Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fairfax EDA starts marketing presence in Los Angeles

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority has established a marketing presence in the Los Angeles area in the wake of major corporate relocations from that area.

The authority has hired Market Diligence Group of Newport Beach, Calif., to work with companies interested in expanding into the Washington, D.C., area, and venture capitalists seeking investment opportunities in Fairfax County.

Mark White and Tom Roberts of Market Diligence Group will lead efforts to market Fairfax County to the Silicon Valley-San Francisco area as well as Southern California.

Hilton Worldwide, CSC, SAIC and Northrop Grumman have all moved their corporate headquarters from California to Fairfax in recent years. The authority opened a California office in the San Francisco area in 2006, but decided to move its California office to Los Angeles because of interest from that area.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Incentives game pits neighboring states against each other, a metro region against itself

Despite widespread agreement – even among their recipients – that incentives are generally bad policy, no one wants to be the first to give them up. This article looks at Kansas City, Mo. and Kan., and the cross-border raids that are pitting the states against each other to entice companies to move a few miles and resettle on the other side. Of the 53 companies that received state tax incentives to move into Kansas since the 2009 fiscal year, 45 have been from Missouri. Some in the region have pushed the idea of a "border zone" in which the states would be allowed to offer incentives only for new jobs, rather than those that are simply relocated from next door. More here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

James City County debuts marketing video

Originally Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2011
The Virginia Gazette

JAMES CITY -- The James City County Economic Development Authority and the Office of Economic Development recently announced the debut of a new marketing video highlighting the many advantages of business location in the county.

The completed video entitled “James City County: Open for Business” can be viewed on the James City County Office of Economic Development website at and on James City County’s You Tube page at Shorter segments of the video will be edited for use for different target audiences and mediums.

The video was filmed and produced by Legacy Productions. Assistance was provided by the James City County Community Video Center and the New Town Association. Additional footage was provided by the Williamsburg Area Destination Marketing Committee and Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.

For those interested in using the video for marketing purposes, please contact the Office of Economic Development at 757-253-6607. For more information about the Office of Economic Development, please visit

To attract new biz, befriend site selectors

by Dale Fowler
published in the Victoria Advocate

To be successful, it helps to have friends or at least contacts. This statement is especially true in the world of economic development.

One specific group of people who all economic developers need to know is the site selection consultants. Or, more importantly, we need site selectors to know us and our community.

The Victoria Economic Development Corp. recently met with 14 such consultants at one location: Austin.

Via a special invitation, Adrian Cannady, our vice president of marketing, attended a three-day conference in Austin that was the first of its kind.

You see, professional site selection consultants from around the country have come together to form a Site Selection Guild. The members of this guild represent a large percentage of the new industry locations nationally and internationally, as well as most of the very large projects.

A significant part of the VEDC marketing program is to get face-to-face with these site selectors every one or two years with information about what the Victoria region offers their clients as a place to do business. These visits are followed up with occasional emails regarding special announcements or newly available assets in the community.

The opportunity to spend quality time with a group of these consultants all at the same place was a tremendous benefit to our efforts to build lasting relationships as we market Victoria. It was just such a relationship that brought us Caterpillar.

Having so much face time with these people gave Adrian a chance to do more than just highlight the attributes of the Victoria region. He was able to learn more about what their clients are looking for as they search the United States and beyond looking for the right place for their next investment. Here are a few of his takeaways:

Companies will consider the overall state of a community when making their location decisions.

However, more important than how we are today is where we are headed. Where is this community going to be in the future?

If a company invests $150 million into our community, it plans on being here a long time. Thus, they want to know if we have a plan for the direction we want to go and they want to see that plan. Community leaders need to be able to articulate just what the plan is.

Structure your incentives around the overall impact of the project versus the number of jobs.

We have to understand that companies are in business to make a product or provide a service and turn a profit. They are not in business to employ as many people as possible.

In fact, businesses want to meet customers' demands with the minimum number of employees possible. Usually this means using more technology and fewer people but often people who are more highly skilled. In many cases, these higher skilled jobs will pay better and total payroll drives the local economy - not the number of jobs.

Most projects list the availability of commercial air service as key criteria when evaluating a community.

The most effective marketing channel is through long-term, relationship marketing which comes from repeated face-to-face visits.

One site selector said he typically receives more than 1,200 electronic brochures and mailed marketing pieces from communities each month.

With no possible way to read all that clutter, he simply deposited it all in the round file - you know, the one at the end of his desk.

On a state perspective, the group cautioned Texas not to fight yesterday's battles today.

While the state has done well over the past decade selling the notion of being a state with lower taxes and lawsuit reform, tomorrow's battle will be for talent. No matter what the statistics show, this group's perception of Texas is that we are a low education attainment state. This perception will have to change for our economic success to continue.

Our hats are off to the organizers of this great event. The good news for VEDC is that we already knew more than half of the site selectors and this event was a great way to renew the friendships.

We hope to be invited back in a few years with even more site selectors in attendance.

