Sunday, October 31, 2010

Industry prospects pick up steam

October 31, 2010 6:25 AM
Ragan Robinson

Donny Hicks says the industry recruitment business feels like 2005 again.

Companies are following up faster after preliminary requests for information.

There’s more momentum as a number of different corporations start the expansion ball rolling.

Industry has been sitting still for so long, Hicks says, “They feel like they have to do something.”

Hicks is the executive director of the Gaston County Economic Development Commission. The seven-person office he oversees is responsible for pouncing when a company shows an interest in building, expanding or relocating in the county. The economic development office also has a marketing component to make sure site selection consultants hear about Gaston County so the companies they work for will, too.

Hicks backs up his optimism with a lengthy prospect list, nearly 30 unnamed companies with thousands of potential jobs, he says have visited Gaston County.

He thinks most of them are poised to make a decision about location in the next few months.

Seven of the prospects are interested in the 4-acre Gastonia Technology Park, where the last phase of work on the land includes grading 74 acres and adding 2,000 feet of paved road to connect to N.C. 275, along with 2,000 feet of water line.

The county is on the short list for a number of the expansion and relocation plans, according to Hicks, who said all of those would be manufacturers.

But he says when companies get that close to a location, the intangibles take hold - the market, the building, the incentive package, even relationships or family that the county has no control over.

By that time the EDC has already filled hundreds of pages with information about what the county offers – from soil conditions, wages and worker information all the way to information as obscure as “vibration adjacency” and estimated electric cost per kilowatt hour.

How Gaston aims to LAND jobs, investment

Gaston County’s best bait for luring new jobs and tax dollars in the form of companies ready to move: Land, say Hicks and other county officials.

“We’ve been aggressive with land acquisition,” Hicks said. “For manufacturing, I think that makes us one of the frontrunners.”

The industries Gaston County targets for jobs and taxable investment are no longer interested in wooded, unprepared sites. Today, companies want land that is ready for construction, with water, sewer and enough power to serve the buildings. It means a greater investment in the county’s land, said County Manager Jan Winters, but it also means a better return.

Interest in economic development often focuses on jobs, but Winters points out that residents with a steady income, as well as other businesses, benefit from new and expanded industry as well. That’s because when the county can collect more in property taxes, it takes less from each one to keep the county going.

Cities benefit from Gaston’s scattered industrial parks and complexes because they often get major water or other utilities customers.

But the investment the Gaston County EDC can make in preparing sites is dwindling, said Matt Blackwell, who is in charge of capital improvements for the commission. The budget for those improvements went from $2 million to $1 million in the 2009-10 budget year. This year, it’s $250,000.

Even with construction prices 20 to 25 percent less than two years ago, a quarter-million dollars will build about 500 feet of road with sidewalks and trees, Blackwell said.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Marketing marijuana: How capturing the 'Humboldt Brand' may take more than legalization

Ashley Bailey/For the Times-Standard
Posted: 10/25/2010 01:23:17 AM PDT

When it comes to marketing marijuana, there are already foreseeable roadblocks -- not the least of which is whether it becomes legal in California after November's election.

Funding, community acceptance and regulation are all unknown factors at this point.

But, that hasn't stopped people like Liz Davidson from leading marketing efforts to create a “Humboldt Brand” for marijuana.

Organic, sustainable, grown-in-the-sun are the ideals she is marketing through the not-for-profit Tea House Collective. It's a cooperative based out of Berkeley that educates medical marijuana patients -- currently 500 of them -- about where their marijuana comes from.

The collective was formed after public discussions called “What's After Pot?” were held in Southern Humboldt in March. Branding of marijuana was a constant topic of discussion. Davidson said she started organizing the collective in April, it was incorporated in June, and the certification process was developed over the summer. She publicly introduced the collective at the International Cannabis and Hemp Expo in the San Francisco Bay Area in late September.

Davidson has taken 20 small-scale Humboldt County growers through an organic and sustainable certification process.

Marijuana is currently illegal in California -- unless you have a doctor's prescription for medical use in the form of a 215 card. If passed, a ballot for the Nov. 2 election would allow adults 21 years of age and older to legally possess one ounce of marijuana and grow plants on a five-by-five plot. Local governments would have the ability to tax and regulate them.

Davidson said she would consider using her model for commercial marijuana if it were legalized.

”Broader legalization will change things, but it's impossible to tell how or when or if it will be challenged,” she said. “We're doing what we're doing right now, and we'll adapt to circumstances.”

Davidson called the marijuana grown by the collective's Southern Humboldt growers as “hand crafted” and “artisanal.”

Already in Humboldt County, there is a group of businesses marketing their goods as “hand crafted” and “artisanal” -- ranging from beer, wine, cheeses, jewelry and other crafts -- with the “Humboldt” name. It's called Humboldt Made, and it is managed by the Humboldt County Office of Economic Development.

Jacqueline Debets, Economic Development coordinator for the county, has managed the Humboldt Made project on behalf of the specialty agriculture industry, and wrote grants to fund it.

When asked if the Humboldt Made project would consider including marijuana in its marketing plan in the future, she said it is not an easy answer.

”Branding, indeed protecting and defining the Humboldt Grown brand for marijuana, is an important step and shouldn't be oversimplified,” Debets said in an e-mail. “How it's connected to the Humboldt Made brand is a good question. The product board of businesses governing Humboldt Made will look at it.”

She said the marijuana industry needs to take critical steps, such as setting up quality testing, product liability insurance, as well as certification and laws to license growers.

She said she sees the Humboldt Growers Association taking the lead as an emerging trade association for the marijuana industry.

Joey Burger, president of the Humboldt Growers Association, said the Southern Humboldt-based group was formed in July to be a voice for marijuana growers in the community. It has a five-member board and a five-member advisory board.

He said that growers may have to pave their own way as business owners and start their own “Humboldt” brand, whether through an organization or as individuals.

”Branding is absolutely necessary, especially to keep people outside the community from capitalizing on Humboldt's decades of hard work and reputation,” Burger said. “It's important now if it's medical cannabis and even more important with legal cannabis.”

Some growers have already stepped out into branding their marijuana products and have found success in it.

A local marijuana grower, who wished to be anonymous due to legal concerns, said he has been growing marijuana for 14 years and started his own branding techniques two years ago.

He said he has been successful developing logos for different strains, as well as branding “the story” of Humboldt and its growing culture. He said he shares information and photos of his farm with medical marijuana patients, and users like feeling like they are a part of his story.

”People love learning about the story of Humboldt's sustainable cultivation and natural beauty, why we love to live here and our love for the plant,” he said. “Now patients know my product, they know the quality -- that it's grown outdoors and there are ethics attached to it.”

While growers are ready to embrace the business of marijuana, the community still has room to grow, acceptance wise, said Mark Lovelace, Humboldt County's 3rd District supervisor.

Lovelace said he has been encouraging groups like Humboldt Made, business owners and the community to start preparing for the fact that marijuana could be legalized in the near future.

However, any project involving marijuana would not be eligible for public funding, leaving a road block in many potential partnerships in the community.

Lovelace said there will have to be some acceptance on the part of the whole community to market marijuana successfully.

”There's a cultural acceptance curve between recognizing it's a part of our economy to actively embracing it, promoting it and celebrating it as part of our economy,” he said.

”Is the community as a whole, beyond the industry itself, determined they're ready to have the name of the place they live attached to this industry?' Lovelace asked. “It involves everybody, not just those in the industry.”

Lovelace pointed out that Humboldt Made supports breweries and wineries despite the fact that 77 years ago, both were illegal under Prohibition.

He said he hopes it won't take that long to come to terms with capitalizing on the marijuana market.

On the other side of it, Lovelace said he can see that if projects like Humboldt Made incorporated marijuana businesses into their marketing strategies, the two could possibly hurt each other more than help each other.

”When someone sees Humboldt Creamery milk, they could think, 'Does that have pot in it?' I wouldn't be surprised if people went that far,” Lovelace said. “I think we need to be cognizant of that.”

He said there needs to be a positive outlook to it, and the more people talk about it with legislators and local governments, the better.

Burger said Southern Humboldt is already a step ahead in acceptance, embracing marijuana and the money it brings into the community.

He said Northern Humboldt, and the rest of California for that matter, need to look at legalization as an opportunity for new revenue and jobs. Burger and the Humboldt Growers Association are continuing to work with Lovelace and other local officials on how to move forward with marijuana marketing -- medical and commercial, if it becomes legal.

Lovelace said he wants to move forward with legalization, but doesn't have a position on Proposition 19 since he believes it is incomplete. The Board of Supervisors announced Tuesday that as a group, they support Proposition 19. Supervisor Jimmy Smith abstained from the vote. If legalization doesn't happen this time around, Lovelace said, he's convinced it will come up again on the 2012 election ballot.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

State Has New Economic Development Campaign

The governor's economic development office has begun a new television and Internet advertising campaign aimed at attracting businesses to Montana.

The ads, featuring Gov. Brian Schweitzer, say Montana has been one of only two state governments in the black during the national recession.

"How long will it be before your state's red ink rubs off on your business?" Schweitzer asks in one ad that includes clips of national television interviews about Montana's positive budget balance.

