Monday, August 30, 2010

Denver flaunts its charms for visiting business site pickers

Neil Westergaard
Editor, Denver Business Journal

Denver’s airport is fabulous, surface transportation is improving with light rail, and health care holds serious economic development opportunity for the city.

Oh, and by the way, we get it now when you say your people “work hard and play hard, too.”

Those were some of the takeaways from a two-day soiree with corporate site selection consultants brought to Denver this week by Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. officials.

The group went all over the Denver metro area via helicopter and shuttle bus, receiving tours of Comcast’s cable TV and broadband operations, Ball Aerospace, Vestas Wind Systems and DIA.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and a host of local business leaders and eco-devo types briefed them on everything from workforce issues to tax burdens and the availability of some modest incentive programs — the emphasis on modest.

The group represented some of the top site selection consultants in the U.S.

A group of them were headed up to Vail Friday afternoon for less formal eco-devo camaraderie — like horseback rides to Beano’s Cabin for dinner, among other activities.

So what’d they think about Denver?

Jeffrey Pappas, with Arledge Partners Real Estate Group of Dallas, said he used to have the impression that Coloradans worked just enough so they could then go out and hike, bike, ski or snowboard. It raised productivity issues for a lot of his clients.

After talking to local company executives and Ritter Thursday night, he’s got a changed attitude.

“The work ethic in Colorado is much higher than I had imagined,” Pappas said.

One consultant, Claudine Haeni, with Switzerland Trade & Investment Promotion, said she was so impressed by quality of life factors in Colorado that she couldn’t wait to get back to the office to start promoting Denver as a corporate destination. She told a breakfast attended by about 400 people Friday morning that she’s already setting up meetings to push Denver.

Two big high spots of the tour: a look into the future of DIA and the burgeoning complex of hospitals, clinics and research facilities at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

The planned Santiago Calatrava-designed airport hotel and light-rail terminal and the accompanying gateway bridge, airport general manager Kim Day announced, will be completed by 2015, a year earlier than originally forecast.

Arizona-based consultant C. Paige Webster, Foote Consulting Group, said he was wowed with the Anschutz medical campus and urged eco-devo agencies to go after more health care centered businesses.

“I was so impressed with what we saw,” Webster said.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gwinnett: Success is more than a slogan

By Rick Badie

You may have considered them cheesy, arrogant, or just plain silly. Still, for more than three decades, Gwinnett County’s iconic water towers have displayed a message to motorists who travel down I-85 near Jimmy Carter Boulevard.

“Success Lives Here” and “Gwinnett is Great.”

Well, bid your farewells. In a few weeks the twin towers will be no more. A contractor has begun demolishing the obsolete structures, a move that will save the county $100,000 annually in operating costs.

With the towers gone, Gwinnett stands sorta naked, void of a catchy phrase or brand on which to rest its fedora. Maybe that’s a good thing.

It seems like everybody’s stuck on identity and branding. It’s an emerging marketing strategy, we’re told. AJC reporter Ralph Ellis wrote a story earlier this year about municipalities that spend money to come up with a marketing brand.

Duluth spent $60,000, Norcross $50,000 and Lilburn $30,000. Marketing consultants must be thrilled.

But what’s the economic development payoff from investments in branding, logos and such? How can you measure the benefits of what amounts to an inexact science? Anyway, don’t these communities have police to pay and streets to pave?

Point me to an investor or company executive who chose to conduct business in County A or Town B because of its brand identity. Show me a business that relocated or expanded in Gwinnett because the county declared itself great and successful.

Pardon the cliché, but actions speak louder than words. When it comes to overall infrastructure and operations, Gwinnett is a metro leader.

Toilets flush. The sewer system doesn’t need a billion-dollar upgrade. No school principal or teacher has been accused or caught cheating on standardized tests. The parks, libraries and schools outshine practically all neighbors. (If not, speak up. I’d like to hear from you.)

This week, AJC reporter David Wickert wrote that, in the past three years, Gwinnett had raked in nearly 10,000 jobs because of 100-plus business relocations and expansions. That’s worth shouting from atop Stone Mountain, given the dire economic straits.

None of this happens through osmosis or because a consultant has created some hip phrase or drafted a colorful town seal. It’s the result of diligent leaders committed to the growth and maintenance of a desirable community.

And lest we forget how this branding thing can flop, look down I-85. Atlanta’s recent multimillion-dollar, multiyear ad campaign simply lacked the oomph. The original marketing slogan — “Every Day Is An Opening Day” — never caught on and faded into oblivion.

Just something to consider as Gwinnett’s twin towers come a’tumbling down. Maybe the county can market itself sufficiently without investment in a pricey, catchy slogan, nickname or song. Maybe county leaders can stick to the basics, the tried and true of what lures businesses and residents.

Besides, if Gwinnett is great and success lives here, word of mouth should suffice as one of the best marketing tools money can buy.

Georgia a hotspot in video game development

By Leon Stafford
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Video game fans of everything from Mafia Wars on PS3 to Farmville on Facebook, listen up -- the next big explosion in digital entertainment could come out of Georgia.

In fact, if you play Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon, Global Agenda or Kaneva -- all created by Georgia companies -- you are already contributing to the state's shot at becoming a gaming powerhouse, state and local economic development leaders say.

Over the past two years, Georgia has snagged hundreds of jobs in game development -- from graphic design to software engineering to the atmospheric music that builds a game's tension, and more are on the way, the economic leaders said.

The state's point man, Asante Bradford, and others are traveling the country and the globe to bring video game development to Georgia.

Companies are coming to Georgia because of the tax incentives the state offers the entertainment industry, which includes the fast-growing digital segment, the leaders said, and the plethora of courses dedicated to digital entertainment at the state's institutions of higher learning.

"If you are a game company, you've got 20 colleges and universities that have game programs here," said Nick Masino, vice president of economic development for the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. "That's huge."

The strategy is showing results. The economic impact was $68.9 million in 2008, and currently sits at $49.9 million for 2009, a number leaders expect to double once productions that have not yet filed for their tax incentives complete the paperwork.

And there is room to grow, said officials with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, which has led the charge to build the state's video game industry or "interactive entertainment" as they call it.

They point out that the video game industry was estimated to be worth $9.5 billion in 2007, and many say it brings in more money than Hollywood. States that invest in the industry can expect to rake in millions.

About 70 companies affiliated with video game production operate in Georgia today, the department said.

"These are mostly small- to medium-sized companies with very educated workers who are very highly-paid," said Carol Henderson, director of interactive entertainment and digital media for the state department of economic development. "A lot of the companies are start ups."

Companies include Hi-Rez Studios, TransGaming, CCP North America, Tripwire Interactive, Kaneva and Blue Heat. One of the industry's major players, Cartoon Network, also is based here and GameTap, a leader in online gaming, was born in Atlanta.

To lure companies, the state offers video game developers with a minimum investment of $500,000 a tax credit of 20 percent. They can get an additional 10 percent if they embed the state's logo in the game.

The growth in video game development has exploded because it's evolving, said Matthew Maloney, associate dean of SCAD Atlanta's School of Film and Digital Media. It's about more than consoles like the XBox or the Wii. It's about online, mobile phones, cable TV, apps, and social media like Twitter.

That has led to increased interest in video game development as a field, he said. Five years ago, the school's game design program had 14 students. Seventy-three signed up for it in Spring 2010.

Not all the companies that have come to Georgia as part of the video game development initiative are about fun or social interaction.

