Sunday, March 27, 2011

Building a fit economy: EDC, others going for the gold

2011-03-25 15:00:16

From hitting the links at The Broadmoor to racing up Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs’ sports scene is a vibrant one — and a potentially golden one for the local economy.

The Springs, home to the U.S. Olympic Committee and nearly two dozen Olympic national governing bodies, has long been touted as an amateur-sports capital. It’s also the site of some major sporting events this year, including the opening stage of the inaugural Quiznos Pro Challenge cycling competition and the U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor. All this in a city that’s been hailed as one of the nation’s fittest, in a state consistently crowned as the thinnest.

That image of a fit, sports-focused city is one the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. and others are working to tap into to attract businesses and generate jobs as the economic recovery creeps forward. A report prepared by Angelou Economics for the economic development effort known as Operation 6035 identified sports, health and wellness as a target industry; it’s now a target industry in the EDC’s five-year strategic plan for 2011-2015.

Sports, health and wellness is a broad umbrella, acknowledges Mike Kazmierski, EDC president and CEO. For the EDC, he said, it could mean, for example, trying to attract a sports-equipment manufacturer, highlighting the Springs’ sports and recreational opportunities or trying to attract a California company whose workers are tired of smog and long commutes.

“It’s not as clean as saying we’re going to bring an aerospace company. It’s a little fuzzier, but it has a lot of potential and it’s part of our brand,” Kazmierski said.

To bring more clarity to the mission, the EDC is developing three industry teams that fall under that umbrella, said David White, EDC vice president of marketing: one focused on sports organizations and sports-related companies, one on health-information systems and one dedicated to medical-device manufacturers.

“The focus of these teams will be to help us develop a plan to attract these industries,” White said. The sports-industry team will consider how to build on the Springs’ current sports assets. Similarly, the medical-device team will look at how to add to an existing “minicluster” of medical-device manufacturers that includes Spectranetics and Bal Seal Engineering. As for health-information systems, White sees it as a growing industry that offers potential for the Springs.

“We felt with our experience and relevance in the IT industry ... that we would be a good location for those types of companies,” he said.

Dual missions

Keith Meier, president and CEO of DesignWorks Architecture and Construction, heads the EDC’s sports-industry team. Just as the EDC has put more focus on retaining existing businesses along with trying to attract new ones, Meier sees a dual mission for the sports team: creating strategies to attract new sports organizations and businesses while also fostering what the city already has. His team includes representatives from such local entities as the USOC and the Springs-based National Strength and Conditioning Association.

“That way,” he said, “I can find out what does work for them here and what doesn’t, and what they’d like to see the community do to help them grow.”

Key to the city’s sports base is the USOC, whose new downtown headquarters engendered ill will among some residents; they questioned the city’s deal with the organization to provide that headquarters. The USOC and other Olympics-related organizations and businesses here generated a $215 million economic impact on the Pikes Peak region in 2009, according to a study released last fall. The study also called the USOC and Olympics-related organizations “a catalyst for growth” in the Springs sports sector.

“The USOC is one of our main anchors in this community,” White said. “Their brand is known worldwide.”

The EDC is not alone in fostering a sports agenda. Part of the mission statement of the nonprofit Colorado Springs Sports Corp. is to “attract, retain and support local, state and national sports organizations and businesses.” The Sports Corp. also works to draw sports events, as does Experience Colorado Springs, the local convention and visitors bureau.

White says the EDC works closely with the Sports Corp.

“If we do get a prospect that is a national governing body, for example, we always invite their participation in closing the deal,” he said. “Sometimes they take the lead and we support. Sometimes we take the lead and they support.”

The Sports Corp.’s mission is not just an economic one. “We are full time into promoting sports and supporting sports on various fronts,” said Mike Moran, senior media consultant to the organization — “sort of the glue” that binds the sports community together, he said.

The Springs isn’t the only community touting its sports assets. Moran points to Indianapolis as a city that has a gained a reputation as a hub for amateur sports. But the Springs, with nearly 50 sports organizations that have either domestic or international headquarters here, is unique, Moran said.

“There is no other city in the United States that has this broad base of sports activity in terms of sports administration and governance,” he said.

Having such a cluster helps in attracting even more such groups, White said.

“If you’re an executive in a sports organization, you want to be in a place where if your current job doesn’t work out, you have other opportunities.”

An image booster

Though the EDC is not involved in attracting sports events, those events do help to build the city’s sports brand, White said.

Chelsy Murphy, public relations manager for Experience Colorado Springs, cites two benefits of hosting sports events here. One is the direct economic impact of “heads in beds,” of visitors staying here and spending money here. The number of room nights booked through Experience Colorado Springs for sports and special events in 2009, the most recent data available, topped 98,000; that accounted for about a third of Experience Colorado Springs’ group sales.

The other benefit: shining a spotlight on the Springs for something other than darkened streetlights and other city cutbacks that have been highlighted by national media.

“These great events like the Open and the Quiznos Challenge are just another way to communicate what our destination has to offer,” Murphy said.