The ads — which are running on CNN, Fox News, CNBC and the Weather Channel — also note that Montana has been ranked No. 1 among the states for business startups by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The ads speak "directly to business travelers about the opportunities available here, like our business tax climate, our good schools and universities and, of course, our No. 1 resource, our people," said Evan Barrett, chief business development officer under Schweitzer.

The campaign also includes links to an Innovate Montana website from ads posted in the online business pages of major newspapers in Denver, Minneapolis, Portland, Ore., and Seattle. A Facebook page is also planned.

"It's all part of an integrated vehicle to get the word out," Barrett told Lee Newspapers of Montana. "When all the states are in trouble and they're all looking at tax hikes and draconian cuts in things like education, we're in an enviable position right now."

Sen. Jeff Essman, R-Billings, who has encouraged the state to recruit businesses, called Schweitzer a "shameless self promoter" for appearing in the ads.

Essman said it was "good Republican tax policies" adopted from 2001-05 that led to the good business growth Schweitzer is claiming credit for. He said Schweitzer has taken a $1 billion surplus and spent it down the $300 million by "exploding general fund spending by 44 percent in the last five years."

Barrett said his office and a marketing committee of business people made the decision to feature Schweitzer in the ads, calling him "one of our best salesmen."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Goochland County pursues economic plan

Published: October 20, 2010
By Amy Condra

Goochland’s Board of Supervisors and Economic Development Authority met Monday night to discuss ways to enhance the county’s economic future.

Board Chairman William E. Quarles Jr., said he hopes the meeting will be the first of several as Goochland County decides how it wants to develop.

“We might differ in our opinions as to what economic development means and how to go about it, but our goal is the same,” said Quarles. “Quality economic development enhances the quality of life in Goochland.”

Guest speakers at the meeting included Jeffrey M. Anderson, President and CEO, Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), and Robert W. McClintock Jr., Research Director, VEDP.

Anderson said that Virginia’s target sectors are advanced manufacturing, security and services, science and research, and transportation.

Anderson explained the importance of asset-based marketing as a county determines its economic development strategy, such as which economic sector to pursue.

A community’s assets could be its workforce, worksites, markets, business climate and quality of life, said McClintock.

“The quality of life permeates everything,” said McClintock. “It’s dependent on talent and workforce. And having the amenities to attract the right kind of labor force is even more important today than 15 years ago.”

Such amenities, he added, could be schools, parks and recreational opportunities.

Competition for projects is more intense than he’s ever seen, said McClintock, noting that such competition comes not just from other regions but also from other countries.

“What sells your community is the people who are already there,” said Anderson. “Clients come in and the first thing they say is, who else has been successful in this community?”

Both Anderson and McClintock stressed the importance of a community developing a sustainable strategic plan.

What should Goochland’s first step be toward accomplishing that goal?

An honest assessment of the county’s strengths and weaknesses, said Anderson.

In response to a question from the EDA, Anderson said that he believes Goochland’s strongest assets are its existing industries, its workforce and its location.

The next step would be to pursue opportunities that are based on the county’s strengths and being aware of threats based on its weaknesses.

“Position yourself with the clear idea of what you believe makes you different,” said Anderson.

By going to industries that already operate in the county—both small businesses and large ones such as CarMax, Capital One and Performance Foods—the county can gain awareness of how it is currently serving its economic stakeholders.

When EDA member Ben Slone asked about the process of developing a sustainable economic plan, McClintock pointed out that it wouldn’t be a short-term exercise.

“When we got the TCSD (Tuckahoe Creek Service District) utilities in 2000, everybody wanted water and sewer in eastern Goochland, we thought all we would have to do is bring water and sewer in and life would be good and nobody would struggle,” said District 5 Supervisor James W. Eads.

“The idea was, all along, to have corporate offices like CarMax and Capital One, but I think that whole equation is gone, there’s going to have be a whole new creation,” Eads added. “Who fits Goochland?”

Quarles asked what the role of an economic director would be for the county.

“You have to be real clear what your burning need is,” said Anderson. “If you need someone to develop a strategy, that’s a different person than one who comes in to execute a strategy. Be sure you recruit for what you believe your highest need is.”

County Administrator Rebecca Dickson said that developing an economic plan is a time-intensive effort that will require a lot of staff time and effort.

“I am asking for a consensus around the dedication of resources, and perhaps we come back with a plan around that,” said Dickson.

Supervisors voted unanimously to support that proposal.

The next Board of Supervisors meeting will be November 3.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Despite new buildings, no quick fix for Lebanon's economic malaise

By Debra Mccown
Published: October 17, 2010

LEBANON, Va. – With two gleaming office buildings on a hill above Main Street, there’s no question that CGI and Northrop Grumman have changed the landscape since announcing their arrival here five years ago.

But no one’s calling them the saviors of Russell County anymore.

“Yes, they have afforded many economic development opportunities and advantages for Russell County,” County Administrator Jim Gillespie said. “If the question is, did they bring an overnight sensation and a great influx of population or commercial development – we are still working on that.”

When the announcement came down that the two high-tech giants would employ hundreds at facilities here, county leaders rode a wave of excitement that went all the way to the governor’s office.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who announced the projects while serving as governor in 2005, remains enthusiastic about the potential impact their arrival here will have on the region’s economy.

But five years later, the sweeping change everyone envisioned has settled into a slow, progressive pace.

As many of the houses built for the companies’ employees sit empty, unsold and unfinished, and anticipated small business development has yet to take off, county leaders are pushing their grandiose predictions into the future while taking stock of the progress that has been made.

Success and failure

So far, in the two years since they began operating, the companies have paid more than $217,000 in property taxes, according to county records. While that doesn’t come close to the $8.8 million in public funds spent on incentives for developing the site, it’s significant in a county with a nonschool budget of just less than $26 million a year.

Gillespie said sales tax revenue generated when employees spend money in Lebanon, such as at the nearby Walmart shopping center, also is significant.

But at the same time, much of the development that was supposed to piggyback on the high-tech companies’ arrival, such as new housing and small business opportunities, hasn’t come as promised.

At GardenSide Village, a housing development built within sight of Northrop Grumman and CGI, only half of the units have sold. Some have been rented, while others sit unfinished and unoccupied.

“We’re still hopeful, but probably what we were led to believe as far as what people would be wanting and what they do are probably two different things,” said Mike Fletcher, managing partner of the development. “We’ve probably overbuilt because of that.”

Fletcher said he believed the claims five years ago that, with an influx of workers from Northern Virginia, large homes in a development like his would be in demand.

“We didn’t get the people that we thought we were going to get,” Fletcher said. “I think what you have is a lot of kids straight out of college who can’t really afford to buy anything; they rented apartments in Abingdon.”

The widely circulated predictions about housing came from a study done by a consultant, said Larry Carr, executive director of the Cumberland Plateau Co., which does economic development work for the Cumberland Plateau Planning District.

“We thought over time that more of them would tend to come into the Russell County area to live rather than travel the longer distance,” Carr said. “It may have happened if the housing bubble hadn’t burst on us.”

Carr points to the national economy, and its slide into recession two years ago, as the primary reason many of the optimistic projections made five years ago haven’t materialized.

His predecessor, Andrew Chafin, wrote a book in 2007 – a little more than a year before the Great Recession hit – about Russell County’s successful economic development model, in attracting not only the two information technology giants but also Lear, Alcoa and AT&T to Lebanon.

Although Alcoa has since closed its doors and the Lear facility, now owned by IAC, is in the process of closing, Carr said the book, “Rumble in Russell,” is still true, reflecting the county’s unlikely ability to attract four Fortune 500 companies to a town of just 3,500 people.

Chafin referred comments to Carr, who said CGI and Northrop Grumman have definitely had an impact on the county’s economy.

“I know that Lear and Alcoa closing has hurt, but just think what would’ve happened if you hadn’t had Northrop Grumman and CGI, because there’s about 500 and some jobs there,” Carr said.

Jonathan Belcher, executive director of the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, which helped to fund the project, said the money paid to workers in those jobs more than justifies the investment made by state, local and regional agencies five years ago.

“Both CGI and Northrop Grumman have had a major impact on the economy of the region,” Belcher said, citing a recent consultant’s study naming those companies, a strong energy industry and a power plant under construction in nearby St. Paul as key reasons why the economy here has done fairly well in the recession.

“Those are the kind of jobs that we want to encourage in the region, and I think it’s been worth it from the standpoint of all the jobs that they brought, but also just overall image for the region,” Belcher said. “Since they located here, it’s really helped us to be able to brand the region as Virginia’s e-region.”

Before the recession, there was a call for small businesses to start up, with the promise that they’d thrive on the influx of new customers with disposable income. But a call to the Russell County Chamber of Commerce revealed that only a car rental place, an auto parts franchise, a winery and a payday lender have opened in the county since CGI and Northrop Grumman opened their Lebanon facilities.

At least two small businesses, a coffee shop and a bakery, opened in an effort to cater to high-tech employees, but neither was able to stay in business for long.

“There’s nothing that really stands out in my mind that would be a direct link to those businesses [CGI and Northrop Grumman] that’s been able to survive,” said Linda Tate, executive director of the chamber.

“I think everyone who has started a business in the last five years has had a great business plan and a great idea. ... I don’t know what the factors were, but they did not survive.”