D. Dale Fowler is president of the Victoria Economic Development Corp.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ohio is spending $1.4 billion to attract jobs. Will it work?

By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY

VAN WERT, Ohio — The farmland is flat. The houses are few. The property owners have agreed to sell.

Abandoned buildings sit on a 1,600-acre industrial site in Van Wert.A red barn sits on the 1,600-acre industrial site available for development in Van Wert, Ohio.

All that’s missing is a manufacturer who wants to build a giant factory on 1,600 acres of farmland in northwest Ohio. As the town’s website says: “”

Van Wert’s speculative industrial site — complete with a rail line, gas lines, land-acquisition options and anything else a manufacturer would need — is just one $10 million slice of an extraordinary government experiment to revive this state’s declining economy.

Ohio has launched what appears to be the biggest intervention in the private economy by a state government since at least the Great Depression, according to a USA TODAY review of historical data. The state is preparing new industrial parks and high-tech office buildings, loaning money and giving grants to businesses, and subsidizing clean energy, websites, nanotechnology and warehouses, among other things.

The state will spend $1.4 billion on economic development this year. Indiana, by contrast, will spend $37 million; Florida $11 million. California has 25 people working full-time on economic development. Ohio: more than 400.

Ohio’s attempt to revive its economy is a real-life case of how states act as a laboratory of democracy. This industrial state is testing a provocative economic question: Can government direct the economy into the future, or is that best done by a free market?

In a political twist, Ohio’s economic intervention was a Republican idea, started a decade ago by Gov. Bob Taft. Republican legislators boasted of the effort as a “stimulus” program until the word became associated with Democratic President Obama’s economic recovery plan.

The program has enjoyed broad support from Ohio’s voters, businesses, unions and Republicans and Democrats alike.

“We had to do something in a dramatic way,” Taft says. “It’s a long-term strategy, not an overnight attitude. It’s how states like Ohio must transform themselves. We don’t have any other choice.”

Ohio has lost more than 500,000 jobs in the past decade — 80% of them well-paying manufacturing jobs. Only Michigan has suffered more from the nation’s industrial decline.

It’s unclear whether Ohio’s gamble will pay off.

A USA TODAY review of two dozen of Ohio’s state-funded projects found many behind schedule or failing to deliver the jobs or investment returns promised.

For example, a proposed multibillion-dollar plant that would make synthetic natural gas in Lima (population 38,771) is still an artist’s rendering in search of financing. It has received $70 million in federal, state and local aid and has been in the works for a decade.

However, the recession and other economic forces — such as low natural gas prices — make it difficult to judge the long-term success of the Lima project or other projects financed by the government.

The Van Wert site is one of two new mega-industrial sites Ohio is preparing in hopes that a car company or other manufacturer will choose Ohio rather than Tennessee, Alabama or a foreign nation.

A few miles down the road from Van Wert (population 10,263), the state is creating a 471-acre industrial park in Wapakoneta (population 9,867) that could supply the mega-site. That site’s website has a similar ring: “”

The question the state is asking itself is: Why Ohio?

Companies build elsewhere

Dozens of once-prosperous towns — Akron, Coshocton, Defiance, Mansfield, Newark, Van Wert, Zanesville — are shells of what they once were.

The state is losing young people, and because of the 2010 Census it will lose two of its 18 U.S. House seats.

When Facebook or Google build data centers — buildings that could be located anywhere — they have chosen rural, high-unemployment parts of Oregon and North Carolina.

Ohio is heading down a path Michigan tried on a smaller scale but is abandoning.

Michigan spent about $100 million to $250 million annually on economic development during the past decade, first under Republican Gov. John Engler, then under Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The effort — even with an extra, one-time injection of $400 million in 2007 — couldn’t stop the state’s economic slide from a collapsing auto industry.

Michigan’s new governor, Republican Rick Snyder, plans to cut economic development spending to $50 million. Instead, he wants to reduce business taxes by more than $1.5 billion and shift the burden to the personal income tax.

Ohio State University economist Mark Partridge says government efforts to plan an economic revival seldom work.

“Politicians and economic development officials overestimate their ability to forecast the future — to predict the next Silicon Valley or even to know beforehand that a Silicon Valley is going to occur,” Partridge says.

Government’s poor record of picking winners and losers means that even well-intentioned programs can hurt more than help, he says.

“A tax incentive for one firm means I have to raise taxes on everyone else or cut services,” Partridge says.

Ohio’s business leaders are more optimistic.

“We’re looking to get industry up and moving again,” says Andrew Doehrel, president of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. “We’re not saying pick Company XYZ because it has a chance of success. We’re saying pick Company XYZ because they’re into plastics and Akron is successful in that field. It’s targeting that is necessary and useful.”

A long partnership

Ohio’s tradition of big government, big business and big unions dates back a century and sometimes has worked well.

The auto industry bailout halted Ohio’s employment collapse and restored some manufacturing jobs. The state’s unemployment rate fell to 8.9% in March, just above the national average.

In a state devastated by foreign competition, free trade is held in unusually low esteem, even among Republicans. When Republican Gov. John Kasich was elected in November, exit polls showed voters by a 7-1 ratio said free-trade agreements had taken away jobs.