The city, though, is limited in its ability to host larger national events, Moran said. The Colorado Springs World Arena, which touts itself as the premier sports and entertainment venue in the Pikes Peak region, has a seating capacity of roughly 8,000 for, say, a basketball event, Moran said — and less than that for hockey. The Sports Corp., though, has benefited greatly from a partnership with the Air Force Academy, which has made hosting such events as the Rocky Mountain State Games possible, Moran said.

In addition to the new headlinemakers, a steady diet of annual events — including the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon and what Moran calls “a totally re-energized” Pikes Peak International Hill Climb — feeds the image of Colorado Springs as a sports hub.

“A positive sports image resonates,” Moran said. Sports events “are reasons to come, reasons to get involved and go out and enjoy things. It’s part of quality of life.”

Loveland amps up efforts to bring jobs

Written by
Loveland Connection

News of layoffs at Loveland-based companies isn't surprising in this economy, but lately, neither is news of businesses expanding or moving in.

The general consensus in Loveland is that the economy is not where it once was and it will take time to bring it fully out of a recession. But there also is a feeling of hope -- the net number of jobs in Loveland has gone up in the past few years and the city's focus on economic development has stimulated companies into hiring and expanding.

Meanwhile, Loveland's new emphasis on boosting the art business and its continued focus on bridging the art-science gap are pushing the city upward.

"People are feeling at least as if the bottom is done and we are now moving and ready to move forward," said Loveland Chamber of Commerce CEO Brian Willms.

According to unemployment numbers for January, Loveland's unemployment was up slightly from December 2010 but was better than January 2010.

Willms said Loveland saw a net gain in jobs last year.

Several local companies increased their staffs by significant amounts, despite the fact that others, like Group Publishing, have had to lay off employees to remain economically viable.

Part of the increase in jobs is due to the city's efforts during the past several years to invest in local companies needing a bit of a boost.

Mayor Cecil Gutierrez said Wednesday during a public forum on the city's economic strategy that hundreds of jobs, in addition to increases in property and sales-tax revenue, have been brought to the city because of the city's stimulus efforts.

Crop Production Services and Agrium Advanced Technology, both Agrium Inc. companies that moved some operations to Loveland from Greeley in 2009, have stimulated the local economy, Gutierrez said.

City help with a lease payment and cash incentives enabled the Agrium companies to create 47 new jobs in 2009, and the company's overall employee count has gone to more than 500, Gutierrez said.

"They basically doubled a lot of those numbers out there," he said.

The Orthopedic Center received a three-year capital expansion fee deferment as part of the city's economic development policy.

Gutierrez said companies such as the relatively new Orthopedic Center of the Rockies not only hired 10 new employees in 2010, but also pays $184,000 a year in property taxes, funding things such as Thompson School District.

That medical enterprise prompted another to come to the area, as well. The Urology Center of the Rockies is now under construction on Eisenhower Boulevard.
"When you have one business that shows up in a place, there's a synergy, and it helps grow more businesses that way," Gutierrez said.

The Aerospace and Clean Energy technology park proposed at the Agilent site was another enterprise discussed at the mayor’s meeting. If the city’s bid is accepted by the Colorado Association of Manufacturing and Technology, it could create up to 10,000 jobs in Loveland over several years.

The city and other finalists are expecting a decision on where the park will be built along the Front Range any day.

City Manager Bill Cahill said during the forum that he thinks Loveland and its proposal remains "one of the few" finalists in the competition.

But if that doesn’t happen, the five remaining developers who submitted proposals to the city regarding the site say they’re still committed to redeveloping it.
A family successSome Loveland companies have thrived and pulled away from the recession on their own.

Schlosser Signs Inc. is a family-owned company that designs, manufactures and installs signs all over Colorado and into Wyoming, Nebraska and New Mexico.

Willms said the company is an example of good things happening in the economy.

The company, with seven Schlossers on the 19-person staff, was founded in 1999.
Schlosser's, which installs electronic signs, usually during a company's construction phase, has seen an uptick in business in the first quarter of this year, which could indicate economic improvement in the construction industry, said Rose Schlosser, business marketing manager.

"We've been doing better than we expected for the first quarter of this year," she said. "It's normally a slow time for us historically."

The company is seeing "a lot of activity" in the construction industry right now, Schlosser said.

Carla Schlosser, co-owner and CEO, said 2010 was a slow, painful year, as it was for everyone, but the company came out ahead of its 2009 numbers and hired three new employees at the end of the year. Additionally, the company didn't have any layoffs during the worst part of the recession.

"We have had more (business)," Carla Schlosser said, referring to the first part of 2011, "definitely, substantially more than in 2009 and better than 2010. It's definitely on the rise."

Rico Venegas, 35, is one of Schlosser’s new hires. He was laid off in 2009 from Gardner Signs, where he was the lead sign installer. He looked for work in drywall and metal framing but had no luck finding work in the local market. He was out of work for a year before being hired by Schlosser.
Some companies strugglingWhile some companies have hired new employees, others have had to face layoffs.

In mid-January, Group Publishing laid off 26 of its 289 employees as part of a companywide restructuring effort.

The change combined parts of the company that were reaching out to the same customers, Group officials said in January.

Group was established in 1974 and creates resources, training, mission and management tools for churches nationwide.

Separation packages were given to the 26 employees, and Group established a contract with Career Builders, a company that helps people between jobs, said the company's president, Rocky Gilmore.

