the author found.

In addition, firms within a cluster have less of an advantage when an industry gets overcrowded with competitors than those that are geographically dispersed. The author proposes several explanations for these seemingly counterintuitive results. One argument is that when an industry reaches its saturation point, too many companies are competing for the same resources in the same region, resulting in, for example, not enough talent in the area to keep up with demand. This can kill off weaker firms and prevent new firms from getting off the ground, especially when the goods produced in the cluster are similar and are sold locally. High exit barriers may also discourage firms from relocating when negative cluster effects begin to outweigh positive ones; substantial costs can be involved in switching locations and finding the necessary resources in a new area. Finally, the author postulates that the information age, with all its communications innovations, may have made geographic proximity to others
less important for innovation-based industries.

Bottom Line: Although analysts have long maintained that geographic proximity can help companies within the same industry prosper, clustering has little impact on a company’s bottom line.

Author Profile:
Matt Palmquist was a founding staff writer and is currently a contributing editor at Miller-McCune magazine. Formerly, he was an award-winning feature writer for the San Francisco–based SF Weekly.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Rough spots in economic partnership worked out

June 2, 2010

A proposal for a new countywide economic development partnership is back on the agenda for the Volusia County Council this week with a new name and a clarified mission.

Organizers hope the new approach will help win the broad countywide support they say is needed to get an agency up and running to bring new businesses and jobs to Volusia. Launched last year, the effort floundered in the past couple of months, with several cities waiting to see what the county would do and Deltona deciding not to participate.

A new working title, Team Volusia Economic Development Corp., a more phased-in approach and a clearer delineation of duties may help address concerns that forced the issue off the county's May 6 agenda at the last minute. The item was pulled after it became clear the county's staff and council members still had too many questions and concerns.

Council members feared the new group might detract from the county's own economic development efforts and focus too heavily on the metropolitan Daytona Beach area rather than the entire county.

That triggered three weeks of intense discussions and negotiations among county officials, key business leaders and supporters of the new economic development group.

Larry McKinney, president of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Rick Karl, director of aviation and resources for Volusia County, spent countless hours together combing over problem areas and refining the proposal.

They said the "biggest hurdles" were misconceptions and miscommunication about what the organization would be responsible for, what the county's economic development department would do and how the efforts could work in concert.

The proposal now calls for the organization to be phased in over the next 18 months, said Karl, and establishes that the public/private board will operate as a public agency, in compliance with the state's open government laws and a public audit.

McKinney said they added a few things omitted when the original proposal was put together, such as engaging the school system, and took out a few things, such as the old name, the Metro Daytona-Volusia Economic Development Corporation.

Karl and McKinney are unveiling their reworked proposal to individual council members this week. On Tuesday, they met with Councilman Andy Kelly.

Kelly said he liked the new name. "If we're going into this, we're going to be a team so that indicates better participation and balance."

Concerns about money may remain.

The proposal calls for the county to chip in up to $500,000 a year in coming years. Private businesses are expected to contribute $1.2 million a year, with the remainder of the $2 million budget coming from the cities.

In addition to the public/private board, the new agency would include a separately functioning CEO Cabinet, comprised of individuals and executives from companies that each contribute up to $100,000 a year for three years. The cabinet would court prospects considering a move to Volusia.

McKinney said the two arms -- the public/private board and the private investor group -- would have identical missions.

The new group began as a spinoff from the Daytona Regional Chamber.

Ted Doran, past president of the Daytona chamber who helped with the recent negotiations, called the proposal "an unprecedented effort by the private sector to work with the public sector in promoting economic development."

Other communities in Florida are much more coordinated and successful at attracting new business, Doran said. "Our competition -- which is every other community in the state of Florida -- is beating the pants off us right now."

N.J. companies pledge funds for 'Choose New Jersey'

By Lisa Fleisher/Statehouse Bureau
June 02, 2010, 10:25AM
The Star-Ledger

Gov. Chris Christie spent much of his campaign bashing New Jersey’s terrible business climate. Tuesday he rolled out his cheerleading squad — CEOs and company presidents whose mission is to convince the world things are changing.

Christie introduced the 15 companies involved in the launch of Choose New Jersey, a nonprofit group charged with helping the state’s economy expand. Each has committed $450,000 of their company’s money during three years to fund the private organization.

“There have been fits and starts of things that have been done before,” Christie said. “I think the problem has been that the forces of government in Trenton have not understood the very basic principle that we need to get out of your way and let you create economic growth and vitality.”

Choose New Jersey is one of three approaches the Republican governor is using to put his stamp on the state’s business growth. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s office will be in charge of shepherding companies through the various government agencies and the state’s Economic Development Authority will continue to serve as the financing arm for attracting businesses.

The group held its first board meeting yesterday at the West Trenton offices of New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co. and is looking for a full-time staff that will help market New Jersey, decide on priorities for areas of economic development and raise money to support the group without public funds.

“Choose New Jersey is part — just part — of what we’re going to try to do to bring our state back to prosperity and to a sense again that in New Jersey anything is possible. I grew up believing that and I bet you did, too,” Christie said.

The CEOs said they will work in partnership with the governor’s office to keep or attract companies in New Jersey, giving that touch of personal persuasion, and traveling in ways a governor or public workers might not be able to. The executives claimed this transcended even competitive lines.

“The strength of our businesses depends on the overall strength of our local community and the state economy,” said Vince Maione, president of Atlantic City Electric Region. “There’s a direct tie there, so if we can bring other businesses to the state, we’re helping to strengthen that economy.”

Dennis Bone, the interim chairman of Choose New Jersey and the CEO of Verizon of New Jersey, said many of the state’s incentives already were competitive but the marketing and outreach could be better.

“When we benchmarked New Jersey to other states, we found out that New Jersey wasn’t in the game, was not in the game when it came to selecting and attracting businesses to the state,” he said. “There is so much more that we can do in this area.”

Among the companies represented Tuesday were South Jersey Gas, Novartis, Bank of America, United Water, American Water, PSE&G and Prudential.