Ohio’s $1.4 billion in economic development spending does not include many tax breaks or other programs that provide additional assistance to targeted industries such as clean coal.

Most states offer similar programs. What’s different in Ohio is the scale.

The state has started directing cash, loans and tax breaks to nearly every imaginable part of the economy — dairies, auto suppliers, business incubators, plastics research and biotechnology. It’s building modern industrial and office parks — and fixing up old ones — even though prospects for filling the sites is speculative.

The push to reinvent Ohio’s economy began in 2002 when voters approved borrowing for an economic development program called “Third Frontier.” Voters have extended the $2.3 billion program — part of the state’s larger economic development effort — through 2015.

From that, the economic development effort has expanded to nearly every sector of the economy in every town in this state of 11.5 million.

“We still want to be the state that makes things,” says Mark Kvamme, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist brought in to help reorganize the economic development effort.

Kasich, the new governor, has moved some programs into a quasi-private operation called JobsOhio that he hopes will be faster and more effective.

This new approach positions the government to act more like a risk-taking investor, Kvamme says. For example, JobsOhio might own a share of an upstart business in return for its investment. “Ohio should be able to do what Stanford University has done — own some of the upside,” Kvamme says. “When Google went public, Stanford made billions. Think what that could mean for Ohio.” Stanford made money by licensing technology to Google in exchange for shares and fees.

Kasich is expanding Ohio’s tradition of large-scale, government-directed development programs. His new budget proposes spending an extra $100 million a year in liquor profits on economic development. That amount alone dwarfs economic development spending in almost every other state.

An unusual marriage

Quasar energy group is the poster child for what Ohio is trying to accomplish — a marriage of business and academics.

The start-up company converts waste — sewage, cow manure, food — into natural gas. It got a $2 million state grant, a $3 million state loan and $1 million in federal funds to build a waste-to-energy plant in Columbus.

Quasar will move into a new government-subsidized office building on the Wooster campus of Ohio State University. This 57-acre BioHio Research Park, Ohio’s effort to create a “food and agriculture technology cluster,” got about $10 million in state and local subsidies.

The state’s matchmaking has helped both sides. “Entrepreneurs make it sound easier than it is. Academics help you get over the hurdles,” says Mel Kurtz, Quasar’s president.

Kurtz’s slice of the hundreds of millions of dollars Ohio is spending on alternative energy shows the ambitious scale of Ohio’s efforts. North Carolina awarded $1 million in state money to alternative energy businesses last year. No single grant was bigger than $100,000.

Ohio hopes for thousands of waste-to-energy plants, not just a few, Kurtz says. “This is building an industry, not a business,” he says.

The size of Ohio’s economic development spending has made subsidies part of everyday life for its major businesses.

Cincinnati-based Procter and Gamble, the consumer giant, got $250,000 in November to pave a parking lot.

“It’s sort of a rich-gets-richer situation,” complained state Sen. Ray Miller, a Democrat who voted against the grant.

American Greetings, a holiday card giant, is getting state subsidies to move its 2,000-employee operation from one Ohio town to another. Restaurant chain Bob Evans is getting state money to move its headquarters from a low-income neighborhood in Columbus to an affluent suburb.

Ohio cities and counties routinely add tax breaks for almost any business or developer that asks. One unusual Ohio subsidy: collecting municipal income taxes from workers and giving half the money to their company as a location award.

Free-market advocates say subsidies and tax breaks favor bigger businesses skilled at lobbying. That pushes the burden onto others and unintentionally smothers small entrepreneurs.

“The best thing a city or state can do is make itself attractive to every business. Taxes should be low, regulation moderate and don’t play favorites,” says Clint Bolick, president of Arizona’s Goldwater Institute, which successfully sued Phoenix for subsidizing a shopping mall.

Overdrive, a successful Ohio technology firm, shows the blurry line between business-friendly and business subsidy.

Entrepreneur Steve Potash was a Cleveland lawyer who turned his computer hobby into a major distributor of audio books and e-books to 10,000 libraries. Overdrive has 130 employees, is riding the e-book boom and has never had an unprofitable quarter.

When Overdrive needed a bigger office, the company called the state and got a $484,000 tax credit.

“There wasn’t a lot of red tape. The state was a pleasure to do business with,” Potash says.

The company will move from one Cleveland suburb to another. It never considered leaving the area. The state aid will help the company speed hiring and growth, Potash says.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tulsa named to list of business friendly communities

By KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Published: 4/23/2011 2:26 AM

Tulsa has been picked as one of the top 10 pro-business communities without a beach in the southern U.S. by Southern Business and Development.

The list by the website, which serves economic development and business organizations, contains cities that don't have the benefits of the ocean and bay ports, putting Tulsa up against the likes of Little Rock, San Antonio and Baton Rouge, La.

The selection highlights Tulsa's relatively low cost of living, pro-business environment and the Tulsa Port of Catoosa in making the area more attractive to relocating and expanding businesses.