Willms said just after the layoffs that although the country's economic turmoil has calmed a bit, companies aren't totally out of the storm yet.

"No one's really immune to this environment," he said. "I think they did what they needed to do to manage the situation. I'm sure it was a difficult decision."

Willms said he had no doubt the company would continue to succeed as one of the city's larger employers.

Earlier this month, Schmidt's Bakery in Loveland closed its Greeley store due to company restructuring. A couple of the store's five employees took jobs at the main Loveland store, owner Harry Schmidt said.

A few days later, the bakery was shut down because of $21,000 in taxes it owed to the state of Colorado.

Once paid, the bakery was again open for business and Schmidt said he didn't plan on laying anyone off.

Art and businessLoveland is known as an arts town, but some think not enough is being done to promote and grow the business side of the city's arts community.

In an effort to invigorate the city's arts businesses, Loveland created the office of creative sector development, headed by Marcie Erion and guided by a volunteer, seven-member advisory board.

"We want to identify, from the bottom and moving up, what we need for folks we've already got and get a really good as-sessment of where we sit in our business services," Erion said.

Enhancing the power of events such as Loveland's annual art and sculpture show is an example of something Erion might begin working on.

Additionally, when Artspace, a development of affordable spaces for artists to live, work and showcase, comes to Love-land, Erion's office could work with the organization to increase its ability to succeed economically.

Gutierrez said during Wednesday’s economic forum that 8 percent of the city's work force are in arts-related fields.

The new office will aid businesses such as foundries and publishing houses, he said.

Gov. Scott a traveling salesman for state

Written by
Paul Flemming
News Journal

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott, Florida's self-described chief business-attraction officer left for his first foreign trade mission on Thursday to Panama.
It's the latest in a nonstop series of trips, visits, phone calls and pitches Scott has made in his first 10 weeks in office as the salesman-in-chief for the state.

"I love to make cold calls," Scott repeats seemingly every time he's in front of a microphone. "Call me. I want your leads."

His daily schedule is peppered with blocks of time committed to those pitches.

"In my business career I was never shy about picking up the phone and making a cold call to try to make something good happen," Scott said in his State of the State address earlier this month.

Business-attraction officials around the state say they've put Scott's dialing finger to work.

"I can only imagine if I was on the other end, that would make an impression," said Jim Moore, director of the Lee County Economic Development Office. Scott has made two calls to prospects at Moore's request.

Now Scott will also work his powers of persuasion on the Legislature as he tries to eliminate agencies, shift functions and unify economic development more firmly under his control. He also seeks more autonomy to make decisions and dole out money himself.

And he wants more money — $304 million this year, $500 million next year — to dangle in front of companies.

The Senate has a proposal that mirrors Scott's organizational-chart changes. But they've balked at handing over the checkbook and they want results.

During a committee meeting where the draft bill was released, Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican, who represents portions of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, described Florida's economic-development efforts in terms of corporate governance and accountability as it's valued in the marketplace.

"Imagine that we're the shareholders of a company," Gaetz said of senators. "Things didn't go so well for the company and profits dropped. Now the company has got a budget gap ... in the $4 billion range. Now the shareholders come together. .... Are we absolutely sure we're getting a good return on investment for all the things we're doing for this company called Florida Inc., let's say."

Jobs Florida — Scott's new department of commerce — would have four divisions beneath it. Those divisions would address accounting, community development, business development and strategic planning.

A new position, Jobs Florida commissioner, would report directly to Scott — the governor has said the commissioner's physical office will be two doors down from his own in the Capitol. The commissioner would contract with the state's array of public-private partnerships that include Enterprise Florida, Space Florida, Visit Florida and the Florida Sports Foundation.

The draft bill eliminates the Department of Community Affairs and the Agency for Workforce Innovation as they now exist. It moves functions that aren't focused on job creation — emergency management and early learning, for instance — elsewhere.
The restructuring is estimated to save more than $8 million a year.

Scott is already acting on his vision.

In February, Scott engineered the hiring of Gray Swoope as president of Enterprise Florida, sweeping out the old leadership of the state's chief business-attraction arm. Swoope starts Monday. He previously worked in Mississippi in the same job for Gov. Haley Barbour.

Gaetz said the aim is to increase efficiency and address interagency malfunctions that have led to complaints about obstructionist bureaucracy.

Economic development officials around the state want it to work.

"We have had challenges with the timeliness of decisions from the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development, said Cindy Anderson, executive director of TEAM Santa Rosa, the economic-development agency in the Panhandle county.

The Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development is within the governor's office and works with Enterprise Florida to put together incentive packages and sign off on eligibility criteria for prospective job-creating companies.

"I hope (a new state structure) would be quicker and more positive: 'Here's how we'll get the job done.' We don't want to hear any more, 'The problem is this, the obstacle is that.' "

Not everyone thinks the current setup is broken.

Beth Kirkland is executive director of the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County and a board member of Florida's Great Northwest Inc.

"I've got five projects in the pipeline that go through Enterprise Florida and the Office of Tourism Trade and Economic Development. I like the model with Enterprise Florida as project managers," Kirkland said.