Meggit Training Systems in Suwanee uses the video game platforms that are the basis of the industry for serious training of military and law enforcement, said spokeswoman Kendra Hathway.

The company uses real weapons that have been modified to shoot lasers at a CGI screen, but have the feel and response of actual guns. The training helps law enforcement learn through simulations how to say negotiate a hostage crisis properly, Hathway said.

Clinton Lowe, president and co-founder of the Georgia Game Developers Association, said while Georgia has made strides to bring the industry here, there are issues to be addressed.

The most pressing, he said, is to educate the state's venture capital and angel investor communities about the industry. The small companies that have started here will need infusions of capital to continue to grow.

"It's not just about getting them here, it's about supporting them after they've relocated," he said.

I-35 corridor economic development alliance formed

Austin Business Journal

Economic development officials in New Braunfels, Schertz and Seguin have agreed to pool their resources to market themselves as the 10/35 Economic Development Alliance to site selection firms and prospects.

The cities are drawing the name of their alliance from the fact these communities are located either on or near Interstate Highway 10 and Interstate Highway 35. The cities formed the alliance on the cusp of recent company relocation decisions in the tri-city area, including Caterpillar, Sysco Foods and Baptist Health Systems.

New Braunfels and Seguin already were in a long-standing partnership. However, economic development officials approached Schertz to join due to its strategic location, shared county resources, strong warehouse and distribution centers, shared workforce and values.

“Having worked on a number of projects together, there was already a level of familiarity established with Jeff Jewell, economic development director for Schertz,” said Rusty Brockman, economic development director for Build - New Braunfels.

By merging some of their core economic development functions, the three cities want to combine marketing resources in a cost-effective manner, expand their reach and compete on a larger, global scale.

“As economic developers, we have the option to grow by choice or chance. We are happy to be at the helm of choice; to shape and guide the area’s economic development future with our new partners,” Jewell said.

The new alliance has already approved a marketing budget that includes traveling to more trade missions with the Governor’s Office, increased trade shows, a bus tour, a commercial broker breakfast and expanded advertising and social media marketing.

Economic development officials say the genesis of this alliance stems from a shift in thinking in attracting companies that are in the process of expanding or relocating operations. Instead of competing against other in bidding for projects, the cities have decided to work together.

“As for the three cities in the alliance, we are all situated ideally between San Antonio and Austin. We have the same strengths as the bigger cities, but promote our cost advantages, availability of space and business-friendly attitude,” said Terry Trevino, economic development director for Seguin.

Read more: I-35 corridor economic development alliance formed - Austin Business Journal

Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) Launches Alexandria Ideal

ALEXANDRIA, VA — The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) announces the unveiling of its new branding initiative, Alexandria Ideal, along with its newly designed web site. Alexandria Ideal is an awareness campaign, geared to showcase Alexandria's offering as a city with a unique combination of economic resources, geographic access to Washington, DC and an ideal atmosphere for launching, expanding or relocating a business.

"The new web site offers a comprehensive view of the numerous benefits the City of Alexandria has to offer organizations and businesses such as federal agencies, creative firms, retail merchants and trade associations looking to relocate and grow here," explained Val P. Hawkins, President and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership.

The new web site, designed by local Alexandria agencies Williams Whittle and New Target, was created to provide informative data and facts, while bringing the City of Alexandria to life through compelling imagery. The site features pictures of commercial properties, streetscapes and lifestyle activities that captures the vibrancy and diversity of Alexandria.

The navigation and search functionality have been enhanced to offer an overall user-friendly experience. Property owners with vacant commercial space are able to post listings online, and potential users can use a custom search tool to view commercial properties by size, classification or type.

The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) leads efforts to grow the tax base, diversify the economy and attract and retain businesses and organizations in Alexandria, Virginia. Founded in 1992, the Partnership joins its collaborators in defining and marketing Alexandria as a creative, diverse, knowledge-based community with a high quality of life. For more information visit

© MarketWire 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

New Jersey Tends to Garden State of Mind

Posted by Abe Sauer at on August 26, 2010

We recently looked at how New Jersey might try to rebrand Atlantic City as a world-class gambling destination rivaling Vegas. Turns out, New Jersey might have a bigger rebranding challenge — New Jersey.

A new Quinnipiac University survey found that half of New Jersey residents find MTV's show Jersey Shore "revolting." Those polled believe the show is damaging to the state's image. Also, they blame New York. Yet as every branding professional knows, define yourself or somebody else will define you.

Despite being associated with the state, only one cast member is actually from New Jersey. Still, the state's image problem began long before MTV capitalized on a stereotype Americans all know and love (to hate). Long the punching bag of comedians, New Jersey may finally have had enough.

With The Sopranos still beloved (though off the air) and Jersey Shore currently fist-pumping through its second season, state residents could leverage the popularity of all things New Jersey (shore-goers, "Housewives," "Couture") to fight the characterization.

A group of residents recently launched a website campaign called Jersey Doesn't Stink. But is it too late to do anything about its brand?

One humble suggestion as a starting point: Colloquial nomenclature. Just as a man named Richard is perceived as an entirely different man when he goes by "Dick," so suffers New Jersey from its nickname.

Out-of-state forces contribute to the use of the state's single-monkered "Jersey" nickname, such as the Broadway show Jersey Boys. But New Jersey residents themselves can often be heard leaving the "New" off the Garden State's name.

Indeed, locals were calling it the "Jersey Shore" long before MTV came to town. Rocker Bruce Springsteen, a born and bred champion of the state, sings about a "Jersey Girl." See, also, the above New Jersey-based "Jersey Doesn't Stink" effort.

Any effort to brand New Jersey should begin with a serious attempt to reduce the commonplace use of the term "Jersey" to reference the state. The "New Jersey Shore" already sounds like a more appealing place, no?

Still, both beat the dreaded "Joisey." Thoughts on New Jersey's image problem?

See Jersey Doesn't Stink Video here:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gwinnett partnership tallies more than 3,200 new jobs

By David Wickert
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Business relocations and expansions led to more than 3,200 new jobs in Gwinnett County over the past year, economic development officials say.

The county has tallied more than 9,200 new jobs from 112 business relocations and expansions since 2007, according to a report released Tuesday by the economic development agency Partnership Gwinnett. Among the county's successes: persuading NCR to move its corporate headquarters from Ohio to Duluth, a move expected to create 3,000 jobs within five years.

Nick Masino, vice president of economic development for the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, said Partnership Gwinnett's aggressive marketing of metro Atlanta nationally and overseas helped win those jobs.

“We’re pounding [companies] with press releases and marketing materials, saying, `Gwinnett is open for business,’ ” Masino said at the partnership’s annual Community and Economic Development Summit at Gwinnett Technical College.

Partnership Gwinnett is an economic development initiative funded by more than 160 governments and businesses. Led by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, it has an annual budget of about $1.8 million.

Before the partnership's founding three years ago, Masino said, the county was reactive in its marketing. “People called and we answered the phone,” he said.

That has changed under Partnership Gwinnett. One of the agency’s chief aims is to trumpet the county’s assets -- such as quality schools, good roads, and parks and shopping -- to companies that might relocate here.

Partnership Gwinnett has marketed the metro region overseas on trips to China and South Korea. It also has targeted companies in this country’s Rust Belt.

Among the chief successes was the work state and local recruiters did, with the help of more than $100 million in incentives, to lure NCR from Dayton, Ohio. The company, which manufactures ATMs and other machines, opened its new Duluth headquarters in April.

Job gains for the past year include:

QualTex Laboratories, a blood-testing lab, announced plans to move from Texas to Norcross, bringing 125 jobs.