"It's great recognition in the progress we are making on the economic development front," said Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Metro Chamber.

Other areas that made the list were Winston-Salem, N.C.; Huntsville, Ala.; Williamson County, Tenn.; Augusta, Ga.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Columbia, S.C.

The business site says Tulsa has the fifth lowest cost of doing business in the nation.

Along with commending Tulsa, the website also places Neal among the "Ten People Who Made a Difference in the South."

He was listed among people such as Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and other chamber of commerce and economic development leaders.

"While there are many local economic developers who have turned more projects than Michael Neal has since he accepted the job to run Tulsa's chamber in 2006, few have done a better job at retaining and growing the companies they already have," Southern Business and Development said.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Friday, April 22, 2011

Development Corp. key to Wisconsin's job growth

Written by
Green Bay Gazette

State Commerce Secretary Paul Jadin said Thursday a new, nimble Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. will make the state more efficient at supporting job growth.

Jadin is overseeing the transition of the Commerce Department to the Economic Development Corp., of which he will be CEO. The change was among the first acts approved by the state Legislature as part of Gov. Scott Walker's economic development plan.

The change, which will see the department's regulation and licensing duties moved to other departments, is scheduled for July 1, the beginning of the state's new fiscal year.

Jadin, Green Bay's former mayor and former Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce president, said the governor could announce the corporation's 13-member board of directors in about a week, so the board could begin meeting in May. A strategic plan will be ready by June, he said.

The Legislature has not yet approved funding for the new organization. It is expected to get $192 million for the next two-year period, less than $20 million of which will be for administrative expenses, Jadin said.

Jadin said there are three keys to improving economic development beyond just changing the sign on the door:

• Transferring regulation and licensing responsibilities to other state departments. More than 275 of 395 department employees are dedicated to regulations and licensing, and only 60 have economic development duties, Jadin said.

• Reorganizing. Even if the Commerce Department were to remain, it would have to reorganize.

"There are so many things we don't do, like marketing and research," he said.

• Securing more money. The department's current appropriation is about $45 million a year, including only $22,000 for marketing.

The new marketing budget will be about $9 million, a little less than half contributed by the private sector.

Six vice presidents will head up divisions of the new organization dedicated to specific economic development sectors, such as entrepreneurship and innovation, marketing and business development.

"We've never had an economist on staff, which is unusual. We'll better understand those areas of our economy that are thwarting growth," he said. "We'll have a section that does nothing but deal with small business."

Jadin has mostly separated himself from the regulations and licensing duties. He admitted his focus on the economic development side of the transition resulted in him approving a Regulation and Licensing appointment that turned out badly.

Brian Deschane was hired through the Walker cabinet as the bureau director of board services within Regulation and Licensing. He resigned shortly after appointment under criticism he was unqualified and an apparent patronage appointee.

Jadin said the department recommended someone else for the post, but in the end he delegated responsibility for the hire.

"I said 'you take care of it. I'll sign it.' I shouldn't have said that last part," he said.

The Commerce Department has had five secretaries in seven years. Jadin said he's committed to serving at least four years.

"I can't imagine the frustrations my predecessors had. They had to deal with all that stuff that had nothing to do with economic development," Jadin said. "(Former secretary) Mary Burke spent three weeks dealing with a boiler issue."

Jadin believes manufacturing will lead economic growth in Wisconsin, which vies with Indiana as the nation's most manufacturing-heavy state.

"We have to get away from the image of manufacturing as dumb and dangerous. We still have a very strong manufacturing environment in Wisconsin, and we have to sustain it," he said.

In the near term, defense contracts with such companies as Marinette Marine and Oshkosh Corp. could be worth 30,000 to 50,000 jobs throughout the supply chain, he said.

"We need to make sure we are almost literally holding their hands through some of the processes they are going through and make sure the supply chain is available," Jadin said.

The state must get its share of defense contracts but must be prepared for a decrease in defense spending when that comes, he said.

Though Indiana is mentioned often as Wisconsin's biggest competitor, Jadin said Iowa and Ohio are of greater concern, while "Illinois is playing into our hands."

The state Department of Workforce Development and technical schools will be key players in the overall economic development effort. Jadin said budget cuts will be an issue, but technical college presidents have indicated they will be able to continue training in specific areas of need, such as welding.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

TEAM Santa Rosa targets high-paying jobs for county

Written by
Louis Cooper, Pensacola News Journal

Call it the "sniper" approach to economic development.

"If we had all the money in the world, we could take the shotgun approach, and whatever we catch, we catch," said Cindy Anderson, the executive director of the TEAM Santa Rosa Economic Development Council. But with limited resources, "We only market to companies that have an average wage rate higher than what we have now."
Starting this year, TEAM Santa Rosa has begun a finely targeted marketing campaign aimed at bringing in high-paying jobs by creating individualized marketing materials and micro websites aimed at specific companies.

"We say, 'See yourself in Santa Rosa County,'" said Ildi Hosman, TEAM's public affairs director.