A few weeks before one of them, Morning Star Bakery, closed, owner Donna Watson said the main factor was a lack of customers.

“I thought they were all going to live here and they would support this place and it would start to grow. I can’t see that it has,” she said. “You could talk to some people in the politics of it that might think differently, but … as far as growth, I don’t see any growth in town.”

A proven model

At CGI and Northrop Grumman, success is measured not by the community impact but by the bottom line. And so far, they say they’re doing well.

“Five years later, we look at it as very successful,” said Cheryl Janey, vice president of communications for Northrop Grumman’s information systems sector.

Now with about 170 employees in Lebanon, Northrop Grumman is bringing some of its own work here in addition to contract work, she said, and the facility is taking on a more prominent role within the company.

She said the local work force has exceeded expectations and the lower cost of doing business in a rural area helped the company stay competitive without compromising service or sending the work offshore.

Northrop Grumman also has gotten involved in the community, sponsoring blood drives and providing grants to local schools, she said, because the company plans to stay here a long time.

“The success in Lebanon in part led to us replicating the model in other parts of the country,” she said. “It was an experiment at the time, and it was an experiment that went wonderfully.”

At CGI, which tests and develops software, the story is similar: This was an experimental model that’s since been proven and duplicated, said Lyn Tatum, spokeswoman at the company’s Lebanon facility.

“This was the first onshore rural development center that we’ve done at CGI,” Tatum said, adding that the broadband and work-force training infrastructure available were key factors in bringing the company to Lebanon.

“It costs more money to do business in the big cities,” she said. “We want to be here.”

Now with 380 employees and plans to bring more on board, the company has outgrown its building and is renting additional office space at the Russell County Governmental Center down the hill.

Tatum said two-thirds or more of the employees are from the surrounding region of Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee, and many of the others are recent college graduates from across the country.

She said the average employee’s salary is about $51,000 a year. According to U.S. Census data, that’s about $20,000 a year higher than the median household income in Russell County.

Tatum is a kind of poster child for a story that CGI and economic developers like to tell as a sign of their success – the local people who are able to stay in Southwest Virginia or move back home because of the new job opportunities.

“I think the impact has probably been tremendous, just for the fact that I’m able to come back to my hometown and really have a wonderful quality of life,” said Tatum, who was born and raised in Lebanon.

Here, her two children can see their grandparents on a daily basis, she said. And to her, the value of that is “priceless.”

Growth potential

Five years later, Warner still recalls the announcement that the two IT companies would locate here as a key moment in his term as governor.

“I just always remember, at the high school where we made the announcement, some kid came up to me and said, ‘Now I can come back home and raise my family here,’ ” Warner said during a recent visit to Lebanon. “That was the best day I had as a governor.”

He said the facilities here are still “a great success story,” because of the way they’ve impacted individual lives and because they’ve proved a concept about work in the IT field that will help the region build its future.

“It doesn’t have to be Northern Virginia,” Warner said of high-tech industries. “This could be here.”

Tony Dodi, who serves as mayor of Lebanon, principal of Lebanon High School and a member of the Russell County Industrial Development Authority, said that proof will have a real impact in the long run, not just on his town and county but on the entire region.

“People know where we are,” Dodi said, explaining that other computer-based technology companies, though maybe not in Lebanon, have since located in Southwest Virginia. “It’s finally got us to realize we are competing in a global economy.”

Belcher, at the Coalfield Economic Development Authority, said more companies will come to the region once the recession ends – and the IT cluster they create will support the kind of housing and amenities envisioned five years ago.

“I’m still optimistic that it will happen,” he said. “I just think it will take longer than our original projections were.”

Carr, at the Planning District, said the kind of growth everyone is hoping for is probably two or three years away – but, when the economy picks back up, it will come.

To Gillespie, the county administrator, the presence of CGI and Northrop Grumman is a reaffirmation of something those in Southwest Virginia already knew: Economic development here is not limited to a single town or county, but is necessarily regional in scope.

“We saw that we could not be an island, that we were part of a region,” Gillespie said, explaining that the companies draw employees from – and infuse money into – all of the counties surrounding Russell.

“Northrop Grumman and CGI is an excellent example of how a regional work force and a regional marketing effort can benefit Southwest Virginia,” Gillespie said.

“The anticipation that this would cause an overnight boom certainly has not been realized, and the reason for that is it is a regional approach.”

This regional approach, he said, will be key to Southwest Virginia’s economic future, because each company that comes to the region will impact the whole region.

A single place might not become a sudden boomtown, he said, but right now Southwest Virginia is building a foundation. And he said that little by little, brick by brick, the region as a whole will develop its 21st-century economy. | (276) 791-0701

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Officials try to lure space jobs to Brevard


Economic development officials are negotiating with 57 companies that could bring about 5,000 jobs if they can be lured to Brevard.

Though some of those prospects likely will opt to locate elsewhere, those that do come to Brevard will do so in part because of incentives.

"I will tell you that 57 active projects is a lot more than we had last year," Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast, said Monday. "That's why it's critical that we look at incentives."

Weatherman spoke on one of several panels convened as part of the Space & Technology Forum at the Florida Solar Energy Center on the Brevard Community College campus in Cocoa. The half-day event, which drew about 300 participants and spectators, focused on using economic incentives to lure high-tech businesses to Brevard as the shuttle program winds down, ending the space industry careers of about 8,000 shuttle workers.

The forum, one of a series that began four years ago, was attended by U.S. Reps. Suzanne Kosmas and Bill Posey, as well as state lawmakers, county commissioners and space industry officials.

Space Florida President Frank DiBello said his agency will work with the Legislature during the next session to create incentives for space companies to come to Florida.

"We're going to be seeking a number of tax incentives, a research and development tax credit, plus financing and insurance incentives that are unique," DiBello said. "Don't worry, Florida gets it. We know what it takes to close a commercial case for business companies."

In the meantime, Brevard's space companies are shedding jobs at an alarming pace.

United Space Alliance, the prime shuttle contractor, has gone from peak Brevard employment of 6,000 to 4,100 now, and another 3,000 workers will be lost when the shuttle stops flying next year.

"We're finding jobs for our people, but it's not in the state of Florida," Mark Nappi, USA Florida site executive, said.

Meanwhile, Florida officials, facing an increased reliance on commercial space companies and a decreased dependence of NASA launch programs, apparently are learning how to attract private investment.

"This was not always the friendliest environment for space companies. That is changing," space industry consultant Will Trafton, a former Boeing and NASA official, said at the forum. "I'm talking to everyone I see who has a company to bring them into Florida. I like what I see."

PTP launches initiative to recruit furnishings businesses

The Dispatch

Published: Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 7:32 p.m.

HIGH POINT | An initiative to recruit more home furnishings businesses to the Piedmont Triad was unveiled at a press conference Saturday, the opening day of the High Point Market.

Called the Global Exchange for Furnishings, the initiative by the Piedmont Triad Partnership, the 12-county economic development group that includes Davidson County, kicks off Tuesday with a seminar for domestic and international companies interested in getting more information on the concentration of resources and assets in the region – the skilled workforce, strategic location, educational institutions with specialized home furnishings programs, a concentration of home furnishings designers, specialized legal and banking companies that have long worked with the furniture industry as well as the headquarters of many manufacturers and related trade associations.

Lexington artist Bob Timberlake, whose licensed World of Bob Timberlake collection is made by Linwood Furniture in Davidson County, said he could vouch for the heritage of craftsmanship in the region as well as the work ethic of factory employees.

"I wouldn't be standing here today if not for the people in the plants," he said, noting that's why he didn't want his namesake collection made overseas.

Ken Smith of the Smith Leonard accounting firm in High Point also noted the vast human resources in the region, including everyone "from warehouse employees to executives."

Jim Melvin, chairman of the furnishings cluster at PTP, said the furnishings industry has been "the jewel in the crown" of the region and can continue to grow if promoted, just like other industry clusters identified by PTP, including logistics and distribution, nanotechnology and regenerative medicine.

"This regional effort is going to be fruitful for all of us," said Strib Boynton, city manager of High Point.

Brian Casey, president and CEO of the High Point Market Authority, said his group would work in tandem with PTP on the economic development initiative.

David Powell, PTP's new chief executive officer, said he wants to build on the international reputation of the High Point Market and long heritage of the furnishings industry in the region.

"We have a unique selling position – a unique collection of resources," he said.

Powell noted that, according to a 2008 High Point University study, there are about 4,000 businesses in the Piedmont Triad related to the furnishings industry, including not only residential home furnishings but also contract, hospitality and institutional furnishings, accessories, fabrics, floor coverings and wall coverings. Support resources include design, technology, photography, warehousing, logistics, marketing and other services.

Powell noted the furnishings and logistics and distribution clusters actually dovetail because many of the 100-plus trucking companies in the region are specialized furniture carriers. He said the convergence of the five interstate highways in the region is also a plus, putting shipments to 70 percent of the U.S. market within two days. The new FedEx hub at Piedmont Triad International offers air cargo services.

"We have a lot of strategic assets and we're going to be leveraging that," he said.

Powell said the Global Exchange for Furnishings will have an aggressive outreach program that will identify companies that should be locating in the region, from large companies to niche firms. He said services to be provided to prospective new businesses include regional intelligence, such as labor availability, tax structures and construction costs; site selection assistance to help companies find the best location for their business; government liaison services, such as identifying and providing introductions to local, regional and state officials; a database of local resources specific to the furnishings cluster; and ombudsman services.