Hettich America, which makes hardware for kitchen cabinets, furniture and appliances, announced it will consolidate its Georgia operations in Gwinnett, bringing 100 jobs.

Medical Business Services, which provides patient billing services to hospital-based physicians, announced plans to relocate to Gwinnett and bring 120 jobs.

In all, the county saw 79 business relocations or expansions from July 2009 to June 2010, according to the partnership's report.

Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister called the partnership “the heart of economic development in our region.”

Masino said the agency has brought good news to the county even in bad economic times.

“Just telling that story, it’s given the county confidence,” he said. “Good news is hard to come by today.”

Central Louisiana boosters see some success, much opportunity

By Jeff Matthews • •
August 22, 2010

A Virginia-based customer-service company
announced earlier this month that it will hire 200
people in Central Louisiana to work from home.

N.E.W. Customer Service Companies handles service
plans for retail giants such as Walmart, Toys R Us
and Kmart. It is hiring people for work-at-home,
customer-service jobs.

It's the kind of announcement some in Central
Louisiana don't think comes frequently enough.

"It's definitely 'What have you done for me lately?'"
said Rick Ranson, vice president of economic
development for the Central Louisiana Chamber of
Commerce. "If you get a Union Tank Car [which
located to the area in 2006], they get off you for a
while. Then it's back to 'What are you guys doing
over there?'"

Ranson has an optimistic view of the region's
economic future, but knows announcements like the
one made by N.E.W. are how most people judge
economic development. He and others argue that
the region has had its share of "wins" in recent

More here:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New development strategies in challenging times

By GoDanRiver Staff
Published: August 17, 2010

In these tough economic times, communities are more aggressive than ever in attracting job-creating companies.

The Great Recession also leveled the playing field. All communities have an “available work force” (unemployed), empty buildings and green field sites, said Crystal Morphis, managing partner of Sanford Holshouser.

“How can you pull Danville aside and make it stand out and make yourself unique?” Morphis asked attendees of the Danville Development Council meeting on Tuesday.

Local business leaders comprise the board of directors for the Danville Development Council, which promotes the economic health and development of the city.

Sanford Holshouser provides economic development planning and site location services. Morphis led the consulting team for the Triangle North technology park development north of the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. She came to Danville to share her experience on trends in economic development.

The key is developing a strategic plan to make Danville stand out to specific companies, she said.

City Manager Joe King said Danville’s Office of Economic Development has a good handle on implementing ways to attract companies, but would like to see a written strategic plan, given all the changes economic developers are facing today.

“I do think we would benefit it we had more of a formal articulation of what our economic development strategy is,” King said.

He would like the plan to spell out roles local leaders in the community might have.

For instance, President Carlyle Ramsey of Danville Community College noted the difficulty in keeping up-to-date on skills training when the technology evolves so quickly. Morphis said colleges and technical institutes that maintain strong partnerships with local businesses would stay ahead of the game because business will lead the technology.

The down economy brought several changes that economic developers and business leaders should note.

One shift is local incentive policies are changing. More communities are placing the emphasis on job creation rather than tax revenue generation, Morphis said. Threshold requirements (a certain amount of investment) for incentives are dropping and time periods to meet qualifications are extending.

Morphis also sees new incentive policies for retail, commercial and small business rather than just the traditional incentives for manufacturing and distribution.

“Everybody’s focused on job creation,” she said.

To really stand out, Danville must tailor incentives to the companies the city is trying to recruit, Morphis said. Incentives must make sense for a company.

Additionally, because of the availability of buildings and spaces, companies are looking for something built to their needs. It takes years to develop these products, like a megapark, she added. Economic developers need to plan ahead make sure there’s enough inventory for growth for 10 years rather than waiting until available space fills up and starting again.

Morphis offers other tips to local business leaders:

Instead of just saying how large the available workforce is, quantify the skills of those looking for jobs. Show how many workers have specific certifications or show how many people have a work background that could easily transfer to serve the industry the city’s trying to attract.

Identify facilities that could be candidates for relocation and develop ways to keep them. Chances are, economic developers are talking to businesses in your community in hopes of luring them away.

Consolidations are still expected to continue. Visit headquarters of companies to make sure your community stays on the winning side.

In marketing, use social media to connect today with tomorrow’s decision-makers. Let the community know what you’re doing for economic development.

West Coast Marketing Campaign Funding a Top Priority for GOED

"From Up Here You Can See the Recovery!"

That and other catchy slogans promoting Utah's business-friendly environment have been running in ads in the West Coast editions of the Wall Street Journal and Fortune Magazine. The ads are part of a marketing campaign being conducted by the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED) with the help of its partners Development Counsellors International (DCI) and Richter7.

DCI is an international development consulting firm, while Richter 7 is a Salt Lake City advertising agency.

"In the ads we've had some fun stressing location, location, location," says Clark Caras, GOED's director of marketing. "With so many companies looking for a safe place to do business, it's been incredibly rewarding these past few months to help put Utah on the map through the tools we are using and the active recruitment calls being made by our partners at DCI."

Funding the campaign was the idea of Utah's legislative leadership and Governor Herbert, and came from a $1.5 million appropriation during the 2009 legislative session.

"Recognizing what was going on with the economy, the legislature and Governor Herbert were all very forward thinking in allocating the money for the West Coast campaign," says Caras.

GOED Seeks Funding Renewal
In order to continue the high-powered campaign in the future, GOED will be asking the legislature to renew its funding during the 2011 session. In fact, Derek Miller, GOED's managing director of business incentives and growth, says renewing funding for the campaign is one of three top legislative priorities for GOED.

"Our West Coast Marketing Campaign has been very successful. It's been a good thing and its continuation is a top priority for us. We are currently working with various legislative committees now to prepare for the next legislative session and have high confidence that our legislators will see the value of this important campaign," he adds.

Michael Flynn, EDCUtah's director of proactive recruitment, says having GOED make the advertising investment in Southern California has been significant to the state's overall proactive recruiting strategy. "These ads can help open doors; they introduce Utah to potential companies, and raise Utah's overall level of awareness within the California business community."

Flynn goes on to say that "just last week a company I had been working with emailed me a scanned copy of one of the GOED ads. The ad had gotten his attention and he was interested in restarting our conversation. A potential project that had been stalled was suddenly moving forward again and I know seeing the ad helped motivate him to take another look at Utah. GOED's advertising investment, coupled with EDCUtah's staff investment, helps further both organizations' reach in California. It's really a perfect partnership."

Site Selector Survey
The marketing campaign was designed around the results of a survey DCI conducted for GOED with 249 national site selectors. Among the survey questions, participants were asked to describe Utah's strengths and challenges from a location perspective.

"We took what we learned from the national site selectors survey that DCI helped us conduct and from that worked with Richter7 to develop the creative side of what we have been marketing in the West Coast initiative," Caras explains. "We found that there was a need to market the fact that Utah is home to five major metropolitan areas, has a young, highly educated workforce, enjoys a successful international airport, and is also home to an inland port."

(Caras notes that the Utah Office of Tourism and its "Utah Life Elevated®" campaign have done such a great job in branding the quality of life in Utah that most of the site selectors responding to the survey indicated they didn't need to be sold on the state's natural incentives.)

To begin the marketing campaign, advertisements were published in the Wall Street Journal, followed by six months of advertising wraps covering Fortune Magazine editions. DCI, Miller, Caras, and Gary Harter, GOED's managing director of business creation, initially identified 1,000 potential West Coast businesses that best fit Utah's targeted economic cluster industries.