TEAM Santa Rosa has employed the Duncan McCall Advertising and Marketing firm in Pensacola to develop the template for the marketing materials.

One piece is a spiralbound brochure that can have a company's name, logo and photos inserted, along with specific information about the county's workforce, industrial parks and other data suited to a particular company's need.

"We have these set up where they can be very efficiently set up with colors and images that match the company so that it looks very custom, although we can do it very easily," ad agency co-owner Bryan McCall said. "Then, it has a custom message that really targets that company and makes it seem personal."

Duncan McCall has done similar marketing efforts for Florida's Great Northwest, the regional economic development agency, as well as comparable marketing for private companies.

"Every economic development agency in the country is basically going after the same people. That's a lot of competition," McCall said.

"Anything that helps you get noticed — that stands out — is valuable. Getting a company to relocate to Santa Rosa County is a big ticket sales item. You've got to stand out."

The individualized marketing campaign cost about $10,000 for concept development, with a small additional cost for each individual effort for printing. It is financed out of a $50,000 annual allocation for marketing from the Santa Rosa County Commission.

TEAM Santa Rosa has two main ways of identifying specific potential companies: referrals from existing industries about companies that they work with and referrals from larger economic development agencies like Florida's Great Northwest and Enterprise Florida, the statewide economic development agency.

So far, the campaign has been used to introduce Santa Rosa County to five companies, all of which are aerospace or defense-related. None has made a decision yet as to whether to locate in Santa Rosa.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Marketing a city one tweet at a time

Mike Marini spends his days and nights tweeting and posting to Facebook.

His BlackBerry is constantly vibrating — and with that little device he’s ushering in a new era of marketing this city through social media.

Shortly after he assumed the title of coordinator of marketing for the city’s economic development and real estate department in the fall of 2008, Marini figured he’d better throw himself into social media. He says his bosses were totally supportive, although no one was entirely sure the effort would pay off.

It has, in the form of awards and national recognition, although maybe the dollars and cents attached are hard to measure. The city’s economic development Facebook page has close to 900 friends and there are about 1,000 followers on Twitter.

InvestinHamilton TV, which has produced about 110 videos since launching about 19 months ago, documents what Marini says are the “good news” stories of Hamilton’s economy, which are often overlooked. Those videos have collected more than 410,000 views, some as many as 40,000 each.

Marini is active on FourSquare, a mobile phone app that has users “check in” to their locations and share recommendations, tips and tidbits about places to go and things to do in their city with their social network. He uses it to point the digitally connected to places they might not know about.

The department also posts its videos to a YouTube channel, and photos to Flickr — all selling Hamilton as a great place to live and work.

There is an immediate and tangible result to all this. The more “hits” via social media, the higher a city will rank in a Google search, which is hugely important when trying to catch the eye of people making investment decisions, perhaps from across the world.

The key, say experts, is constantly feeding the information beast. It’s not enough to open accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter and expect friends or followers to appear. Instead, it’s about creating a flow of regular and interesting conversations, building relationships and developing an identity.

Marini says that can only happen by being authentic and showing some personality … in 140 characters or less.

“You can’t sit back and keep spitting corporate lines. People aren’t going to listen to that. You have to have a conversation, be adaptable and be responsive.”

That means listening as much as talking … well, reading as much as typing.

A local restaurant owner recently tweeted that he wanted to open a second location, but was having trouble with the city. That was retweeted (or repeated) by a community blogger with a big following. Marini immediately replied: “How can we help?”

Ultimately, the goal is to attract the attention of outside investors — people and companies who can bring jobs and wealth to this city. That’s no easy task, obviously. Every community, big and small, is doing exactly the same thing. It’s like trying to sing above a 100-piece orchestra.

Marini thinks social media can amplify Hamilton’s voice.

But what makes it particularly hard, says Marini, is the negative perceptions some Hamiltonians hold about the city and how that can discourage potential investors.

A casual chat with a disgruntled Hamiltonian in a coffee shop could make a big difference to an outsider’s perception, says Marini.

“We use social media to educate people in this city and engage them in what’s happening.”

And just as important, is to make sure vital information — things like demographics, maps, tax rates, grant programs — are readily available to investors on the web and on mobile-friendly platforms, says Marini.

The next project is to create an interactive map of the city’s downtown that the public can help populate. The map would include video tours of landmarks and allow investors to “visit” neighbourhoods.

Harvesting the power of online communities doesn’t mean abandoning traditional marketing, such as media advertising campaigns or tradeshows or one-on-one visits with local businesses through the city’s Hamilton Calling program. Social media is simply another layer of outreach, says Marini.

Hamilton’s social media approach is getting noticed.

Marini was invited to teach social media for the Economic Developers Association of Canada accreditation program. And the city was highlighted as a best practice by the Economic Developers Council of Ontario.

Hamilton has ranked fourth among Canada’s largest cities two years running for its use of social media in marketing. In 2010 the city was behind only Edmonton, Ottawa and Halifax (tied) and London. InvestInHamilton TV was particularly praised, along with the city’s frequency of Facebook, Twitter and blog posts.