Customized manufacturing, distribution centers, a broad range of furnishings industry suppliers and sales offices for international companies are among the likely recruitment prospects, Powell said.

The PTP chief said the group has already had good response to the Tuesday seminar and a new website, www.furnishingtheworld, should get the attention of interested businesses. PTP has also retained a consultant to work on the initiative, Al Bolton, a 40-year veteran of the furnishings industry, who will pursue identified business prospects and attend trade shows and conferences to meet with company representatives.

"A lot of people know High Point as the furniture capital of the world, but they think of it as an exhibition place, not as the best place for the furnishings industry supply chain," Bolton said. "We need to develop a better awareness of this initiative."

Bolton said the fastest-growing segments of the furnishings industry in the region now are sales offices for international companies and distribution centers. He said he will travel to western Europe, Canada, Singapore, China and other countries in addition to attending domestic trade shows to meet with companies in an expansion mode.

He said the domestic manufacturing that moved offshore several years ago isn't likely to return. But, for example, he said a foreign manufacturer that now produces only for their own domestic market might consider locating a distribution center here to expand their reach.

"It's exciting because we have a wealth of resources here that we've had for generations," he said. "It doesn't mean we're going to go back to the way it was but it could be the rebirth of furnishings in this area."

Copyright © 2010 — All rights reserved. Restricted use only.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

E-Mail proves its worth

Relevancy, frequency are key to reaching targets in timely, cost-effective manner

Mary E. Morrison

With years of practice now under their belts, many companies have hit their stride using email marketing to connect with customers and prospects. Still, continuing to reach the right person with the right message at the right time takes constant vigilance—no small feat, given the rapidly evolving media landscape and the ubiquitous post-recession mandate to do more with less. “The No. 1 pain point among marketers is anything having to do with resources, whether it's time, staff or dollars,” said Andrea Scarnecchia, VP-marketing at email solutions provider Lyris Inc. As a result, she said, many marketers are choosing email over other channels. “If you previously had 10 tools available to you in the marketing mix but you had to cut down to seven because three of them cost too much, well, email is always in what's left because it's not very expensive,” she said. “You end up relying on it a little bit more and sending more emails.” Kent Tibbils, VP-marketing at ASI Corp., a distributor of IT hardware and software, considers email marketing an effective tool but struggles with the challenge of breaking through to recipients whose inboxes are overloaded. “The challenge is how to get people to pay attention to your email when they're getting so many,” he said. “We're trying to identify different ways that we can continue to use email because it's such an easy way to communicate to a large audience, but it's overused.” Emails must be relevant and of an appropriate frequency to rise above the noise, said Dan Smith, senior VP-marketing at ClickSquared, a provider of cross-channel and email marketing services. “If you don't have something to talk about, or if it's not appropriate to talk to [customers or prospects] now, wait until they're ready to engage rather than bombarding them early in their product research process.” One positive outcome of marketers' increased use of email is that companies are focusing more on list maintenance, Scarnecchia said. “We're seeing a lot more care and feeding of people's lists, because it doesn't take long before you realize that if you start blasting your list—and not sending relevant emails and not watching for churn—that list will start dwindling pretty quickly,” she said. The difficult economy also has forced marketers to become more efficient and find automated methods to send email and grow their lists, Scarnecchia said. For instance, she said, they are relying more on triggered messages to keep lists growing.

More here:

SE Ind. counties form new growth alliance

By Mike Boyer • • October 6, 2010

With Northern Kentucky’s Tri-County Economic Development (Tri-Ed) as their model, a group of Southeast Indiana counties are stepping up efforts to be identified with the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region.

The Southeast Indiana Growth Alliance, a more than year-old group composed of Ripley, Franklin, Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland counties and the City of Batesville, is launching its own website promoting the region as the “Affordable Cincinnati Address” and plans a marketing campaign early next year .

“We’re not trying to compete with Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky,” said Gary Norman, president of the alliance and economic development director in Ripley County. “We want to become an asset to Cincinnati as Tri-ED has become over the last 25 years.”

Formed in 1987 as the primary development engine for Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties in Northern Kentucky, Tri-ED has been credited with bringing thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in new investment in the region.

Norman said the alliance’s outreach to development officials in Cincinnati has been well received.

“This is something that should have been done years ago,” said Norman. He said the region wants to get the word out it is primed for new development and can offer more affordable real estate and a lower cost of doing business. The five-county Southeast Indiana region has a population of more than 116,000 and covers more than 1,450 square miles.

The alliance plans to be represented at the annual regional economic outlook conference Oct. 27 sponsored by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Food distribution businesses cluster around region's road system

By John Henderson

Twin Counties has been reeling in an increasing number of food processing and distribution companies.

Economic development officials hope it continues and have been trying to highlight this burgeoning business cluster in marketing campaigns.

The cluster is a bright spot in the local economy that has been losing industries in recent years, including textile and tobacco jobs. The Twin Counties also has the highest unemployment rate in the state in the most recent August numbers at 12.7 percent.

“From 2000 until the current time, this (food processing cluster) has been probably the fastest-growing segment,” said John Gessaman, the CEO and president of Carolinas Gateway Partnership, a public-private industrial recruitment agency. “Despite the challenges we have (with the economy), people are still going to eat. The basic needs are going to be with us. Also, the area has a pretty rich heritage in the way of food distribution and technology.”

The industry employs thousands of Twin Counties residents, and those numbers are growing with recent plant expansions.

The area’s road network, with Rocky Mount being at the crossroads of Interstate 95 and U.S. 64 and half way between New York and Florida, is a major selling point, Gessaman said.

Food processing and distribution companies already employ hundreds in the Twin Counties.

Sara Lee Bakery in Tarboro employs 800. MBM Corp. in Rocky Mount, a food service distribution company, employs 600. McLane Carolina, a grocery distribution company in the Battleboro community, employs 570. IBC Merita Wonder Bakery, a wholesaler of bakery products in Rocky Mount, employs 250. Braswell Foods, an organic feed and egg producer in Nashville, employs 180. Boddie-Noell Enterprises, which has its corporate headquarters in Rocky Mount and owns more than 300 Hardee’s franchise locations, employs 165. The Cheesecake Factory Bakery, located in the Battleboro community, employs 165.


Last August, Gov. Bev Perdue came to Tarboro to celebrate Sara Lee’s announcement of its plans to hire 45 new full-time workers as part of an $11 million expansion to the company’s plant. Perdue said no tax dollars or tax breaks were involved in the company’s decision.

Dave Jones, a company senior vice president, said Sara Lee has 142 plants nationwide and could have made the expansion at any one of them. He said they chose the Tarboro plant for expansion of its bakery product line because it has been “stable, efficient and operating for 20 years.”

“We’re very confident in the competency of the facility here,” he said.

He also noted that the Tarboro plant recently was recognized as “supply-chain plant of the year” by Sara Lee.

The nearly 400,000-square-foot Tarboro plant was remodeled to make room for the new equipment, which is producing bread products.

Jones said in 2009, the Tarboro location was named the company’s supply chain plant of the year throughout the company. The company has 142 plants across the U.S.

Jones also said that the Tarboro plant has some of the best trained workers within the company.

Atlantic Natural Foods, a plant in Nashville that produces vegetarian products, doubled its plants size last year, investing $4 million. The company also is adding 70 jobs as a result of the expansion.

The company manufactures Vegan products for Kelloggs.

“It’s vegetarian to the next level, meatless meat,” said

Tim Carper, president of Atlantic Natural Foods. “The product looks like meat, like hot dogs. But there is no pork, no meat in it at all. It’s all kosher.”

He said U.S. 64 and Interstate 95 highways and support the company has received from state and local officials is what has made the area attractive for that company to do business.

“The fact that several interstates are close helps us a great deal,” he said.


Over the summer, Carolinas Gateway Partnership staff traveled to Chicago to attend one of the largest food expos in the country to try and recruit new industries.

Oppie Jordan, vice president of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership who handles economic development for Edgecombe County, said many suppliers attended the show.

“We got a few leads,” she said.

Gessaman said it makes sense to highlight food distribution and processing when recruiting industries, but that is not the only business cluster being marketed.

“Obviously, in economic development, you want to draw to your strengths,” Gessaman said. “If obviously food processing and food technology is one of our strengths, we have seen growth, and we’d seek more growth. We’d like to see how we can assist (companies) in that growth.”

Gessaman said besides an ideal road network, there are sites in business parks that would allow food processing and distribution companies to easily move in.

“We have great prepared sites,” he said.

Gessaman said companies in this business that have decided to locate here are pleased and doing well.

Poppie’s International, a company in the Battleboro community, is among them.

“Poppie’s expanded in the last year,” Gessaman said. “Poppie’s produces fine Belgian pastries. They have been here a decade.”

Rocky Mount also is attractive to grocery distribution companies. Meadow Brook Meat, also known as MBM Corp., operates the headquarters for one of the largest food distribution companies in the country in Rocky Mount.

Employing hundreds of local employees, the restaurant distributor delivers food to companies like Burger King, Red Lobster and Olive Garden.