Anderson said when companies come to decision-making time, it's essential for her and economic development to have solid answers.

"Many times we say we believe we can offer you this," she said. "Other states don't do that. Two of our biggest competitors, Texas and Alabama, they can do it quickly and they have funds."

That's where Scott's personal involvement comes in.

Florida's governor is the nominal chairman of Enterprise Florida's board, but they almost always send a designee. In January, Scott chaired the meeting.

His dialing for jobs is more than a personal touch.

Collier Merrill, a Pensacola developer and president of the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, says it puts prospects in touch with the ultimate decisionmaker.

"I have an office over in Alabama where people promise you things and they can't get anybody on the phone," Merrill said. "You get an aide to the chief of staff and they just can't make it happen. It's different if you've got the governor of Florida on the phone."

Don Kirkman, president of Florida's Great Northwest, started his job with the 16-county regional economic-development group in January after a decade at a similar position for North Carolina's Piedmont Triad Partnership. Scott's involvement is merely keeping pace with some other states.

"The governor of North Carolina made a similar commitment," to call prospects personally, Kirkman said. "It makes a tremendous difference when the governor is directly engaged."

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Published by the San Diego Business Journal Mar. 14, 2011

Some San Diego County companies stay where they are first planted, and flourish.

WD-40 Co.’s namesake lubricant was invented in San Diego in the early 1950s. Now with manufacturing outsourced and half its business outside the United States, the company finds itself in a good location to talk to the rest of the world. WD-40’s 120 local employees can make phone calls to Europe during the mornings and Asia in the afternoons.

“The next best place to be is Hawaii,” said Garry Ridge, WD-40’s president and chief executive officer.

Some big companies find San Diego suits them as a headquarters or major division site. In 2009, Sony Electronics Inc. finished an 11-story, 450,000-square-foot tower in Rancho Bernardo to house its North American headquarters. Sony, which transferred the headquarters from New Jersey in 2004, employs 2,000 people locally, according to the San Diego Business Journal’s 2011 Book of Lists, which ranks it as the region’s 33rd largest employer.

Sometimes a firm finds San Diego no longer meets its needs.

SAIC, a homegrown defense contractor, moved its headquarters to Virginia in 2009 to be closer to its federal government customer.

Courting Motorola Mobility

San Diego’s desirability as a site for corporate headquarters is a hot topic in the early part of 2011. Regional leaders have been courting Motorola Mobility Inc., a maker of tablet computers and cell phones, and one of two entities that came out of Motorola’s split in half at the start of 2011. The firm already has 800 employees in San Diego. CEO Sanjay Jha was previously a high ranking executive with Qualcomm Inc.

Julie Meier Wright, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., said her agency responded in mid-October to a formal request for proposals from Motorola Mobility for a corporate headquarters. Two months earlier, a who’s who of San Diego executives made a sales pitch to Motorola, aided by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In an interview last week, Wright offered little new information on the effort to attract Motorola Mobility. Illinois and Austin, Texas, are also reportedly bidding for the headquarters.

6 Factors

Typically when company leaders think of prospective locations, they evaluate several fixed costs, including labor, transportation, utilities and real estate, said Paige Webster, a site selection consultant with Phoenix-based Foote Consulting Group LLC.

Two other things go into the analysis. There is the incentive package that a local government can pull together. That is a variable cost. But it’s an objective measure.

The sixth factor swings the decision over into the subjective realm. That’s quality of life. When evaluating the merits of a location, such as whether Denver is a better place than San Diego, different people will give different answers, Webster said.

Duane Roth, chief executive officer of Connect, an organization that helps entrepreneurial companies in the region, said he’s inclined to agree with former U.S. Senate candidate and former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief Carly Fiorina when she was asked where to build a company.

“Easy,” Roth said, paraphrasing Fiorina. “Put it where the talent wants to live.” What motivated Gateway Inc.’s Ted Waitt to move his personal computer company to San Diego in 1998, Roth said, was a realization that top-end talent did not want to live in the region around North Sioux City, in South Dakota. Gateway, incidentally, moved to Orange County in 2004.

Balancing Act

Hewlett-Packard is one of Sony’s neighbors in Rancho Bernardo, having been there since the 1960s. The complex serves as headquarters for HP’s Imaging and Printing Group. The Palo Alto-based company employs more than 1,000 people there; HP does not disclose precise employment numbers.

The company is paying a price to have its talent in San Diego, acknowledged Glen Hopkins, a vice president and general manager for HP.

“It’s a balancing act,” Hopkins said of HP’s effort to spread employees over high-cost and low-cost areas.

Its local work force concentrates on innovation, including new products and technologies, not to mention new business models. It also works on prototype products. When it comes time to produce a product in bulk, or do other work, HP goes elsewhere. It can choose among facilities in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, not to mention India and Israel.

Hopkins said HP is in San Diego for the talent. So do representatives of chipmaker Qualcomm and fast-food franchiser Jack in the Box Inc., both homegrown companies that have not seen a need to uproot their headquarters. San Diego provides a certain quality of people and great quality of life, representatives said.