“Hamilton was the first to be so strong at using videos to promote the region,” said Isabelle Poirier, president of Intelegia, the Montreal-based social media consulting firm that completed the study.

She said Hamilton has been at the vanguard of social media adoption and that head start is important, but there will be increasing competition from cities that initially languished.

“Some are behind, because they didn’t understand why they should be there … but now they know. There is a feeling of urgency to really engage.”

But urgency doesn’t mean success in social media happens overnight, she said. It’s a long process and there has to be a strategy behind every status update and tweet.

For Hamilton, that probably has a lot to do with reframing perceptions, says Poirier, much like the Trois-Rivieres and Shawinigan areas of Quebec.

“They had lost much of their industry in the 1980s and ’90s and people would say things like don’t go there, don’t invest there, they’ve lost everything. We worked with stakeholders and one by one showed them how they can use social media to reinforce their positive values and be enthusiastic about their region.”

But it takes lots of voices to make that happen, and Hamilton needs to get more of its city staff, civic and business leadership and ordinary citizens talking proud about the city in online communities, says Poirier.

“There becomes this ripple effect in the public space … the message becomes very powerful.”


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Texas gov talks economic development with California officials

W. Scott Bailey

Texas Gov. Rick Perry met on Thursday with a delegation of elected officials and business leaders from California.

The topic of discussion was economic development.

Texas, smelling blood in California, has grabbed companies and jobs from the West Coast state over the last few years.

In fact, San Antonio officials believe that California, which was rocked by the recession, is still ripe for plucking.

So why would Perry want to discuss with officials from the Golden State how Texas has worked to attract jobs and employers to the Lone Star State?

“Ensuring each state is strong individually is not only good for the national economy, it ensures the rest of the states work that much harder to create jobs and prosperity for their citizens,” Perry says.

The team spirit may be good for California’s morale. But it seems odd that Texas officials would want to share any insight or advice of any kind in terms of economic development strategies with one of its competitors — especially one where more companies and jobs can be harvested and potentially shipped to this state.

It wasn’t that long ago, January, in fact, when San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro told the Business Journal: “There is no question that many California companies are receptive to Texas entreaties.”

David Marquez, director of Bexar County Economic Development, has offered similar assessments, explaining earlier this year that he has “great confidence that we will see further success in recruiting companies from California ... .”

California Assemblyman Dan Logue, who led the delegation to Texas, says, “From 2008 to 2010, Texas added more than 165,000 jobs. During that same time period, California lost 1.2 million jobs.

“In terms of creating jobs, Texas is clearly doing something right and California is doing something wrong,” adds Logue, who says his group traveled here in an effort to “find out what we can do differently to help create jobs we desperately need in California.”

Prior to its visit to Texas, the Austin American-Statesman offered this from Logue about the reason for the trip: “We want to meet with the businesses that left California and get a detailed understanding of why they picked up shop, and moved their families and their businesses nearly 2,000 miles away,” Logue said. “We want to understand what really triggered that.”

Couldn’t Perry have politely suggested that the California delegation meet with the folks in Idaho or Nebraska or maybe Minnesota instead?

Friday, April 15, 2011

EDC plans to ask for less in funding

By Emily Ford

SALISBURY — The Economic Development Commission will ask for less money next year from Rowan County towns and cities but boost the level of service, an official says.

“We are requesting $39,000 less from our funding partners than we received last year,” said Robert Van Geons, executive director of RowanWorks Economic Development.

That includes a $34,000 decrease in the EDC’s request of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. Several commissioners have stated their intention to cut funding to nonprofit groups, including RowanWorks, by 10 percent.

The smaller budget request would meet that 10-percent figure. Rowan commissioners gave the EDC $338,000 this year.

Including money from all Rowan municipalities, RowanWorks’ budget totaled $430,860 in taxpayer dollars.

The EDC also used $57,000 of its undesignated fund balance, and Van Geons said they will dip into the fund balance again next year.

“We are still at 2004 funding levels, but we have a fund balance and we’ve been using that to market this community,” he said.

RowanWorks will work to raise $25,000 in private funds to offset the loss in revenue from the county and local governments. The Rowan County Tourism Development Authority will provide some money to the EDC for marketing, and the EDC will apply for grants like one from Duke Energy, Van Geons said.

The more they raise, the less they will have to use of the fund balance, which totals $123,000.

In a tough budget year, the EDC wanted to ask the county and municipalities for less but deliver more, Van Geons said.

The EDC is preparing a return-on-investment report to show communities what they get for their money. It will highlight services offered by RowanWorks, including demographic information, economic analysis, grant-writing help, technical services, marketing assistance and a real estate database.

As shown in the EDC’s 10-year economic impact report and a recently completed organizational history, the EDC has reduced county and local tax rates by expanding the tax base, Van Geons said.

Since 1985, the EDC has worked hundreds of projects. Currently, more than 75 companies doing business in Rowan County were directly engaged by the EDC, he said.