During the first phase of the campaign 164 companies were vetted and contacted. Eight of those companies received personal visits from GOED Executive Director Spencer Eccles, Miller, and Flynn. From the personal visits, one company is currently working through the incentives application process while another company, Accelerated Payment Technologies, has already moved its headquarters from Fountain Valley, California, to Pleasant Grove, Utah, adding 20 jobs to the economy. Another 20 companies have been contacted by phone or personal visits from other GOED staff, with one of those companies recently having been referred to EDCUtah for further development.

Second Phase
GOED is now in the midst of the campaign's second phase. Some 291 northern California companies have been identified as potential candidates for relocation or business expansion to Utah. Caras says vetting and first contacts to those companies are taking place now with three face to face appointments having already been set. The three companies are all in the IT cluster. In fact, all 291 of the companies identified fit within industry clusters targeted by GOED:

◦221 are information technology companies
◦52 are life sciences companies
◦10 are renewable energy companies
◦7 are aerospace companies
◦1 is a sports & outdoor products business
Also of note, 23 of the 291 companies have either a branch or a presence in Utah that could potentially be expanded.

As leads are qualified they are turned over to EDCUtah for processing. Miller says it has definitely been beneficial to have Flynn "on the ground," working from an office in Southern California. "The businesses we have contacted have been delighted to hear that EDCUtah has a man on the ground on the West Coast."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Project X -- Is it Savannah's next big economic boost?

By Mary Carr Mayle

OFFICIALLY, MUM'S THE WORD. Unofficially, the buzz surrounding an economic development project known only as Project X is getting as loud as the cicadas on a Savannah summer day. When asked, those who would know are characteristically quiet, with both the Savannah Economic Development Authority and the Georgia Department of Economic Development issuing the usual "no comment."

At the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, the airport commission has voted to approve several major projects - including a traffic study and the repositioning of a new runway - all designed to accommodate something described vaguely as "potential new development."

Airport director Patrick Graham, choosing his words carefully in a board meeting, later declined to elaborate.

Other inquiries of city and county officials regarding Project X have been met either with "no comment" or, more often, "Project what?"

Still - despite any real specifics - the buzz continues unabated.

And it's apparent the people linked to Project X continue to take a hard look at the Savannah area. What no one seems to know - or at least isn't willing to share - is what the project is and when a decision might be made.

Maintaining the momentum

After the successful recruitment of Mitsubishi Power Systems to the megasite - a plum project that brings some $325 million in investment and the promise of more than 500 jobs at build-out - many in economic development circles felt the area was ripe for more development, much like the building of the first large distribution center created a domino effect in Crossroads Business Park.

After all, a number of projects - from Rolls Royce to American Titanium Works - showed an interest in locating on part of the megasite before the state decided to split it up.

But the recently OK'd spurt of new development at the airport would suggest this project may not be looking at the megasite.

At Gulfstream Aerospace, which shares runway space with the airport, a spokesman said the company is always looking at updating its physical plant, but has no firm plans at the moment to announce any additional projects.

Gulfstream is currently in the fifth year of a seven-year, $400 million Long Range Facilities Master Plan in Savannah.

The company has added a new Sales and Design Center, a 200,000-square-foot completions facility for Gulfstream's newest flagship, the G650; two new Research & Development facilities in Crossroads Business Park; and a new service center with nearly 680,000 square feet under roof, making it the largest maintenance facility in the world built specifically to service business jets.

More than mega-projects

Announcements of the magnitude of Mitsubishi's Savannah Machinery Works, Gulfstream's seven-year expansion plan and Portuguese manufacturer EFACEC's power transformer manufacturing plant in Rincon are fairly rare. Still, the area has enjoyed a number of economic development successes - even in what has been arguably one of the worst periods for the U.S. and global economies in decades.

Last year alone, nearly a dozen industries either located new facilities in the area or announced major expansions, bringing close to $500 million in investment and the promise of as many as 1,500 new jobs.

Where Project X might fit into this equation, in terms of scope and impact, is anyone's guess at this point. But the simple fact that it carries a code name and is shrouded in the kind of secrecy that suggests multiple confidentiality agreements have been signed would indicate that this is no "Mom and Pop" operation.

And, as major projects go, secrecy and confidentiality are nothing more than "business as usual," according to one nationally recognized site selection expert.

"There are a whole host of compelling reasons a company might not want their plans to become public knowledge too early," said Mark Sweeney, senior principal in McCallum Sweeney Consulting in Greenville, S.C., one of the leading economic development consulting firms in the country.

Why mum's the word

Many times, for example, the site-selection process starts before the project receives its final internal approval, Sweeney said.

"Usually, there is a strong indication that the company wants to move forward with the project - or they wouldn't be investing the money - and the site selection possibilities sometimes play into their final decision," he said.

"But most companies would just as soon not have the world know about something they may or may not do."

Another reason companies like to keep quiet, Sweeney said, is to protect the company from its competition.

"We're working on a project right now that's at the stage where we have to share sensitive information and everyone we share that information with has to sign a non-disclosure agreement," he said. "This can be very serious. Sometimes even the fact that a company is looking at a project conveys important information to its competitors."

Then there is the potential for internal disruption, "especially if there is a perceived possibility of relocation, such as a headquarters move," he said.

On the flip side, Sweeney, whose firm is not associated with Project X, said areas trying to lure a project also have a stake in keeping that information quiet.

"If you're a finalist for a big project, it's always in your best interests to maintain secrecy," he said. "Otherwise, you may inadvertently give another finalist information they can turn to their advantage."

Team Volusia brings new jobs strategy

Leaders from Volusia County business and government gathered around a circular conference table at Daytona State College on Aug. 4, to try to do what their predecessors had failed to do: create an entity that uses public and private dollars to kick-start the local economy, while satisfying the desires of elected officials across this fractured county.

"You are the founding members of an organization that I predict will probably be the most powerful organization in this community for years," Daytona Beach attorney Ted Doran told the newly formed board of directors of Team Volusia Economic Development Corp.

The group, which is set to spend millions of public and private dollars to bring companies and jobs here, had voted Doran Team Volusia's first chairman moments earlier.

"We are in this to make a profit," Doran said, referring to the potential influx of dollars countywide. "This is not the United Way. This is about making money."

Whether Team Volusia will deliver on Doran's goal, and succeed where its forebears failed, is the multimillion-dollar question. The Volusia County Business Development Corp., the county's previous public-private partnership which became Enterprise Volusia in 1999, fell apart in 2001 amid accusations of secrecy, failure to reach goals and a lack of focus on western Volusia.

Team Volusia's supporters say their setup has more private support, pointing to the separate CEO Cabinet and the $1.2 million over three years it has pledged to bring business here. They say county and city officials will have more input than in the past, and where public dollars go, there will be transparency.

But if they succeed, it will be over the cynicism of a local economist, the skepticism of some leaders from West Volusia, and a cautionary voice from the past.

"The big thing was to get everybody moving in the same direction, with the same thought," said Drew Page, former president of Enterprise Volusia. "That's something we never had. I used to refer to it as the three great states of Volusia, because you had different parts of the county with different goals, and not a lot of trust."

How exactly Team Volusia's efforts will differ from those of the county's Department of Economic Development, created after Enterprise Volusia dissolved, has yet to be determined. Team Volusia still needs a president, so asking board members how Team Volusia will work is a bit like asking the owner of a football team what kind of offense it will run before he's hired a head coach.