McLane Rocky Mount operates a grocery distribution center in the Battleboro community.

McClane Carolina also transports food products throughout the country.

“MBM and McClane are two of the largest (food distributors) I know of,” Gessaman said.

Some of the food processing companies are using high-tech equipment, and their employees require higher education and are better paid.

Ossid Corp. in Edgecombe County has numerous patents on its food processing machinery.

“So you have a wide range of industries associated with food (industry) because of the history (of the area) and because of the natural advantages and because of the work force,” Gessaman said.


Beth Chappell, owner of George’s Sauces in Nashville, said that the company has grown since it started in 1975 and she took over 18 years ago.

The road networks have been critical to the business expansion, she said.

“We’re really actually an Eastern North Carolina product, so the location is perfect for us,” she said. “We ship (sauces) directly to the warehouses.”

John Bass, co-owner of Bass Farm Sausage in Spring Hope, said the location there also is perfect for shipping the fresh pork sausage that company has produced for more than five decades.

“We work a little over half the state of North Carolina, from the coast to the Burlington area,” he said.

“This is a good location to distribute the product. It is central everywhere where we work.”

County preparing for new industry in better days ahead

By GENE ZALESKI, T&D Staff Writer

Although Orangeburg County unemployment rates are hovering at 16 percent and there have been few industrial announcements recently, economic development officials say they're still at work.

Behind the scenes, the county continues to recruit industry as it prepares for the time when the economy turns around, Orangeburg County Development Commission Chairman Jeannine Kees says.

"During these times, we have been really emphasizing the infrastructure growth," Kees said. "Industries will follow infrastructure."

Orangeburg County is the second-largest county in the state by area and the largest rural county in the state with acres of land ready for development. County officials say they need to place utilities in areas currently lacking such services.

Development commission member Jim Roquemore said the county has focused on a long-range, 20-year plan.

"You can see the county has done much work in water infrastructure and sewer infrastructure and there are more plans in the works right now than ever for laying more infrastructure in Orangeburg County," he said.

As part of its strategy, the county wants to spend about $8.1 million from the Capital Projects Sales Tax for economic development-related infrastructure in the I-26/U.S. 301/I-95 area.

The county will ask voters in November to approve the spending, and the continuation of the 1 percent sales tax to pay for it.

Another $13.5 million would be used for economic development and infrastructure projects throughout the county.

A slow economy

Since the downturn, efforts have become more focused as budgets have been trimmed, OCDC Executive Director Gregg Robinson said. The OCDC budget for 2007-2008 was $901,723 and its 2010-2011 budget is $746,245.

"Do we go to a passing game or a running game?" Robinson said. "We are doing the more targeted analysis since we have less dollars to deal with."

OCDC member Gail Fogle said the economic downturn has caused the county to reassess its strengths and weaknesses while still looking at opportunities.

"We have always and will hopefully do a better job of keeping in touch with existing industries and new programs we can help with," Fogle said. "We are blessed to have existing industries who have done expansions and are very stable."

An example was the recent announcement that Husqvarna would make a new investment in machinery and equipment. The lawn tractor manufacturer is Orangeburg County's largest employer.

Fogle says the county has not forgotten sectors such as agribusiness, chemicals, plastics and metal fabrication that have built it through the years.

"We have always been diversified," she said. "That has helped us in the good times and the bad."

Fogle said the county has also geared its efforts toward improving customer service.

"We have good people who are trying to use their time efficiently and looking at things we can build on when things come back. We can see where our weaknesses are and improve on them," she said.

Vibrant economic clusters

While officials have worked to maintain existing jobs, Kees said the county is also focusing on economic clusters that are experiencing more success than others.

For example, she says the county is looking at drawing aviation and aerospace companies to take advantage of Boeing's North Charleston facilities.

The county hopes it can pick the "low-hanging fruit" during a time when other industries seem out of reach.

Officials have been marketing the county in Canada, which has a significant aviation industry, and are working on a strategic plan to have land ready for aviation-related suppliers.

The county is also looking at green energy possibilities in the areas of cellulosic biomass, biodiesel and agribusiness.

One example is the $100 million wood-fired power plant proposed for 55 acres at Orangeburg County's John Matthews Industrial Park. Currently, the company is negotiating a power purchase agreement.

Robinson said the Development Commission is also taking more of a regional approach to economic development by working with the South Carolina Department of Commerce and Central South Carolina in marketing and ensuring the county has multiple shovel-ready sites.

Roquemore is confident the distribution sector will bounce back.

"Distribution will always be a key to development," Roquemore said. "We have the distribution capacity. We are close to large cities and close to several large ports."

Roquemore said Orangeburg County can expect to reap the benefits of being in a right-to-work state as more companies look for a competitive advantage.

"We are as prepared as anybody in the Southeast to take care of any business whether it be distribution or manufacturing," he said.

Increase marketing

Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce President David Coleman said the county should not draw inward during the lull in economic activity, but tap into creativity and be proactive.

"I know things are pretty slow in terms of job growth," he said. "Orangeburg County Council is very much pro-development."

Chamber Chairman Mike Johnson said the downturn provides an opportunity for the county to examine itself and make itself more attractive to industry.

He said Orangeburg County has implemented a number of strategies over the last few years, but one of the keys is the development of "soft skills."

"We just need to stay the course and communicate that message," Johnson said. "We have to begin an aggressive campaign to educate the Orangeburg workforce on the importance of world-class customer service and re-brand our great community, starting with a renewed focus on pride in ourselves."

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5551.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Westchester Branded as New York’s ‘Intellectual Capital’

In a concerted effort to re-energize Westchester County’s business climate, the Westchester County Office of Economic Development today unveiled an ambitious multi-year advertising and digital branding campaign focused on what makes Westchester unique – its intellectual capital.

“Westchester County’s highly educated workforce is among its greatest and most important assets. From Yonkers to Yorktown to all four corners of the county, we have one of the best educated workforces in the nation,” said Laurence P. Gottlieb, the county’s Director of Economic Development. “And the exceptional quality of the workforce crosses all job categories from high-level scientists, engineers and mathematicians to the construction trades, retail sector and the arts. It’s a key factor in attracting and keeping world-class companies in Westchester.”

Speaking at a news conference held today at the new Gateway Center at Westchester Community College, Mr. Gottlieb said: “This campaign is a creative and realistic approach to economic development given today’s difficult economy and the limited availability of government economic development incentives. In launching a proactive marketing campaign we are laying the groundwork for renewing the underpinning of Westchester’s economy.”

Mr. Gottlieb said the campaign lets Westchester be a player in the region’s economic development arena. “It is imperative that our county move forward in the business arena. While there is a clear and urgent need for more business incentives that must be addressed by our government to help New York State be competitive in attracting and retaining businesses, in Westchester we have made the decision that we simply cannot afford to wait for the incentive programs to catch-up.”

Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino said: "Smart economic development begins with government providing a solid platform upon which entrepreneurs in businesses of every size can build their vision for the future. A successful public-private partnership begins with the county offering help and eliminating obstacles. This campaign is a major first step in the right direction.”

The campaign’s tagline – “Westchester County: New York’s Intellectual Capital” – plays off the double meaning of the word “capital” as an asset and a center of activity. A series of initial print and online ads will debut today in area media including the Journal News, Wall Street Journal, Westchester County Business Journal and Westchester Magazine’s new business publication 914 Inc. The campaign is being funded by the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency (IDA).

IDA Board Chairman Stephen Hunt noted, “Investing in economic development exemplifies the mission of Westchester County's Industrial Development Agency, which remains a powerful tool for encouraging business expansion, promoting sustainable growth and attracting new companies to the region. Working closely with the Office of Economic Development, we are forging a new path towards aggressively marketing Westchester's many benefits to the world."

The ads feature elements of people’s everyday lives – a picket fence, a coffee cup, and someone’s own hand – adorned with complex mathematical, chemical and engineering formulas. In the ad featuring the coffee cup, the headline reads “In Westchester, brilliance happens all the time.” And the copy reads: “Some may call this doodling. But to the thousands of brilliant men and women who live and work in Westchester, this speaks to them. Loud and clear. That’s one of the reasons so many companies – from biotech start-ups to IT and financial giants – are moving here and expanding. We’re New York’s Intellectual Capital, a thriving landscape of constant inspiration with a lifestyle that is second to none. Tap into New York’s brain power drawn from world-renowned colleges, universities and research centers. And so close and accessible to New York City, the world’s financial center.”

Mr. Gottlieb said Westchester faces challenges in attracting new businesses as well as retaining existing companies. “Westchester is not a low-cost area and the economic downturn has put a strain on government’s ability to provide financial incentives for businesses.” On the other hand, he said Westchester continues to offer numerous advantages to businesses, notably its highly educated workforce, exceptional K-12 schools and close proximity to some of the nation’s top colleges and universities. He noted that 45% of the county’s residents 25 years and older hold bachelor’s degrees or higher. The average for New York State is 32% while nationally it’s 27%.

In addition to its intellectual wealth, Westchester also benefits from being just 35 miles north of New York City, the nation’s financial center and home to numerous Fortune 500 companies. Westchester also has an excellent transportation infrastructure that includes major highways, three commuter rail lines, an award-winning bus system and its own airport. And the county has a world-wide reputation for the quality of life it offers.