This year, he said, those companies will:

• Employ more than 7,300 workers

• Pay taxes equal to 8 cents on the county tax rate

• Provide $2.7 million in municipal tax revenue

The companies also represent $390,000 of funding for fire districts in Rowan County, he said.

RowanWorks staff and members from the EDC Board of Directors will visit each municipality in Rowan County to present the return-on-investment report and offer their services to help town and city officials recruit jobs and market their communities.

“But what we really want is feedback from our stakeholders,” Van Geons said. “We want to be the most effective organization we can for them, but we can’t address concerns we don’t know about.”

At the annual retreat for the Landis town board, for example, aldermen asked Van Geons for more help promoting industrial sites in the town.

He pledged the EDC would deliver. “If we don’t do it, don’t write the check,” Van Geons said.

Who’s interested in Rowan?

Types of industry showing interest in Rowan County:

Food processing


Green technology

Data centers

Distribution facilities


Auto component manufacturing

Customer service centers

Source: RowanWorks

Economic Development

By the numbers

Current EDC activity:

93 new projects (potential industry and jobs)?since January 2010

16 existing projects in 2010

5 new projects since March

109 total projects now being pursued

50 visits to Rowan County from potential employers

Source: RowanWorks

Economic Development

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Talent Trumps Tax Incentives in Corporate Relocations

By Matt Egan
Published April 01, 2011
| FOXBusiness

The high-stakes game of corporate relocation can have a huge economic impact on the bottom lines of both companies and states.

Even the threat of relocating, such as the subtle one fired off by Illinois-based Caterpillar (CAT: 109.82, -0.03, -0.03%) last week, can have a lasting impact on profits and recruitment efforts.

While states vying to lure a company to relocate its headquarters inside their borders typically offer attention-grabbing tax breaks and other incentives, savvy CEOs should resist basing their decision on those fleeting goodies and give greater weight to a location's long-term ability to attract and retain talent.

“Recruitment and retention gets to the heart of what the company is. If you don’t keep talented people, you can’t make any money to pay taxes on,” said Mark Sweeney, senior principal at McCallum Sweeney, a site selection consulting firm.

Moves within the U.S. have become even more important as new laws put on the books by Congress have largely taken the option of fleeing to more tax-friendly countries off the table.

Even the threat of relocating, such as the subtle one fired off by Illinois-based Caterpillar (CAT: 109.82, -0.03, -0.03%) last week, can send shockwaves through a state.

Doug Oberhelman, the CEO of Caterpillar, appeared to raise the possibility of leaving Peoria, Ill., in a letter last week to Gov. Pat Quinn that leaked to newspapers.

“I want to stay here," Oberhelman reportedly said in the letter, which expressed concern about the state’s plan to raise personal income taxes to 5% from 3% and corporate taxes to 7% from 4.8%. "But as the leader of this business, I have to do what's right for Caterpillar when making decisions about where to invest."

Premium Put on Talent

If Caterpillar was seriously considering a move, relocation experts would list cities that make the most economic sense, especially on the labor side. The focus on talent in corporate relocation boils down to a city’s ability to either supply the workers needed to operate the headquarters or the likelihood employees and job candidates will want to move there.

“This is a long-term decision. You need to be in a market that can support your skill set,” said Mark Seeley, senior managing director of CB Richard Ellis’ Labor Analytics Group. Seeley notes that labor typically represents 70% to 80% of the operating cost of the headquarters.

Companies weigh a slew of attributes used to measure each location’s quality of life, including housing affordability, commuting conditions, local education, safety and recreational activities.

“Everyone thinks their quality life is great and they say that in all sincerity. But there is a difference in quality of life between a small town in South Dakota and Chicago,” said Sweeney, whose firm is based in Greenville, S.C.

More here:

Red Carpet Tour courts businesses

By Tim Rausch
Business Editor
Thursday, April 7, 2011

Georgia's "soft sell" marketing program reached the Augusta National Golf Course on Thursday morning with 23 prospective economic development clients aboard its buses.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce invites prospective businesses to the Masters Tournament. Chris Clark, the president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, said the same number of people are participating in this year's Red Carpet Tour as last year. The exception is the number of active projects among the courted executives.

"I'd say a third of the folks here have active projects," Clark said. "There are a few that have facilities here (in Georgia) that we're trying to get to grow."

Tim Rash represents Knoxville, Tenn.-based A-D Technologies. They're one of the projects that's already grown, but might want to grow further.

Rash's company makes conduit for fiber optics. "Anytime Verizon, AT&T, Qwest put fiber optics in the ground, it is our conduit," he explained, saying that the surge for broadband expansion is helping business grow.

A-D Technologies recently acquired a plant in Sandersville, Ga., and doubled the capacity, hiring 30 new people there.

Rash is being courted on the tour because they might "take it up further."

"In the past we've had a lot of folks that were here for relationship building, that soft sell relationship building. This year the mix is really strong with active projects," Clark said.

Walter Sprouse, the executive director of the Development Authority of Richmond County, said the real work from the Red Carpet Tour starts in May. That's when the follow-up phone calls begin after the brief face-to-face time of Thursday and Saturday, when the contingent returns for another round of the Masters Tournament.