George Mirabal, former president of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce and Team Volusia's interim president, touts the countywide unity -- public and private, east and west -- behind his new organization. Team Volusia, Mirabal said, will succeed because it will get everyone moving in the same direction.

"When a prospect sees that a whole community has come together with a singular purpose, with nobody really caring who gets the credit . . . that's what private employers want to see," he said. "That's the big difference."


Larry McKinney, Mirabal's tan, well-coifed successor at the chamber, sighed and stared blankly at the board table in Deltona City Hall as the argument continued around him last Tuesday afternoon.

McKinney has become a traveling salesman for Team Volusia this year, driving across the county to pitch involvement. Tuesday he returned to Deltona, which had soundly rejected Team Volusia under its previous name -- Metro Daytona Economic Development Corp. -- to try to convince the county's most-populated city to spend $42,000 on Team Volusia.

Western Volusia residents, who are just as likely to work in Orange and Seminole counties as they are to trek east to Daytona Beach, are often skeptical of countywide initiatives, and McKinney had his work cut out for him.

He led a brief PowerPoint presentation, stopping for a few minutes to explain a chart that showed while the average income in Volusia County has dropped from 86 percent of the U.S. average in 1980 to 81 percent in 2010, Deltona's relative average income has plummeted even more; from 88 percent in 1980 to 74 percent in 2006.

"Unless this council makes a concerted effort to change that trend, that gap is likely to get larger," McKinney, 46, said in his soft Southern drawl.

Mayor Dennis Mulder led the faction in favor of joining Team Volusia. Gaining access to Team Volusia's top-of-the-line website (McKinney projects the site, which will help site selectors at businesses explore the county, will cost $150,000 -- $200,000) would make the contribution worth it, Mulder said.

Commissioner Zenaida Denizac was less convinced, though, and turned to Phil Ehlinger, Volusia County's burly, bearded director of economic development, and angrily asked him what his department has ever done for her city.

"What have you gotten? What have you gotten for the west side?" Denizac said to Ehlinger, who sat no more than 3 feet away from her.

"We have made the statement for several years, if you have a place to put 'em, we'll bring 'em," Ehlinger calmly replied. Deltona lacks open sites for industrial and manufacturing companies, which is his office's focus. Deltona does have plenty of open retail sites, though.

Denizac crossed her arms and turned back toward her fellow commissioners. "I'm not going to support this," she said.

McKinney interrupted an argument that appeared to be heading to a stalemate with a promise that Team Volusia will work to fill Deltona's vacant retail sites. Despite Denizac's objections and the misgivings of two other commissioners, the commission decided to put Team Volusia's request for $42,000 on the agenda for Monday's meeting.


While McKinney might be able to win over Deltona commissioners, he'll never win over Mark Soskin, an economist at the University of Central Florida's Daytona Beach campus, and a longtime Ormond Beach resident. Soskin was passed over by the county to do a consultant's study on local economic development efforts in 2001, and said he thinks the county incorrectly discounted Enterprise Volusia's successes. He is decidedly cynical about Team Volusia, and economic development in general.

"Economic development is the sham to end all shams, the Ponzi scheme to end all Ponzi schemes. . .Economic development, as it is devised in the United States, does not and cannot work," Soskin said. "It is an absolute charade." More here.

Calgary searches for a new slogan

A year-and-a-half ago, Calgary city council approved the search for a new slogan to define Calgary.

An American firm was hired to come up with a new slogan, but the search continues today and the bills are adding up.

Calgary's current slogan, "Calgary - Heart of the New West", still graces the entrance to the city and the walls inside the Calgary Economic Development Authority, but not many other places.

The current slogan was adopted by the city 11 years ago, but surveys show it hasn't been well received.

"It hasn't been fully utilized, badly engaged and that's what led us to look at this," commented Bruce Graham with the Calgary Economic Development Authority.

Despite spending $230,000, the California-based marketing company hired to come up with a new slogan has only decided that Calgary is Canada's most dynamic city, but it hasn't figured out how to reflect that in words.

"I want to emphasize it's not a slogan, it's a positioning statement, something to aspire to. It's a bit of a theme that we can build on and it's something we want to review to make sure it's not too narrowly focused," added Graham.

Marketing strategist, Jacqueline Drew, maintains money should be spent on the concept stage to prevent having to go through the whole process all over again.

"And they better come up with an awful lot of ideas and it better be right and that's the most important thing," said Drew.

Calgary Economic Development doesn't know when "Heart of the New West" will be replaced, maintaining any new slogan will have to be approved by Calgary's new mayor and council.

Audit: W.Va. can't evaluate development efforts

The Associated Press
August 12, 2010

West Virginia's chief economic development agency still can't measure whether it's had any success.

That's the finding from legislative auditors this week. They fault the state Development Office for not complying with their 2007 report on the subject.

That report concluded the office could not determine the effectiveness of its various attempts to help employers locate or expand in the Mountain State.

The agency has responded by citing the outcome of trade shows. It's also supported recent tax cuts and changes to the workers' compensation system.

Wednesday's update from audits says those steps still don't measure performance.

Agency officials say they hope a new Customer Relationship Management system will help them evaluate their efforts.

Ga. economic development department may slash marketing budget

By Leon Stafford
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Georgia Department of Economic Development, which has successfully lured Hollywood to shoot films in the state over the past few years," may soon have to cut back its marketing budget.

Leaders with the department said Thursday that the state has asked them to cut the budget by as much as 8 percent in fiscal 2011, which began July 1, and as much as 10 percent the following year.

That may mean fewer reminders to people around the globe that Georgia is the Peach State or less advertising luring domestic travelers to Vidalia to sample the city's onions.

"Right now the cuts we are looking at are in marketing," Commissioner Heidi Green said. "We will do less on the PR side and less on the advertising side. We'll also reduce the number of trade shows we attend."

The GDEcD, which has a $9.4 million budget for marketing in fiscal 2011, had made personnel cuts, and there were previous cuts in marketing and operations. But facing overall budget reductions for the fourth straight year, the department said it had no choice but to reduce marketing efforts.

The mandated cuts come at a time when the department says its has produced strong economic results. At its quarterly meeting Thursday, Green said the department, with an overall budget for fiscal 2011 of $26.6 million, had brought almost 19,500 jobs to the state in fiscal 2010, up 14.7 percent from fiscal 2009. Companies invested $3.75 billion in communities around the state, a 46.7 percent increase from fiscal 2009.

Greg Torre, interim director of the department's film, music and digital entertainment division, said 330 movie, video game and music productions have been produced in the state so far this year.

"It has been a successful year for the department," Green said.

The state has mandated cuts across the board because of budget shortfalls related to the struggling economy. The Georgia Department of Economic Development had already seen its overall budget cut 25 percent between fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2010, leaders said.

The challenge, Green said, will be to maintain the state's push to attract new jobs. Much of the state's new jobs have been with smaller companies employing fewer than 100 workers, a key department target.

"We know that small business is what is driving the economy," she said. "We are definitely maintaining that small business connection."

Campaign Planned to Boost Moscow’s Brand

The Economic Development Ministry has proposed a large-scale advertising campaign to help turn Moscow into an international financial center, including a dedicated Internet portal, work with Russian nationals abroad and more emphasis on "success stories."

Foreigners have a poor understanding of Russia, and what they do know is dated, according to the ministry's draft plan for improving Russia's brand on international financial markets, a copy of which was obtained by Vedomosti.

Russia's weak standing on investment climate, corruption and stability rankings only adds to the country's poor image, the document said.