Mr. Gottlieb said the first phase of the campaign is aimed at the Westchester market and plays to the county’s strengths in today’s hot growth sectors of biotechnology, finance, healthcare, information technology and environmental technologies. Biotech has gained a presence in recent years with over 60 biotech companies located throughout the Hudson Valley region – many of those firms call Westchester home. “We want to create a new sense of excitement about Westchester County within the county’s business community, something that’s been missing in recent years with the downturn in the economy,” he said.

The Westchester Office of Economic Development is also launching today a new website – – designed to reflect the new campaign and the focus on the county’s intellectual capital. The website features links to key business resources, including the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency, so that business owners interested in coming to Westchester – or expanding their current county footprint – have the necessary tools and information available to them at all times.

RAEDC officially launches Rockford Aerospace Network

By Brian Leaf

ROCKFORD — Thirteen aerospace leaders hope the newly formed Rockford Aerospace Network will do two things: increase sales and create jobs.

“It’s not complicated,” Jeff Kaney, president of Kaney Aerospace, told 50 people who gathered in his company’s airplane hangar at Chicago Rockford International Airport for the network’s launch today. “It’s just a group of companies getting together to see their synergies, then going out and getting work.”

The Rockford Aerospace Network is part of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, a membership organization. The network is open only to RAEDC members, who pay $2,000 a year to belong.

The RAEDC says the 140 local aerospace companies represent an economic cluster, which, according to Harvard University, are geographic concentrations of connected companies, specialized suppliers, service providers and associated institutions in a particular field.

By banding together, organizers plan to share business leads that will help other members prosper.

“We want to increase sales for member companies,” said Kaney. “With that comes everything else.”

Kerry Frank, president of Balanced IT Solutions in South Beloit, is a charter member of Rockford Aerospace Network. She says her company, which writes software that helps airlines and aerospace companies track documents and training, has information it can share with other suppliers. And they have information her company can use.

“I go to a lot of trade shows,” she said. “I see opportunities that I can bring back to the network.
“I know this group can help each (of the companies) grow our businesses.”

The network’s first activity is a trip to Atlanta from Oct. 19 to 21 for the National Business Aviation Association annual trade show, where several companies will share a booth to meet prospects and hawk their capabilities.

“Exhibiting at NBAA will help raise awareness of our region’s aerospace strengths,” said Dan Bowman, Woodward Governor’s vice president of sales and marketing for aerospace/defense.

Reach staff writer Brian Leaf at or 815-987-1343.

Easing the sibling rivalry among the regions

Eleven metropolitan areas team up to encourage foreign investors to consider Canada as a whole

By Marke Andrews, Vancouver Sun
September 27, 2010

Economic development regions are used to competing with one another for business, so the formation of Consider Canada, which unites 11 economic regions in a joint effort to bring trade to the country, marks a change in direction.

The new Consider Canada brand comes out of meetings in Quebec City this week where economic-development executives from 11 major Canadian cities and regions -- who refer to themselves as the C-11 -- discussed how to attract economic activity to Canada.

Lee Malleau, CEO and director of business development for the Vancouver Economic Development Commission, said the new organization won't end the competition between Canadian cities and provinces, but it will unite them in presenting Canada as a place where other countries can do business.

"There will still be competition between Canadian cities and some of that is healthy because it keeps us on our toes," said Malleau in a telephone interview. "But we're learning quickly that competition for business and investment is a lot more sophisticated than it ever was, and the focus is less on trying to steal investment from other areas and more on trying to increase bilateral and multilateral trade with other regions around the globe. That allows us to collectively focus on what those opportunities are for Canada as a whole, and try to complement each other with our strengths."

Malleau said that the first task for Consider Canada is to position the country as a business source for regions that may not have considered Canada, and "once they're here, wherever the most logical place for that company to locate is where they will locate."

The C-11 regions are Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Waterloo, Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax.

Members will meet twice a year in person, and more often in teleconferences. They will also meet with Canadian government representatives, as well as with governments from other districts to coordinate efforts.

Some industries, such as the film business, wage fierce competition between regions, with provinces sweetening their tax credits as incentive. The C-11 initiative points to an alternative to inter-province rivalries.

"I already share information," said Malleau. "If I connect with investors in the automotive industry and it doesn't make sense for them to invest in British Columbia but it makes sense to invest in Ontario, I will certainly pass that lead along to my colleagues in Ontario."

Malleau said she will still work to capture investment in the Vancouver region, but if a regional match cannot be made with an outside investor, then the question she and all C-11 members must ask is: "What can we do to make sure they go into another Canadian city?"

One of Consider Canada's priorities will be how to work with the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to bring business to Canada. In this capacity, the C-11 members would be working less for their regional interests than for the country at large. This could save costs in the long run, so that the 11 regions wouldn't all need to send representatives to, say, a conference in Germany.

"We hope this will lead to a more cohesive approach so that we don't cannibalize investment from other regions in Canada, and we can increase investment as a whole," said Malleau.

Art efforts brighten cities' economic pictures

By John Wisely, USA TODAY

Brooklyn painter Ran Ortner had never heard of Grand Rapids, Mich., before a friend entered him in a new art contest there last fall.

Since winning the $250,000 top award in the city's inaugural ArtPrize competition, Ortner's career has blossomed.

"I went from getting five e-mails a week to getting 200 a day directly after," said Ortner, who says he was too broke to pay his phone bill before winning. "This has really been the boost that I needed."

ArtPrize also provided a boost to Grand Rapids, in western Michigan. The works of more than 1,200 artists drew an estimated 200,000 people downtown, far exceeding expectations, according to Executive Director Bill Holsinger-Robinson.

As the nation's economy has struggled amid falling property values, many other communities are counting on the arts as a means of economic development. In downtown areas of Baltimore and Phoenix and smaller towns such as Paducah, Ky., officials see the arts as a chance to bring redevelopment, grant dollars and people back to struggling neighborhoods.

PHOTOS: Grand Rapids hosts largest art prize in the world
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TRAIN DEPOTS: Revitalized for new uses

A research team from Michigan's Grand Valley State University estimated the economic impact of ArtPrize at $5 million to $7 million last year. For this year's event, which began Wednesday and runs through Oct. 10, pre-registration for voters and student art groups has more than doubled. Local restaurants and bars are reporting sales up 20% to 40% over last year's opening days, ArtPrize spokesman Tyler Lecceadone said.

ArtPrize was the brainchild of Rick DeVos, a Web entrepreneur and an heir to the Amway fortune, whose parents' foundation put up the prize money. He said last year's event was three to five times larger than anticipated. DeVos said the money is a catalyst to bring in the artists, but ArtPrize serves larger goals, including bolstering the image of the Midwestern town best known for furniture manufacturing.

"Art works," said Jason Schupbach, director of design for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). "This isn't rocket science anymore. There are a specific set of strategies that work."

Many of the efforts offer artists cheap rent on studio and living space, plus marketing help, he says. The art districts boost foot traffic, drawing other businesses to move in.

The NEA has requested $5 million for a program known as Our Town that would help local governments plan art districts, map cultural assets and launch projects in cities large and small, Schupbach said.

The NEA cites the city of New York Mills, Minn., with a population of less than 1,000. In 1991, it invested $35,000 to fix up a downtown building to create an arts and cultural center. Within five years, 17 new businesses had opened, hiring more than 200 people.

"It's not just a big-city strategy," Schupbach said. "But it does work best where there are strong cultural assets."

Baltimore's Artscape, which features visual and performing arts across the city over a weekend, drew more than 350,000 people in 2009 and generated about $26 million for the economy, according to a study by Forward Analytics, a Pittsburgh-based market research firm.

"It brings in new money, it brings in new people to areas where they probably wouldn't go to," said Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts.

ArtPrize takes an American Idol approach: It offers $449,000 in prizes and uses crowd sourcing to determine the winner. Visitors walking through town use their mobile phones to text in thumbs up or thumbs down on various works.

Computers tally the results and update leader boards for visitors to track.

Some art experts worry about letting the public select such a lucrative award.

"It's great that they have such an interest, but they often don't have the base of knowledge from which to make an informed judgment," said Deborah Rockman, the chair of drawing and printmaking at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids.

Ortner, last year's winner, essentially agreed.

"If you have children voting on a culinary competition, they are going to vote for the ice cream and candy," Ortner said.

This year, ArtPrize did add juried shows in several categories, which Rockman calls "a small step in the right direction." Organizers insist they weren't bowing to critics, though they did ask Rockman to jury a competition for international artists.

"It makes for a more well-rounded experience," Holsinger-Robinson said.

How to reinvent a city

By Christina Rexrode

If economic development experts agree on one thing, it's this: If your city doesn't change with the times, it will wither and die.

It's an adage that's on the minds of Charlotte leaders, who quietly worry that a city built for so long on banking won't be able to veer from its familiar course and forge into the new economy.

But plenty of cities have seen their main industry decline or even disappear and have met the challenge head-on, emerging stronger and more diversified. Here's advice from a few of them for Charlotte:

1. Don't cling to the past. Detroit is perhaps today's pre-eminent example of what happens when a place hews too long to an industry that is too far gone. But across the state in Kalamazoo, leaders are constantly planning what to do when - not if - their top industries disappear, said economic development leader Ron Kitchens, who helped the city regroup after major layoffs at drug maker Pfizer seven years ago.