Good Place to Be

General Atomics has called San Diego home since its founding in 1956 as a unit of General Dynamics Corp. Now private, GA ranks 12th on the Business Journal’s Largest Employers list with 5,838 employees as of Aug. 1. By now, that number has exceeded 6,000, including its division that produces unmanned aircraft, said spokesman Doug Fouquet.

The company is not thinking of leaving, Fouquet said. As a matter of fact, aircraft-maker General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. moved into larger quarters in Poway in 2008.

Other notable companies based locally are Sempra Energy and Life Technologies Corp.

Sempra ranks 13th on the Largest Employers list with 5,258 local employees. Sempra, which started as San Diego’s electric utility, eventually took on the Los Angeles-area natural gas system and branched into unregulated energy businesses. It has stayed in San Diego despite the fact that the area is not an energy center on the scale of, say, Houston.

Life Technologies is among the biggest businesses in the county’s important biotech sector, with 1,700 employees in the region.

Another company rooted in local infrastructure, AT&T reports more than 3,500 employees countywide.

A relative newcomer with a growing headquarters is Bridgepoint Education. Company representatives declined an interview, but Bridgepoint is publicly traded and recently told shareholders to expect revenue growth in 2011. Bridgepoint also occupies an increasing amount of local building space.

So despite California’s notoriety as an expensive and difficult place to do business, big companies have reasons to stay in San Diego.

“If you’re talent intensive, you’ve got to go where the talent is,” Roth said.

Reselling El Paso: Task force wants to undo damage of Juárez violence on EP's image

by Vic Kolenc \ El Paso Times
Posted: 03/13/2011 12:00:00 AM MST

Click photo to enlargeThis billboard at a visitors information desk at El Paso International Airport is part of the El...«12»The drug-cartel violence in Juárez is hurting El Paso's image and making it more difficult to attract conventions, tourists and talent even though El Paso remains one of the safest cities in the nation, city officials said.

That has a new, city-convened group of 24 officials from the city, county, business groups, UTEP, Texas Tech, Fort Bliss, and media outlets, including the El Paso Times, trying to figure out how to enhance the city's image and get the word out about El Paso's assets.

People on the city's Strategic Communications Task Force, which met for the first time this month, "felt El Paso's negative image is affecting our ability to recruit talent and (draw) visitors. The consensus was to look at this and address El Paso's image," said Kathy Dodson, director of the city Department of Planning and Economic Development. She's coordinating the task force meetings.

Bill Blaziek, general manager of the El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau, and a task force member, said he has "too many examples in the last six to eight" months of groups turning down the bureau's attempts to bring conventions or meetings here because of the Juárez violence.

About 7,800 people have been killed in Juárez in the past two years as the drug war has escalated.

The Juárez violence is "beginning to take its toll, and we have to come together as a community to defend our image," Blaziek said.

"We need effective and positive messaging that shores up or enhances our image and gives us the ability to talk as one."

The task force's first decision was to survey what types of things El Paso organizations are now putting out to sell El Paso.

Much of the city's image selling through the years has been through the convention bureau's marketing campaigns.

Its latest campaign, unveiled last summer, revolves around the slogan "Real Adventure is Still Alive" in El Paso.

It focuses on selling El Paso's mountains and other outdoor attractions, its history, culture and food, Blaziek said. Parts of the campaign are similar to the bureau's previous campaign, which used the tag line "El Paso -- Do Texas Different."

The campaign was designed by El Paso advertising agency Sanders\Wingo.

Images in the latest campaign include hikers at Hueco Tanks, folklorico dancers and Mexican food.

"These are individual (tourism-aimed) campaigns. They are not development or marketing of a (city) brand," Blaziek said.

The bureau, with an annual marketing budget of about $600,000, aims its selling at a regional market. It uses print ads, brochures, airport billboards and the bureau's website, Facebook page and YouTube videos.

Several years ago, city officials tried to go beyond tourism advertising by having a branding campaign developed for use by all city agencies.

The campaign, launched in 2007, revolved around the tag line "El Paso Texas -- You Have No Idea," and it featured a logo with a cactus and silhouette of the mountains. The city paid two companies about $250,000 to develop and implement the campaign.

Morris Pittle, owner of Two Ton Creativity, an El Paso advertising agency that devised the "You Have No Idea" campaign, said it grew out of California-based Glass Beach Marketing's research that outsiders' prevailing emotion about El Paso was ignorance.

It's not uncommon for visitors to come here and say, "I had no idea El Paso has mountains, I had no idea this is a big city," Pittle said. The campaign was designed to tell people about El Paso's assets, he said.

That campaign was revised in late 2007 and took on the tag line "El Paso, Capital of the Border."

That's a tag line and theme that Pittle liked, but city officials initially rejected in favor of the "I Have No Idea" campaign, Pittle said.

A combination of City Council budget cuts and growing violence in Juárez killed the campaign in 2008.

Pittle said he favored the Capital of the Border theme because it was a regional concept and also reflected El Paso's true identity.

"People may think the border is a negative thing, but it is who we are," Pittle said.

The border connection may not be positive today, but it's still important for commerce and it's still part of El Paso's identity, he said.

The media focus on the border because of the drug-cartel war gives El Paso the opportunity to "tell our story ourselves and not let someone else tell it," Pittle said.