According to the Global Financial Centers Index, Moscow currently ranks 68th — well behind leaders London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Targeted advertising campaigns in support of the international financial center — or MFTs, by its Russian acronym — could help add positive information to the overall picture, the ministry said. The project will use both world experience in branding as well as Soviet developments in the field of propaganda, it said.

The proposals are already being discussed with experts and analysts, said Dmitry Skripichnikov, acting head of the ministry's corporate governance department.

One of the main projects would be the creation of an Internet portal for the MFTs, where users could get information about Russia, as well as its investment and economic potential. Initially, the site will be in Russian, English, German and French, with an eventual expansion to include other languages of the BRIC countries, as well as Arabic.

The Economic Development Ministry also wants to include information about Russian financial services on the MFTs site. Another section would focus on "compatriots abroad," which would seek to build ties with Russian finance specialists living outside the country.

An informal group of people, including representatives of the state, business and science, will be recruited to promote the possibilities for business in Russia and the promise of investing here. Accomplishments should become associated with specific individuals and success stories, according to the ministry's plan.

The ministry proposed itself to coordinate the project and promised to partner with leading Russian publications — including Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Interfax, Biznes-FM radio and Expert magazine — to publish information about the good business climate in Russia. They would also seek to monitor stories about Russia in top foreign publications.

Skripichnikov said the ministry had not yet estimated what the program would cost. A campaign without using direct advertising that covers the major economies, such as those in the Group of Eight, typically costs several million dollars per year, said Yelena Fadeyeva, chief of communications agency Fleishman-Hillard Vanguard.

Providing information about Moscow as a business center will make the project more popular, said Yulianna Slashchyova, president of the agency Mikhailov & Partners. Seeking support from fellow Russians is also justified, she said.

"People who left the country in the past 10 to 15 years — unlike those who left the country before perestroika — aren't bitter. They'll be ready to help improve the country's image," she said.

For the international audience, it's important to show the transparency in Russia's decision making and that there's a dialog between business and the authorities, Fadeyeva said.

But direct contact, particularly through social networks, is also important, and that's still lacking in the ministry's program, she said.

The MFTs plan is targeting an audience of top executives and investors, who value direct communication over publications in the press, said Alexei Volin, a former deputy chief of staff for the government. The government should focus on holding forums and conferences, he said.

Denis Rodionov, managing director of Bright Minds Capital, said the project's goals should be realistic. Moscow is capable of becoming a regional financial center, particularly for former Soviet countries, but competing with global financial centers like New York and London is basically impossible, he said.

"Two conditions are needed for the MFTs: The stock market must rise and be of serious, fundamental interest for investors, and [investors] should have the ability to speak regularly with the regulator or the body responsible for creating the center," Gazprombank vice president Anatoly Milyukov told Vedomosti.

Innovation Crescent a strong regional voice for economic development

From Gwinnett Business Journal:

Now that the Innovation Crescent Partnership has formed, Georgia's Atlanta-to-Athens corridor hovers over its Ernst & Young ranking of seventh largest bioscience region in the nation, reaady to take off.

So, what's next? It's all about marketing and strength in numbers. The partnership pulls from 16 different economic development organizations across 13 counties, the power of several major research universities and some of the biggest business leaders on the planet.

In a recent interview with David Hartnett, vice president of regional partnerships for the Innovation Crescent Regional Partnership, he spoke about three major focuses now that organization's board members are in place.

Targeting events
One of the key initiatives for the partnership is to attract bioscience events, forums and conferences to the metro Atlanta area. A major coups would be a conference such as AdvaMed, the one of the largest medical technology shows in the world for CEOs, business executives, policy-makers, financiers, industry stakeholders and media. The 2010 conference takes place in Washington, D.C. features and all-star lineup of presenters and will be attended by over 1,500.

"We have a lot of voice to go out and recruit events to get the exposure we need," said Hartnett, who also serves as the vice president of economic development for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. "So it would make sense for our leadership to go out and solicit events that have never come to Georgia."

Speaking to us from a business recruiting mission in Israel, Hartnett was slated to meet later in the day with one of the largest medical device manufacturers in the world – a meeting that was set because Hartnett represented a region, not just one entity.

Leadership has recently traveled to India, and to Chicago for the 2010 BIO International Technology to represent Georgia's Innovation Crescent.
Growth and exposure

As a team, the Innovation Crescent Regional Partnership will look to market the region not just to bring companies to the Crescent, but also to help grow the companies that are already here.

"A big piece of success is getting exposure for the young companies and young entrepreneurs that are here in the Crescent," said Hartnett. "We want to help them grow organically, perhaps by exposing them to venture capital or whatever it takes them to move their company from small to large."

Hartnett said that with funding, hard work and dedication, economic development from the bioscience companies in the region would spin out to others in the community such as attorneys, CPAs, financial institutions and others that support the industry. As well, it can bring thousands of jobs to the area.

Creating an event
Another focus that's on the agenda for the Innovation Crescent Regional Partnership is to create the organization's own event on a regional level.

Hartnett, who participated in similar regional models in San Diego and North Carolina, believes the Innovation Crescent can surpass these bioscience regions.

"If you look at what the Research Triangle has accomplished in 30 to 50 years, take that linear projection and think about the run rate," he says. "With what we've done with three years of focus – a short period of time – the Innovation Crescent is well on task to be one of the leaders in the nation."

Globalstar leaves (CA) for Louisiana without a fight

By Chris O'Brien
Mercury News Columnist

When Globalstar announced this summer that it intended to move its headquarters from Milpitas to Louisiana, the news barely made a ripple in our state capital.

Attracted by almost $8 million worth of incentives, the satellite telephone company is shuffling off to the bayou without so much as a phone call from state officials asking what should be a no-brainer of a question:

"Is there anything we can do to change your mind?"

Given the lucrative package dangled by Louisiana, the answer may well be "No." But no one from California is asking.

Here's a quick tally of what's being lost. Globalstar plans to move 100 of its 200 Milpitas-based employees to Louisiana. There the company has pledged to hire 150 more employees by 2011, and an additional 350 by 2018. Those 600 jobs may sound puny compared with the more than 4,500 jobs lost when the NUMMI plant closed, or the thousands of unemployed workers in this region.

But when the state's unemployment rate is 12.3 percent, every job matters.

It's particularly painful because in recent weeks, we've seen some notable valley-based companies, lured by cushy incentive packages, announce big expansions elsewhere. Soladigm of Milpitas is building a new plant in Mississippi with the help of a $40 million loan and $4 million in other incentives. Solexant of San Jose unveiled plans to locate its new plant in Oregon, backed by a $25 million loan and $18.75 million in tax credits.

Even worse, Globalstar represents just the kind of ambitious technology company the state should be begging to stay. I first wrote about it more than a decade ago. It was planning an incredibly expensive, highly risky venture to launch dozens of satellites for global phone coverage. It proved ill-fated; the development of incredibly cheap cell phones made Globalstar's expensive satellite phones a niche product.

But now that niche -- selling phones to military agencies, merchant ships and emergency departments -- is doing pretty well. And after reorganizing in bankruptcy court, the company raised $738 million in one of the worst credit markets in history to start a new satellite network later this year.

Investors clearly think there is something to this satellite business.

The company began to weigh a move earlier this year when it acquired a Louisiana-based company called Axonn with 35 employees. That state's economic development department caught wind of the company's interest in relocating from California and offered a package of $4.4 million tied to the number of jobs created, and $3.7 million to offset other costs.