"We have always understood that all business is a cycle," said Kitchens, who can rattle off a whole list of products that Kalamazoo used to dominate, including celery, corsets, taxi cabs and children's sleds. "We can lament, or we can diversify."

It's a principle that has been true for decades. "It's the same thing that happened in the 19th century between St. Louis and Chicago," said David Goldfield, a historian at UNC Charlotte. "Chicago decided to build a railroad, and St. Louis said, 'Well, we have the Mississippi River, why do we need a railroad?'"

2. But don't reinvent the wheel. In Charleston, the Navy base was the biggest and most important employer for years. So the city was devastated in the early '90s when it learned that the base would be shut down.

But rather than abandon its tradition of marine and military expertise, the city found ways to funnel it to new venues. Leaders lured manufacturers who wanted access to a port and to people who knew how to navigate one. They persuaded the Navy's engineering and research arm to set up shop for high-tech defense projects.

David Ginn, president of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, said the Navy is again the region's largest employer. "But the trick is that it's a very different employment base," Ginn said. "It's high tech stuff versus a Navy base and a Navy shipyard."

3. Take care of talent. Jeff Michael, director of the Urban Institute at UNC Charlotte, said cities should focus on attracting smart workers over attracting certain industries. No industry will be dominant forever, but smart workers and entrepreneurs will adapt and create new businesses and products, and that will enable a city to survive any economic cycle.

"None of us are clairvoyant and can look at a crystal ball and say what the industry of tomorrow is," Michael said.

Kitchens, the economic development leader in Kalamazoo, said his agency's top priority after the Pfizer layoffs was to keep the talent in town, not to pursue any new replacement company. His agency, Southwest Michigan First, quickly deployed after the layoffs were announced, urging scientists to launch their own companies, opening a business incubator within weeks, and helping with everything from writing business plans to buying office furniture.

Andy Levine, president of economic development marketing agency Development Counsellors International, said Kalamazoo took the right tack in filling an economic hole. "I have observed very few cities that were successful by replacing Company A with Company B," Levine said. "Much better to have 20 companies with 100 jobs (each) than one company with 2,000 jobs."

4. Take care of existing businesses. Pittsburgh had to do some major reinventing when steel started moving overseas in the 1970s. Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of Pittsburgh's Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Affiliates, said one of his strategies is to focus on growing hometown businesses rather than recruiting others from out of town.

For one thing, recruiting can be expensive because it usually involves offering tax breaks and other incentives. Besides, Yablonsky and others said, even the most successful transplant businesses are less likely than a homegrown group to fund the new university wing or put their name on a charitable event.

"We spend a lot more time taking care of our own," Yablonsky said.

5. Be patient. In Pittsburgh, the economy is dramatically more diversified than in the 1970s, when steel made up more than 40 percent of the economy, Yablonsky said. Now, the city has a strong presence in financial services, manufacturing, health care, energy and information technology, with no sector making up more than 20 percent of the local economy.

"But," Yablonsky said, "it took us 30 years to get there."

EDITORIAL: Aspire proves itself again

Once again, Aspire Clarksville has hit a home run.

Last week, the foundation announced that local businesses had pledged $3.5 million to carry out an economic development strategy. It brought in commitments from new participants and got existing businesses to commit to a higher level than in the past. The fundraising campaign had its official kickoff just last December.

There's no doubt that the two businessmen who led the campaign — Ben Kimbrough and Jack Turner — played a large part in reaching the goal so quickly and effectively, and the community thanks them for their tremendous efforts. The $1.2 billion Hemlock Semiconductor project also encouraged business leaders to contribute.

Aspire Clarksville, which is the Economic Development Council's private marketing arm, will use the $3.5 million to help the community reach these strategies for its Vision to the Future:

•Global business development — establishing Clarksville as part of a Foreign Trade Zone and recruiting businesses in industries that complement Hemlock Semiconductor.

•Tourism development — marketing and recruiting of events and group tours.

•Retail recruitment — generating interest in Clarksville-Montgomery County as the home of new shopping venues and restaurants.

A review of the Aspire foundation last year found that from 2005 to 2008, it attracted four companies and the expansion of nine others. That, in turn, led to the creation of 1,123 new direct jobs, generating direct earnings of $51.7 million, and bringing in more than $2.8 billion in new capital investment for Clarksville-Montgomery County.

This application of private dollars to market the area with the aim of brining new and better-paying jobs here and settting Clarksville-Montgomery on a course to become a regional leader has paid off.

At the launch of this latest campaign, Kimbrough and Turner — both longtime leaders in economic development — encouraged younger generations to take on the mantle. Last week, James Chavez, president and chief executive officer of the EDC, said the two had done a "great job in getting the leaders in their 40s and 50s to get involved and commit to following in their footsteps."

Aspire Clarksville has inspired, and our community and its citizens are the ultimate beneficiaries.

Columbus 2020 sets $30M fundraising goal to support economic development

Business First of Columbus - by Jeff Bell

Partners in the Columbus2020 economic-development effort want to raise $30 million over the next five years to help spur economic development in Central Ohio.

The money will be used in support of attracting new businesses to the region and retaining ones already here, said Alex Fischer, CEO of the Columbus Partnership, an organization of top executives from Central Ohio’s largest companies and public-sector employers. The Partnership is leading the 2020 effort with the ColumbusChamber, TechColumbus, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and public-sector economic-development partners, including the city of Columbus and Franklin County.

“We’ve got a fabulous set of strategies and aggressive goals and ambitions,” Fischer said.

Among them are creating 180,000 new jobs in the region by 2020, 40 percent per capita income growth in that 10-year span, and moving Central Ohio into the top 10 for economic development in the country.

But it will take more than the $2 million a year that the Columbus region has historically invested in economic development, Fischer said. That sum is only a half to a third of the economic-development funding available to regions that compete with Central Ohio for businesses, he said. Among them are Nashville, Tenn., Austin, Texas, Raleigh, N.C., Denver and Charlotte, N.C.

Fischer said the money will be used to support a number of areas to attract, create, expand and retain businesses. The spending will include hiring of a sales staff and creation of marketing materials to sell the region to national and international companies, site selection professionals and targeted industries. In addition, campaign dollars will be spent on creating what Fischer called “civic infrastructure” needed by businesses. That includes road, water, sewer and utility improvements as well as quality-of-life factors such as the arts, cultural events and education.

“We want to be in a position,” Fischer said, “to advance smart investments across all aspects of the community with a direct impact on economic development.”

Broad fundraising base
A campaign council of more than 50 business and community leaders has been formed to work on the fundraising plan. They include Columbus Partnership leaders such as Limited Brands Inc. CEO Les Wexner, Nationwide Insurance CEO Steve Rasmussen, Battelle CEO Jeff Wadsworth and Columbus Dispatch Publisher John Wolfe. Also on the council are ColumbusChamber board members, including ODW Logistics Inc. President John Ness and Lonnie Miles, CEO of Miles McClellan Construction Co.

Columbus Partnership members have not determined their financial commitments to Columbus2020, Fischer said, but they are expected to be substantial. Support also will be sought from medium-sized and smaller companies and local governments.

“It will be important that the largest companies in Columbus continue to support economic development,” he said, “but we’ve got to broaden the base, too.”

Fischer said about 70 companies, organizations or individuals in the region invest $1,000 or more annually in economic development. Columbus2020 leaders would like to grow that number to 700, he said.

The Columbus Partnership has committed an undisclosed amount to hire a fundraising consultant, Research Development Group of Columbus, to lead the 2020 campaign. The firm has had success with economic-development campaigns in a number of U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City, Jacksonville, Fla., St. Louis and Fort Worth, Texas, according to the ColumbusChamber.

The idea for Columbus2020 began to take shape in 2009 after an economic-development study was completed for the Columbus Partnership. Among the findings were that Central Ohio needs to tell its story better if it is to attract new companies. To address that and other economic-development issues, the Partnership held leadership roundtables a year ago that involved about 600 people from the community. From there, the 2020 concept emerged.

Owensboro participates in Kentucky United Economic Development Mission to Michigan and Canada

Through a partnership with KentuckyUnited, GO-EDC recently participated in a marketing mission to Michigan and Canada. The EDC joined with approximately 20 economic development professionals from throughout the Commonwealth and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development to meet with site selectors and prospective companies in the Greater Detroit area, other parts of Michigan, northern Ohio, and Canada about the opportunities available in Kentucky, especially in the automotive parts supplier industry.

This is the first Marketing Mission KentuckyUnited has sponsored in the Greater Detroit area. The visits to over 35 companies and site selectors have increased the awareness of the state and given the EDC an opportunity to tell decision makers about Kentucky’s new incentive programs.

The meetings may result in several potential projects, some of which have a direct interest in Owensboro.

Over the next few weeks, GO-EDC will conduct further follow up marketing to these prospective companies and consultants.

Owensboro has a great story to tell and the EDC is committed to getting the word out to businesses on the opportunities available in this region!

For more information about KentuckyUnited visit

United Counties unveil new website, brand

By Ashley Kulp

The United Counties of Leeds and Grenville's (UCLG) economic development program believes the county is a place "where lifestyle grows good business."