Bob Cook, president of the El Paso Regional Economic Development Corp., or REDCo, El Paso's privately run industry recruiter, said this area would be better off without the violence in Juárez. But he agreed with Pittle that it has "shined a spotlight on this community like never before and given us a platform to talk about the community," Cook said.

For several years, REDCo has employed a New York public relations firm to reach out to media outlets to do stories about this area.

The PR campaign, which has allowed REDCo to point out positives about this area, such as a still-thriving maquiladora industry in Juárez, appears to have paid off with more interest from companies, Cook said.

However, a recently conducted REDCo survey of site consultants showed that many consultants are concerned about the violence and are having difficulty recommending this area to clients, Cook said.

Cook said the city task force, which has two REDCo representatives, is looking at developing strategic, fact-based messages that all agencies involved with talking to the outside world can use.

The city also would be well served to have a unified branding campaign with a "consistent look and feel," Cook said. That would give more bang for the limited marketing dollars available, Cook said.

Pittle agreed with task force members that what is needed now is a strategy on how to communicate with the rest of the world about El Paso.

"A tag line won't solve the problems," he said.

Public relations, Facebook, YouTube and "guerrilla marketing," such as putting El Paso food carts in other big cities, should be part of any image campaign, Pittle said.

El Paso's Mexico connection used to be a big seller for the El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau's marketing. These days, visitors are cautioned against going to Juárez, Blaziek said.

Now is not the time to sell El Paso's border connection, he said.

"It's best to position ourselves as El Paso, and sell 'Destination El Paso,' Blaziek said. "We can re-create the international experience here with our food, shopping, like Pro's Ranch Markets, and Mexican music."

Laura Gallegos, communications and marketing director for the Texas Tech University medical school in El Paso, and a city task force member, said she doesn't know whether the Juárez violence is hurting the medical school's ability to recruit faculty.

"In general, El Paso sometimes can be a difficult place to recruit people" because this is an area people don't know much about, she said. "We try to get them here (for a visit) to see how great El Paso is."

Gallegos, a native El Pasoan who left the city for several years for college and work, said she found that people in other cities knew El Paso because of UTEP's 1966 college basketball championship made more famous by the 2006 movie, "Glory Road."

"I think a city branding campaign would be useful," Gallegos said. "With my marketing background, I know image is important."

Vic Kolenc may be reached at; 546-6421

Goal: 'Land the big one'

Louisiana's top economic developer believes the state's next mega project and thousands of jobs could land at Franklin Farms Industrial Megasite in Richland Parish.

"It's clearly one of the top automotive industrial sites in the South," Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said. "I don't believe there will be a significant amount of auto projects announced in the next two years, but all we need is one."

Northeast Louisiana Economic Alliance President Tana Trichel and the late George Franklin Jr. conceived the site 10 years ago, and the state eventually bought a 1,425-acre tract from the Franklin family, which has said it will offer another 4,500 contiguous acres if needed.

"My goal and the Franklin family's goal has been and always will be to land the big one," said Trichel, whose organization markets the site with the state.
And there are unbiased experts who believe that will ultimately happen.

Southern Business and Development magazine listed Franklin Farms among its "10 sites in the South that will eventually land 'The Big One.'"

The state appropriated $5 million to make infrastructure improvements at the site, and Trichel said once a new Interstate 20 interchange is permitted between Holly Ridge and Bee Bayou "it will be hard to say we're not the top site in the South."
"(Gov.) Bobby Jindal has made a clear commitment to land something at Franklin Farms," she said.

Trichel consistently brings site selectors to Franklin Farm in preparation for the next big auto project.

"We want to keep the site top of mind," she said. "Whenever I ask the site selectors what they like best, they always say, 'It's flat.'"

Moret said the state markets the site in the United States and abroad.

"We're reaching out primarily to oversees companies with the best prospects for growth," he said. "I'd be surprised if there was a new plant announced this year, but we may see one or two next year."

Trichel said she is confident that Franklin Farms will one day yield thousands of jobs.

"I expect us to land a project in the next three years," she said. "I'd really be shocked if that doesn't happen."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Does Snyder's budget proposal disarm Michigan in battle to win business?

In the battle with other states to attract business and create jobs, is Michigan under Gov. Rick Snyder disarming?

Most people who have paid attention to Snyder's budget proposal seem to understand what the new governor does not want to do in the economic development arena:

• He doesn't want to pick winners and losers by lavishing incentives on certain pet industries.
• He's getting rid of long-term tax credits.
• And he wants to limit subsidies for the film industry, if not eliminate them altogether.

OK, I get the impulse to change tactics after Michigan's decade as the caboose of the U.S. economic train.

But if we don't have brownfield credits to revive old industrial sites; or historic tax credits to bring grand buildings such as the Book-Cadillac back to life; or the catnip of fat cash rebates to entice Clint Eastwood and Drew Barrymore to make films here, how do we plan to fight back when neighboring states try to poach our jobs and companies?

In case you didn't notice, it took Ohio about 8 milliseconds to steal "The Avengers" movie from Michigan when Snyder moved to cap film support with a $25-million grant program, replacing open-ended subsidies.

And that gunslinger Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is assembling a $196-million two-year economic development war chest, which will presumably be operational as soon as he can round up enough AWOL legislators to hold a vote.

So, how is Michigan is responding?

In a nutshell, Team Snyder is saying, "Trust us."

The 2012 budget requests $75 million for the 21st Century Jobs Fund, including $25 million to spur entrepreneurship and the rest for traditional stuff like "plugging gaps" when Michigan is competing with other states for projects, says Mike Finney, head of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Exactly what form that $75 million will take -- cash, loans, land or other incentives -- is still undecided. Finney says he's talking with regional economic developers, banks and others for ideas. He's aiming to pin down specifics in the next 45 days.

If it seems that Michigan's playbook is still a work in progress, well, perhaps there's some comfort in knowing we are definitely not alone.

Some practices, such as using deal-closing funds to make big cash payments to lure companies, are losing favor as more states face big budget deficits. Illinois hasn't replenished its closing fund in several years, while Texas and other states are under pressure to shrink theirs.

"Most states are still doing targeted incentives and, frankly, they're not very effective," Finney says. "We've taken a very different mind-set, with a simple, lower business tax that makes us less costly than all the other Great Lakes states but Indiana.

"Once we're through the initial angst people have about losing specific targeted programs, we'll be fine," Finney says.

In other words, trust us.

Delegation going to New York to spread ‘story of Panama City'

CHRIS SEGAL / News Herald Writer

PANAMA CITY — Three local leaders will travel to New York City to meet with members of the national media and site consultants to clear up misconceptions about the condition of local beaches and to promote economic development.

Panama City Mayor Scott Clemons will be accompanied by Janet Watermeier, executive director of the Bay County Economic Development Alliance, and Neil Wade from the St. Joe Co. to meet with six different media outlets.

“We will be talking about the story of Panama City,” Clemons said. “We will have a national audience as well as meeting with a group of site consultants.”

The public relations company for the St. Joe Co. helped arrange the media tour. The bill for the trip will be picked up by the EDA, which is a public/private partnership aimed at recruiting target industries to Bay County.

One of the stories the mayor wants to share with the national media is that although there were economic impacts felt locally by the Deepwater Horizon Oil gusher, there was no oil that washed up on local beaches and that the beaches are open for business.

Talking points for the trio include the focus of the St. Joe Co. on recruiting and working with aerospace and defense companies to relocate to the West Bay sector, a new focus on economic development driven by newly elected Gov. Rick Scott, the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport and the Port of Panama City.

The Panama City representatives have appointments with Commercial Property Executive magazine, Fox Business, Reuters, Bloomberg News and the Christian Science Monitor.

Watermeier, who recently returned from a trip to Atlanta to meet with site consultants, said that project activity is starting to pick up. EDA officials are also looking into planning trips to Chicago and possibly the West Coast as part of a larger marketing initiative to promote Panama City and Bay County as a good place to run a business.

“We have enough economic assets that it’s not just tourism. We are a good business location,” Watermeier said. “I’m looking forward to talking to people and getting our story out.”

Saturday, March 05, 2011

St. Louis firm on Salinas' image campaign: 'We brand the people'

Written by

A St. Louis marketing firm hired pro-bono to improve Salinas’ image announced today they welcome the challenge and will be looking to the city’s residents to help them succeed.

“We brand the people,” said Mark Vogel, senior partner with Avant Marketing Group, the company chosen by the council.

“Without the people, you’re just another point on a map,” he said today.

Mayor Dennis Donohue and Economic Development Director Jeff Weir held a brief press conference at City Hall to introduce Vogel and Avant partner Kate Lammert to the city.

The event comes just an hour before a council meeting where Salinas’ elected leaders are expected to approve an agreement outlining both parties’ responsibilities in the branding initiative.

Avant is required to, among others, conduct focus group meetings, develop a brand platform, logos and taglines, and carry out its “Living the Brand” training.

“We all know ‘I love New York’ is on everything and everybody buys them,” Weir said. “We’re going to outdo them.”

The initiative also includes identifying markets to target, trade-show development, and addressing the city’s negative perception.

Record-setting gang violence in recent years has largely been attributed to Salinas’ image problem.

“When folks look closely on Salinas,” Donohue said, “they like what they see.”

Avant was chosen by a divided council Jan. 11 among a handful of branding consultants, including over Salinas-based TMD Creative Marketing by Design company.

Citing Avant’s significant track record in marketing national and international companies, however, the council chose the Midwest firm – agreeing with the marketing ad-hoc committee that unanimously recommended the company for the job.

Avant has developed brands for government-related organizations including the USDA and Fed Source, the business brand for the U.S. Treasury’s Franchise Fund.

Although Avant helped form the “Tough As Texas” phrase, Vogel said, Salinas is the company’s first project focusing on a specific municipal entity.

Also, Avant will cover all expenses; the approach includes a retail component that allows the company to sell merchandise. The consultant will collect a share – 80 percent in the first year – of revenues generated by the sales until it is phased out in five years.

According to the proposal Avant sent for the initiative, the company estimates the cost of its work at $62,275, which includes out-of-pocket travel and accommodations expenses.

The company, however, expects to generate a cumulative income of $134,000 over a five-year period.

Vogel said today, after the council approves the contract, Avant will meet with Weir to outline the next steps for his team. This includes conducting and completing one-on-one interviews with residents and focus groups by April 15.