This is the 52nd year for the tour, a four-day look at Georgia's economy. The contingent has executives from three countries and 11 states.

The tour began Wednesday night with a dinner with the governor in Atlanta.

Guests fly around the state aboard a chartered Delta Air Lines jet.

Commerce Lexington's relationship with city may change

By Janet Patton —
Posted: 12:00am on Apr 10, 2011; Modified: 1:54am on Apr 10, 2011

The role of Commerce Lexington — which has received $2.6 million in taxpayer money for economic development in the last five years — is about to change.

In recent years, the local chamber of commerce organization has guided local economic development efforts as the city took a largely hands-off approach. Commerce Lexington, which says its role is to market Lexington to businesses, provides limited public information about what it does with that city money.

But Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said he believes the relationship should be more transparent, and control of economic development should rest with city hall.

"I expect to have a much more active role" in economic development, Gray said in an interview last week. "My sense is, on a (day-to-day) level, the work has been competent. Where we have been lacking is in vision and leadership and strategy."

Bob Quick, Commerce Lexington's president and chief executive officer, in a statement Saturday in response to Gray's comments, defended the chamber's work.

"We have been successful despite a downturn in the economy, as evidenced by a number of projects: Tiffany & Co., Lockheed Martin, Allconnect, Orthopeutics, Galmont Consulting, to name only a few. All of this has been accomplished in an increasingly competitive environment," he said.

The companies — a jeweler, a defense contractor, a call center, a biotech researcher and a software analyzer — all figured prominently in Commerce Lexington's jobs and local investment announcements in the last year.

Read more:

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Birmingham will polish image with New York help

Birmingham's primary business group is turning to a New York firm as part of a campaign to polish the image of Alabama's largest metro area.

The Birmingham Business Alliance says representatives of Development Counsellors International will arrive in Birmingham on May 1 to meet with city business and political leaders as the firm drafts a strategy to improve perceptions of the metro area.

"DCI is the only firm in existence that specializes in economic development for cities and regions," said Brian Hilson, the BBA's new chief. "They have a proven track record and work with over 50 clients, from communities like ours to cities, states and even foreign countries."

Hilson, who took over at the BBA in mid-March, said he has already been talking about the plan with Birmingham Mayor William Bell, and will bring others on board to help DCI in its marketing efforts.

Hilson is very familiar with the firm, having worked closely with DCI during his 20 years with the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

He credits the firm with helping metro Huntsville generate considerable positive national exposure over the past decade. Last year, CNNMoney named Huntsville among the nation's top 10 places to retire and one of the most affordable cities. In November, the Milken Institute singled it out as one of the nation's top three performing cities.

"In Huntsville 10 years ago when we talked to companies about coming to the city, they knew little about us," Hilson said.

That changed after Huntsville's charm offensive, he said.

"We had businesses contact us saying 'I read great things about your city.' We want to do the same thing in Birmingham," Hilson said.

l Hilson said DCI's efforts will not replace traditional ways of marketing metro Birmingham and of recruiting industry, and he added that the BBA will continue to work closely with area public relations firms on initiatives. He said he sees DCI's involvement as a way to complement existing promotional efforts.

"Purchasing ad space in a magazine is the least effective way to market your city," Hilson said. "When businesses read positive stories about the Birmingham area, how we are a community that is growing and businesses doing well here, it will give us the recognition we need to recruit new industry."

Hilson said he and BBA senior spokesman Dave Rickey spoke with DCI officials about coming to Birmingham last week while visiting the firm's offices in New York City. Hilson was there with economic developers at a summit hosted by DCI about marketing methods.

Image development

"Image development is an important part of our strategy," Hilson said. "It also has a residual effect locally. When you have positive stories about businesses in Birmingham, it builds pride in the community. When I was looking at coming here, I called DCI and asked if I came to Birmingham, would they consider helping us like they did in Huntsville. I was glad they said yes."

Andy Levine, chief executive of DCI, said he is looking forward to working with metro Birmingham business leaders.

"In recent years, we've done a great deal of work with Alabama, and we're excited about exploring a relationship with the BBA," he said in a statement to The Birmingham News.

Bob Robicheaux, a marketing expert and professor at UAB's School of Business, said he believes it is a smart move for the business organization to partner with a firm that focuses on creating greater awareness and helping to shape a better image for regions such as Birmingham.

"Most people think that marketing is primarily about selling stuff to people," Robicheaux said. "In fact, it is all about determining what people want or need and working hard to produce and distribute the right stuff to the right people."

For cities and metros, that often involves image-building, and Robicheaux said communities such as Huntsville and others in Alabama are well aware "that not everyone knows very much about us and in many cases has opinions or knowledge about our communities that are not accurate."

"Before communities can get potential customers, corporate or personal, to consider making economic investments or planning vacation travel to Alabama communities, we need to ensure that the target customers understand what our communities are like and what advantages they offer over the competition," Robicheaux said. "It is the job of DCI to help create that understanding for places like Huntsville."

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