In fairness to California officials, Globalstar never announced publicly it was considering a move. And it never called to ask about what incentives the state might offer.

What really worries me, however, is the reason Globalstar CEO Peter Dalton told me they didn't bother:

"I know the state is financially strapped," Dalton said. "It didn't appear it would be in a position to do anything."

In other words, California's chronic budget disarray means the state is fighting an even steeper battle than we realized to revive our economy.

Still, Dalton said he was surprised that he never received a call from the state after the move was revealed on July 13.

Worse, back in April, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the creation of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, saying it would help the state focus on its No. 1 economic priority.

"It is the most important thing for our administration to create jobs and to help rebuild the economy and that means to help companies to come back and expand," he said.

So why was there no response to Globalstar's announcement?

Luis Farias, a department spokesman, defended the office's work, saying officials have been working hard in the months since it opened to reach out to businesses across the state.

"If we know about it, and we get involved, we can create action," he said.

Now, I'm not advocating that the state shower every company with crazy incentive packages. Perhaps Louisiana made an offer that wasn't worth matching.

If our public officials aren't willing to battle for every job, it's hard to put any faith in their ability to pull California out of its steep, downward spiral.

Watsonville brands itself as city of opportunity:

By DONNA JONES - Santa Cruz Sentinel

WATSONVILLE - When Spencer and Carol Owyang looked for a place to relocate their motorcycle parts company after being burned out in the 2008 Trabing Fire, Watsonville fit the bill.

The Strawberry Business Center on Hanger Way offered them the chance to buy a condominium zoned for light industrial production.

They liked the neighborhood too. Nearby FedEx offered access to shipping. Hardware suppliers were lined up along Hangar Way. Fox Racing Shox, a similar business though larger, was next door, giving the Owyangs the assurance that they'd find the type of workers they'd need.

"And you can't beat the climate in Santa Cruz County," said Owyang, who, with his wife, founded Constructors Racing Group 10 years ago and today provides jobs for six to 12 people depending on the season.

It's entrepreneurs like the Owyangs that Watsonville hopes to attract with a new marketing campaign, "Growing Opportunities." As part of the campaign, the city has launched a website that aims to be a "one-stop shop" for people interested in setting up or expanding businesses in the city.

People invariably associate Watsonville with the strawberry, without a doubt one of its chief economic engines, said Kurt Overmeyer, the city's economic development manager.

But what's less recognized is that Watsonville also is home to a diverse group of nationally and internationally known companies, he said, ticking off examples such as Fox Racing Shox, fine tableware manufacturer Annieglass, boating supplier West Marine, software developer Smith Micro7 and Nordic Naturals, which produces nutritional supplements.

Overmeyer said Watsonville's economy is in transition. The food processing plants that once made its fortunes aren't coming back. But there's still plenty of successful companies and opportunities in the city. It's a matter of getting the word out.

The city paid consultants, Gerardot & Co. of Indianapolis, $35,000 to develop the campaign, to brand Watsonville as a place to grow a business. The campaign was developed after an extensive interview process. In a city that's been home to waves of immigrants who came from all over the world to find a better life, the common thread in all the discussions was opportunity.

The campaign includes printed materials as well as the online presence.

The website lays it all out: the demographics, where to live or shop, where to find resources, whether a business is looking for financing or employee training.

Overmeyer doesn't expect instant success with the campaign, but that the new brand will take hold given time.

"We're creating a new mindset for what people think about Watsonville, one that's universally positive," he said. "If we can pull that off in five years, we'll be doing a great job."

Monday, August 09, 2010

Can Karl Dean’s industry think tank rebrand Music City?

Nashville Calling
by Adam Gold

Nearly everyone can agree on why Nashville should be considered a world-class city and a music-business player in the same league as New York or L.A.: We're the cradle of country music, the citadel of contemporary Christian. We're home to many of the most skilled session players, songwriters, producers and engineers in the world.

And yet, touring bands make a beeline from Louisville to Atlanta — around us. When it comes to local bands, the national media suffers from some kind of amnesia: By the time the next one hits, they seem startled all over again to learn Nashville breeds something more than country music. It doesn't matter who moves here, or who makes the pop crossover of the decade, or who sells more than 24 million digital tracks while the rest of the industry is throwing up its hands: For anything other than country, the Music City brand stops at the Music City limits.

Everybody knows we belong at the top of the big leagues — everybody in Nashville, anyway. What's harder to pin down is why the rest of the world doesn't seem to agree.

But for the past year, at Mayor Karl Dean's behest, a think-tank of music-industry heavyweights has been asking the question: What will it take to give the Music City brand across-the-board weight? What will make Nashville a destination not just for tourists, but for the creative class that gives cities a cool cachet that translates into increased revenue and real-estate values?

Known as the Nashville Music Council, the mayor's group amounts to a Justice League of music-business honchos, supplemented by up-and-comers from the trenches who make up in enthusiasm and ideas what they lack in connections. They've addressed themselves to a common topic — what'll it take? — and applied it to a variety of fronts: industry development, venues, education, even public transportation.

Now a year into its existence, the council has many in the Nashville music community scratching their heads and wondering exactly who they are and what, if anything, they're accomplishing. As an advisory board to the mayor — like the Health Care Council — they've managed to split into four subcommittees: branding, creative talent, live music and music education. And so far, a cynic might say, that is their greatest accomplishment.

But there are looming developments that may answer the project's critics. The council is still wading through minutiae in an exploratory phase that, while time-consuming, could well be worth the wait. As a whole, it's a big brain, rich with ideas, eager to work, full of power — but rife with question marks. While the council and the mayor are no doubt developing the biggest picture yet of Music City, it's only slowly coming into focus.


"I think one of the strongest things we have in Nashville is that we are constantly bringing in — as capital — creative people," says Mayor Dean, answering this reporter's first question with a minutes-long outpouring of enthusiasm. "Whether it's songwriters or musicians or performers or technicians, we're bringing in people whose talent is their ability to be creative. They revitalize the city."

Dean wants to continue to court those bright minds to Nashville and see them sow the seeds of cultural, technological and economic development. He wants to capitalize on the Music City brand. Yet while he recognizes that brand as a powerful magnet to entice new businesses, lure tourists and inspire artists and innovators to seek refuge here, it's one that needs a makeover.

Start with the story of Music City — not just the one you read on plaques lining the walls of the Ryman or the Country Music Hall of Fame, but the one that includes Taylor Swift and the Kings of Leon's recent Grammy takeover. The story of prominent artists from Kid Rock to Jack White coming Nashville-way to set up shop. The story that led urban studies theorist Richard Florida to declare Nashville the Silicon Valley of the music industry.

The rebranding effort hinges on Nashville's fight to tell the world we're not just country — only this time around, it's coming from the Metro government. It's official: Not only do the city fathers want to tell this story, citing all the examples that make it self-evident, but they want to write the ending — not by editing Nashville's rich country heritage out of the narrative, but by building on its laurels and ending in triumph, not tragedy.


Monday, August 02, 2010

Rethinking the Red Carpet

Nevada needs more than low taxes, friendly regulatory environment to lure businesses

Economic development is all the rage these days in Nevada.

The state's reliance on tourism and construction bought it the nation's highest jobless rate. Averting similar disasters later will require diversification into new industries. The topic is so hot that Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki just launched a task force of nearly 30 people to form recommendations on bringing in new businesses. The Nevada Development Authority just rolled out another campaign in its ongoing effort to filch disillusioned companies from California, and the city of Henderson's economic-development experts are busy trying to convince as many as 60 companies to move to Southern Nevada.