This tagline, which goes along with a sharp new logo, was officially unveiled Sept. 10 during the UCLG's latest economic development summit, entitled 'Future Directions' at the North Grenville Municipal Centre in Kemptville. This new brand, including a sleek new website, has been developed specifically for economic development purposes. It features a vibrant teal and burgundy logo that uses only 'Leeds Grenville' as opposed to 'United Counties of Leeds and Grenville.' And the graphic bearing the county title is circular in nature and incorporates agriculture, tourism and recreational elements.

"It's my pleasure to introduce our new county brand," UCLG CAO Steven Silver remarked as he revealed the new marketing brand to guests at the Sept. 10 summit. "Will it replace our current coat of arms? No. That's still our official seal and will be used for corporate services and counties council."

Along with the help of UCLG warden Bill Thake and Township of Augusta reeve Mel Campbell, Silver uncovered the new promotional banners which will be used to highlight the UCLG at events and functions.

About a year-and-a-half ago, with the UCLG's economic development program kicking into gear, Silver said counties council recognized the need for a new brand and passed a resolution to undergo a branding exercise. With funding from three local community futures development corporations (Grenville, 1000 Islands and Valley Heartland), Accurate Design & Communication, an Ottawa-based company won the proposal to create the brand.

"It seemed like a simple process to create a brand but as we found it's more of a challenge for an upper-tier local government," Silver stated.

A number of possible brands were designed and the UCLG used Survey Monkey to poll the public and narrow down the list. "It was important to get it right because you don't change your brand too often," Silver said.


Rural economic growth important for Virginia, Danville leaders told

By Tara Bozick
Published: September 21, 2010

“For way too long rural Virginia has been Virginia’s best kept secret,” Mary Rae Carter, Virginia’s first deputy secretary of commerce and trade for rural economic development, told local business leaders on Tuesday morning.

Carter’s goal is to change that and make rural Virginia known as the best place to start, expand and locate a business. Gov. Bob McDonnell created Carter’s position to make sure all parts of Virginia were equally represented in economic development efforts.

What does rural Virginia offer? Hardworking people, heritage, a wealth of natural resources, an abundance of land and a low cost of doing business, Carter told attendees of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce’s Business at Breakfast at the Stratford Courtyard Conference Center.

While the Danville area diversified its economy from a mill and tobacco town, the area still faces challenges like the rest of rural Virginia, said Carter of Penhook. Now, it’s important for localities to nurture and grow existing businesses to position themselves for when the economy turns around.

The majority of job growth from 1993 to 2008 in Virginia came from businesses or companies with fewer than 100 employees, Carter added, citing Virginia Department of Business Assistance data.

Yet, small businesses continue to struggle with access to capital. McDonnell and state legislators advanced the job creation agenda through a number of measures, including increasing funding to the loan guarantee program by $1 million, increasing the appropriation for the Virginia Jobs Investment Program and increasing the Governor’s Opportunity Fund, Carter said.

Ken Bowman, director of Pittsylvania County’s Office of Economic Development, asked what companies and local governments could do to get ready for “when that tide turns.” He said companies and partners have good ideas but can’t get money to move forward.

Carter said she has been hearing the same thing everywhere and that the Governor’s Commission on Economic Development and Job Creation is looking for ways to help, possibly like an emerging technology fund. She said the commission’s final recommendations, due Oct. 15 to the governor, should positively and effectively impact rural Virginia.

Carter said having “shovel-ready” sites for industry to move in quickly is imperative and that Danville and Pittsylvania County are on the right track with the industrial megapark.

Bowman said he hopes to have the megapark certified by national firm McCallum Sweeney Consulting — which helps companies worldwide decide where to build —within the next four months. It would be the first in Virginia with that certification.

“We feel like we’re in a good position right now,” Bowman said.

Attendee Peter Howard, a registered representative with Tower Square Securities, knows local and state leaders are working hard to bring jobs even though the results are hard to see right now. He hopes residents prepare themselves likewise.

“I’m glad the governor’s on board with the idea of developing business in the rural areas,” Howard said. “It’s encouraging to hear.”

TechPoint unveiling ‘measured marketing’ campaign

Scott Olson
September 21, 2010

The initiative will promote the advantages of doing business in Indiana to attract more "measured marketers." They are companies such as ExactTarget and Aprimo Inc. that provide a platform for marketing via e-mail, social media and other technologies.

TechPoint is launching a national campaign to highlight a growing segment of the state’s technology sector known as “measured marketing.”

The campaign, announced by the state’s high-tech trade group on Tuesday, will promote the advantages of doing business in Indiana, in an effort to attract more measured marketers. The availability of technology-related tax credits and exemptions, access to major research universities, and reasonable costs of living will be promoted in the campaign.

Measured-marketing companies provide a platform for marketing via e-mail, social media, Web searches, video, mobile and other evolving technologies, and provide clients with return-on-investment tracking.

More than 70 companies providing measured-marketing services are located in Indiana. ExactTarget, Aprimo Inc., Compendium Blogware and Cantaloupe TV are among the more established measured marketers in Indianapolis.

“Measured marketing is an organic sector; it’s not something we’ve [promoted previously],” TechPoint President and CEO Jim Jay said. “So we are focused on telling the story of what’s happening in Indiana to the world.”

The campaign will use traditional media such as print, radio and television, as well as emerging outlets such as social media and blogging. Jay declined to divulge how much the campaign might cost but said the Indiana Economic Development Corp. will provide support.

The Insight and Research unit of Ball State University’s Center for Media Design is providing research and additional support, and Indianapolis-based Dittoe Public Relations is the agency of record.

BSU’s Center for Media Design has collaborated in the past with such companies as Proctor & Gamble, NBC, Time Warner Cable Inc. and PepsiCo.

No federal employment data is available yet on measured marketing services. But in terms of marketing consulting services, Indiana employment growth within the sector more than doubled from 1998 to 2007, the most recent year data was available, according to the BSU Center for Business and Economic Research.

TechPoint is a part of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership’s initiatives focused on the state’s fastest-growing economic clusters.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Alberta says new slogan is starting to resonate

By Kelly Cryderman and Jason Fekete, Calgary Herald

About one-third of Albertans say they're familiar with a branding strategy released in early 2009 meant to push back against negative images of the oilsands and portray the province as diverse, a good place to invest and an environmentally aware provider of energy, according to the Alberta government's own survey.

Another 26 per cent of respondents said they "vaguely recall seeing" the brand -- which features "Alberta" written out with stylized letters and the slogan "Freedom to create. Spirit to achieve."

Forty-three per cent said they had not seen it before.

Lee Funke, managing director of the Alberta government's Public Affairs Bureau, said he's pleased that the number of Albertans who had "some level of recall of the brand" totalled 57 per cent. He said it's encouraging more than half of Albertans recognize the province's new brand and motto -- which cost about $3.7 million to develop -- given that it has only been around since March 2009.

"It takes years to build up brand recognition," he said, noting the government has been more focused on fighting anti-oilsands campaigns than pushing the new brand.

The new slogan doesn't roll off the tongue quite as easily as the Alberta Advantage, a rallying cry long ago developed for the province's department of Economic Development but one that unofficially became the catchphrase for the entire province.

As for "Freedom to create. Spirit to achieve," even Tory MLAs have had difficulty remembering it, but Funke said the province is sticking with it.

Haskayne School of Business marketing professor Debi Andrus said even at 57 per cent, the knowledge of the branding strategy is low. She said as a start, the government needs to promote it more heavily.

"A brand is about making sure that we're seeing it and hearing it," Andrus said.

She noted the slogan itself is not bad. "I personally prefer one sentence rather than using two. But I believe the message is a really good message."

However, Wildrose Alliance party Leader Danielle Smith maintains the new Alberta slogan doesn't resonate with people, it's "clunky" and hard to remember. "It doesn't mean anything to anybody," Smith said.

"Nobody was asking for a change to the brand, what people were asking for was for the government to actually live up to the expectations of the Alberta Advantage."

Promoting Alberta's tourism and investment opportunities is a good thing, Smith added. However, she said the current marketing strategy is unfocused, and it's unclear who it's aimed at.

Speaking in Calgary this week, Premier Ed Stelmach said there's still work to do on Alberta's branding strategy. "It's all moving in the right direction. This is a marathon, it's not a sprint."

The premier said Albertans are, like the government, upset by outsiders being so critical of the province's handling of its oilsands resources.

"This is an attack on Alberta. It's not only an attack on the oilsands. And Albertans are being a little bristled with what they've been hearing."

The $3.7 million the Alberta government spent on developing the brand is part of an overall campaign to market Alberta. It was supposed to cost $25 million over three years. However, the overall plan is coming in under budget and will cost just under $15 million.

Funke said the strategy includes not only the branding, but also "reputation management" initiatives including advertising that counters negative oilsands messages.

He added the province has only used a soft launch on the branding campaign, and hasn't yet made a "significant investment" in marketing it to Albertans and the world. He said more importantly, 78 per cent of people surveyed by the government agree with the province's approach to branding Alberta.

The government survey was conducted online between March 18-24, 2010, and was completed "by a broad sample of Alberta residents." It showed respondents the branding and slogan image, and asked whether the depiction was "very familiar to you; familiar; do you vaguely recall seeing it; or have you not seen it before?"