Others' pain might be S. Dakota's gain

Kelly Thurman

Tax increases being implemented nationwide as states work to cover budget deficits could be to South Dakota's benefit in bringing businesses to the state.

As South Dakota and the nation slowly recover from the recession, state and local officials see potential in leveraging its business-friendly and low-tax status to attract more out-of-state companies who are looking to save money as it becomes more expensive to operate in their home states.

Coupled with a pent-up demand by companies that have held off with major expansions for years, South Dakota could stand to gain from other states' challenges.

The Governor's Office of Economic Development and the Sioux Falls Development Foundation separately are pondering plans to develop more direct marketing strategies focused on getting the word out about South Dakota in those specific areas of the country.

"To me, if we play our cards right, we can convince people, 'Hey, come here to South Dakota. We're a well-managed state,' " said Dennis Breske, president and CEO of NAI Sioux Falls, a commercial brokerage firm. Breske recently worked with a California company looking to expand in Sioux Falls.

South Dakota continuously is ranked near the top when it comes to its business-friendly tax structure. The state has no corporate or personal income taxes, nor does it have personal property, business inventory or inheritances taxes. While South Dakota is confronting its own budget deficit, legislators so far have been committed to balancing the budget without tax increases.
Looking to expand elsewhere

The opportunity to attract businesses comes from other states where the recession has hit hard and in some cases led to increases in state business taxes.

The Illinois Legislature, for instance, recently approved a plan to increase its individual income tax by two-thirds and corporate tax rate by 30 percent to help close a $13 billion budget deficit, a move some people say will undermine job growth and economic development in the state.

The increases don't mean every business is going to pick up and move, but companies probably won't be as interested in the state for expansions, said Kail Padgitt, economist with The Tax Foundation. That's good news for states such as South Dakota, though he cautioned that a state's tax structure is just one of several factors businesses consider.

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Friday, March 04, 2011

Consultant apologizes for Lexington economic development report after questions about 'recycled recommendations'

By Janet Patton —

A $150,000 consultant's report on Lexington's economic development strategy came under fire by a local citizens group as "recycled recommendations," and the consultant whose firm wrote the report apologized for it late Thursday and promised to "rectify the situation."

The report, paid for by the city and Commerce Lexington, had been set for release March 18. Mayor Jim Gray asked Commerce Lexington to delay the report's release because of the issues raised by citizens group ProgressLex.

Late Thursday, Angelos Angelou, principal executive officer of the consulting firm, AngelouEconomics, based in Austin, Texas, sent an e-mail to Commerce Lexington officials and the Herald-Leader apologizing for the report.

"This has been a serious violation of our firm's internal policies and quality control," Angelou wrote.

In the e-mail, Angelou said he would ask for two to three weeks to rewrite the report.

"As the founder of AngelouEconomics, I take full responsibility for this major lapse in our work and there is no excuse to justify what has happened," he said. "I deeply apologize for the damage that this may have caused."

Ben Self, a local entrepreneur and board member of ProgressLex, first raised questions about the report in a blog post early Thursday. Self obtained an early draft of the report and wrote on the ProgressLex blog that several parts appeared to be "copied and pasted" from plans for places in Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa, among others.

"I understand many cities are facing similar problems, but with the amount of money spent, it seems like we'd get a document specifically addressed to our environment," Self wrote on the ProgressLex site.

The group called for AngelouEconomics to refund the city's half of the fee, $75,000.

"I think it's important for us to ask them to refund the money. We could do something fantastic with that," Self told the Herald-Leader on Thursday. "I think it's disappointing Lexington didn't get recommendations specific to our city. We got recycled recommendations."

In his statement, Gray said he asked Commerce Lexington to delay the report because the city needs "time to ask questions and to ensure that it will be a report that's tailored to our community."

The statement said the city has already spent $72,253.42 on the report.

Bob Quick, Commerce Lexington president and CEO, said Thursday he had not had a chance to read the draft.

In the draft's executive summary, Self found the Bluegrass region's "first and most important" problem is also the same problem verbatim that the Pikes Peak region had.

The region "must break down long-standing silos and work collaboratively towards a common economic vision," both reports said. "As a result of this conclusion, it became apparent that the plan itself would have to focus on those barriers that compromise regional economic vitality."

Earlier Thursday, Steve Vierck of AngelouEconomics defended his firm's work.

"I really hope people will read it first," Vierck said, "and ask, does this reflect the Lexington area, what the problems are, what the solutions are. I think it reflects the issues from the feedback we picked up."

Vierck, who edited the report and wrote the marketing recommendations, said AngelouEconomics reviewed dozens of reports — some its own, some from other consultants — written for eight to 10 different communities that had similar problems, including the limited trust and lack of teamwork.

"Are there strategies in there that may have been employed in other places? Yes. Part of why we were engaged was to suggest the best tactics used in other places," he said. "This is not recycled. I would definitely disagree with that."

But in his e-mail, Angelou wrote that he had been traveling and unable to review the blog post on ProgressLex until late Thursday. "In lieu, of what I am now able to ascertain, I cannot any longer defend our report and take full responsibility," Angelou wrote.

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