So now is as good a time as any to ask what relocating and expanding businesses want. What kind of message will draw them in for a closer look, and how should those wants and needs shape development officials' marketing efforts?

Up to now, the state's most visible marketing campaigns have focused almost exclusively on Nevada's relatively low taxes and lack of red tape. But diversification officials from around the country say that single-note song might need some fine-tuning.

Sure, taxes matter, and tax-centric messages can prove effective.

Consider the Golden State meltdown that ensued in 2009, when the Nevada Development Authority unleashed a tax- and bureaucracy-focused campaign that compared California legislators to chimpanzees and highlighted Nevada's lack of income taxes and its cheaper worker's compensation insurance. California legislators bit back, though, as the Los Angeles Times noted, California businesses might indeed be ripe for the picking.

"In a tough economy when companies are looking to slash costs, some industry leaders fear poachers will be more successful this time around," the paper wrote.

And in 2008, the authority's April 15 "tax bear" campaign reminded California business owners that they'd be free of state income taxes in the Silver State. The campaign threatened the state enough that California lawmakers evaluated the ads in a hearing of that state's legislative Revenue and Taxation Committee to show how tax policy is encouraging poaching from other states.

What's more, a recent survey from Chief Executive magazine handed Nevada the No. 5 position among the best states for business, thanks in part to the Silver State's tax and regulation regime. The magazine quoted several California company leaders who said they are disenchanted with doing business in California.

"California has a good living environment but is unfavorable to business and the state taxes are not survivable," said Bill Dormandy, chief executive officer of San Francisco medical-device maker ITC. "Nevada and Virginia are encouraging business to move to their states with lower tax rates and less regulatory demands." More here.

States bring incentives to bear in courting Hawker Beechcraft

Wichita Business Journal - by Daniel McCoy

Louisiana and Mississippi bring plenty of incentives and motivation to the table as Hawker Beechcraft Corp. considers them for a possible relocation of some of its operations out of Wichita, according to one national site selection consultant.

“Louisiana and Mississippi are both very aggressive in the way they are attracting business,” says Jason Hickey, president of site selection firm Hickey & Associates LLC.

But it appears Kansas doesn’t have much to counter with.

Joe Monaco, a spokesman with the Kansas Department of Commerce, says incentives written into the state tax code are tied to job growth, not retention. That means states courting companies such as Hawker can offer the company more to relocate than Kansas can offer to keep it in place.

“We don’t have incentives to throw at a company that is threatening to leave,” Monaco says. “It really is that simple.”

Louisiana and Mississippi have a slew of tax credit programs, property tax exemptions and training initiatives to lure new companies. For instance, Louisiana is offering companies $2,500 tax credits for each new job they create. Mississippi offers credits to manufacturers who make major capital investments in that state.

The state of Kansas announced earlier this week it had reached a deal to help another aircraft company, Bombardier Inc., expand its Learjet facility in Wichita. The state deal will help the company add several buildings for work on the Learjet 85.

An expensive move
In a letter to employees last week, Hawker CEO Bill Boisture said the company continued to evaluate locations “both within and outside the U.S. that might be suitable for parts of our business.”

Boisture’s letter, which said that no decisions on relocation had been made, came on the heels of a letter from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers that warned members that Hawker could reduce its Wichita work force by as much as 75 percent during the next two years.

Hickey says if Hawker were to move that much work out of Wichita, it would buck the trend.

“We actually see a lot more consolidation of manufacturing mainly because of supply chain savings,” he says.

Rolland Vincent, an aviation analyst and president of Rolland Vincent Associates, says other states could be home to parts of Hawker’s business.

But, he says, moving the amount of work the union is talking about would mean relocating existing production lines for older models of aircraft. Vincent says that’s a much costlier prospect than finding a new site for a new product.

Moving older product lines means not just moving all the existing equipment, he says, it also means a drop in productivity as the company builds up its work force in a new location.

It makes Vincent skeptical that such a large-scale move is good for Hawker.

“Frankly, I’d be very surprised if this was the development,” he says.

He also says moving large portions of work to Mexico, where the company already has a facility, creates the same problems as moving to other states.

A look at incentives Mississippi and Louisiana have to offer manufacturers:


A 100 percent property tax abatement for up to 10 years on materials used in new manufacturing.

A $2,500 tax credit for each certified net new job created and either a 4 percent sales/use tax rebate on capital expenditures or income and franchise tax credits up to 1.5 percent of investment.

A 5 percent refundable state tax credit for manufacturers modernizing or upgrading existing facilities in Louisiana.

Louisiana FastStart program provides training and employment sourcing services at no cost to the company.


National or regional headquarters tax credits that equal between $500 and $2,000 per position and can be applied to state income tax to reduce corporate income tax liability.

An up to 10-year exemption from property taxes may be granted by local governing authorities on real and tangible personal property being used in the state. The exemption may be granted for all local property taxes except school district taxes on any property, but may not be granted on finished goods or rolling stock. The exemption usually includes land, buildings, machinery, equipment, furniture, fixtures, raw materials and work in process.

Income tax credits for existing manufacturers that have operated in Mississippi for at least two years are available if an existing manufacturer invests at least $1 million in additional buildings and/or equipment. The credit is calculated as 5 percent of the eligible project investment and is allowed for the year that the investment occurs. The credit allowed on any project cannot exceed $1 million.
A rebate of a percentage of Mississippi payroll to qualified employers for a period of up to 10 years is available to businesses that promise significant expansion of the economy through job creation.

Sources: Louisiana Economic Development and Mississippi Development Authority. | 266-6195

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Report: Wisconsin needs new economic development agency

A new report recommends that economic development functions be carved out from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and be centralized in a new agency in order to help turn around the state's sluggish economy.

The report shows that the state lags in per-capita income and employment, and consistently ranks in the bottom half of states in terms of business environment.

While the impacts of the national recession, globalization and other economic forces have contributed to the state's economic woes, other states have found opportunities for growth and the report criticizes the state's economic development efforts as “a scattered broadcast of ideas and hopes instead of a well-rooted strategy for change.”

In order to reinvigorate the state's economy, the study's authors recommend the state form a new, quasi-public economic development organization, Accelerate Wisconsin, to create and implement a statewide economic development strategy.

While stripping the Department of Commerce of its economic development functions would represent a major shift, it “can position the state in a more effective leadership role. ”

The report, "Be Bold Wisconsin,” was commissioned by the Wisconsin Economic Development Association, Competitive Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Counties Association and was produced by Deloitte Consulting and Newmark Knight Frank. Those involved with crafting the report include leaders in business, labor, higher education, economic development and state government, including former Commerce Secretaries Cory Nettles and Bill McCoshen.

In addition to forming a new economic development organization, in order to reach the goal of making Wisconsin among the top ten states to start or expand a business by 2016 the report recommends the state:

- “Reposition Wisconsin's brand through an aggressive and targeted marketing campaign.”

- “Align state economic development efforts, educational programs, and public- and private- sector leaders around select targeted industries.”

- “Develop a structured, proactive approach to business retention.”

- “Centralize and streamline the state’s innovation programs.”

- “Reinvigorate and focus Wisconsin’s business attraction capabilities .”

- “Deploy a statewide “shovel-ready” sites program with expedited permitting procedures.”

- “Implement new incentives geared toward capital-intensive and startup projects and align incentives with target industry sectors. ”

- “Apply technology to enable and underpin Wisconsin’s economic development strategy. ”

Read the report: