Thursday, March 31, 2011

Per Capita Water Use Peaked 30 Years Ago

Got some plants in just in time for the drenching we received this week.  For some interesting perspective on water use, click here or on the image visible to the right to see the complete infographic I spotted this weekend.Water World

Even though my landscape is 99% natural, my water bill shot up nearly 1000% at times last year, even when Durham’s reservoirs appeared to be at or near capacity with water occasionally spilling over, so I guess I was paying my share for water actually used downstream in other communities.

I’m just kidding but that does put a new meaning to the term “double dipping.”

I emailed and called after I paid and folks were concerned and going to check.  I didn’t hear back and I know they were swamped.  Anyway, my philosophy is it all comes out even along he line.  I’ve been blessed and water is still the best deal going.

The piece of this infographic that caught my attention when I first studied it in this month’s Fast Company Magazine is that per capita water use peaked in the USA more than thirty years ago and today it is much less than it was in 1955.

Appears we’re heading in the right direction.  Much more than my water bill, I’m concerned by the part of the infographic showing 4 out of every 10 people worldwide who either don’t have access to clean water at all or must walk to retrieve it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

41 Songs That Crossed My Mind As I Crossed The Country

A lot of songs kept crossing my mind during my two different 6,000-mile cross-country road trips during the last six months.

As Mugs (I was solo on the trips except for my English Bulldog) crossed the USA via four different routes, we were able to put places and landscapes with a lot of songs I’ve heard over the years.Route%2066%20copy

Below are YouTube and other links to just 41 songs that came to mind, in no particular geographic order (enjoy) :

Bobby Bare 500 Miles Away From Home

Emmylou Harris Boulder to Birmingham

Josh Ritter Idaho

Pam Tillis Maybe It Was Memphis

Collin Raye Little Rock

Merle Haggard’s Vietnam War anthem Okie from Muskogee

George Strait’s Amarillo By Morning

Ruby Jane Smith Beautiful You, Happy Me and Valentine

Jon Bon Jovi’s Santa Fe

Glenn Campbell By The Time I Get To Phoenix

Gary Puckett & Union Gap (WA) Over You

Bobby Bare Detroit City

Asleep at the Wheel Route 66

Garth Brooks Beaches of Cheyenne

Dan Seals Everything That Glitters

Marie Osmond and Dan Seals Meet Me In Montana

John Denver Country Roads

Dwight Yoakum Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues

Mormon Tabernacle Choir Come Come Ye Saints

John Denver Rocky Mountain High

Tim McGraw Telluride

Judy Collins Someday Soon

Dave Loggins Please Come To Boston

Chris LeDoux Take Me Back To Old Wyoming

Sawyer Brown Six Days On The Road

Elvis Presley Blue Moon Over Kentucky

Sissel Shenandoah

Blackwater Union Missouri Song

Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard Poncho & Lefty

Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys

Anne Murray Tennessee Waltz

Roger Miller Hot Rod Lincoln

Dar Williams Iowa

R. Dean Taylor Indiana Wants Me

Nanci Griffith Deadwood, South Dakota

Kansas Carry On My Wayward Son

Alvin Youngblood Hart Illinois Blues

Gillian Welch Look At Miss Ohio

R.Carlos Nakai & Peter Kater Nez Perse Flight Song

Mormon Tabernacle Choir God Bless America

Scott Ainsle Bull City Blues

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

If Ever Advertising Was Going To Be Able To Rehab Community Image–This Was It!

The reasons advertising doesn’t work to promote or rehabilitate the image of a community are legion including, to name just two, a lack of credibility (it is a community talking about itself) and it is long proven to merely harden or affirm both those who are already positive or negative.

But if advertising ever had a chance to work for this purpose, it was last month when Chrysler ran a spectacular television ad for its hometown Detroit on the biggest stage possible for advertising, during the Super Bowl.

The ad was also perfectly executed with authentic, genuine and compelling imagery, memorable background music and voice-over and emotive story-telling.

While unrealistic at this level for even the most adequately funded community/destination marketing effort, if advertising was ever going to work to change or rehabilitate community image, this could be it.

But it didn’t work.

Is this heresy from a past CLIO award winner for the television portion of the “Wild About Anchorage!” campaign, still in evidence there after nearly 30 years?

No, and I’ll explain why from the point of view of someone also fortunate enough to find a formula that helped turn around another community’s image.

But the Chrysler/Detroit ad probably didn’t hurt either.  What place wouldn’t treasure one of its big employers telling its story?

Before I explain my take in the bullets below, here are two excellent blogs from advertising and communication experts, one by Joan Sinopoli, Senior VP of Harris Interactive’s Brand and Communications and another by Laura Reis, President of Reis & Reis and author of Reis’ Pieces.

  • Advertising doesn’t change minds.  Only a slow-build earned media effort based on solid, objective information and interlaced with relentless brand management including vigilant brand defense has the potential to sway opinions and change minds and it takes a long time.


  • Image ads worked as public service announcements in Anchorage, because the community didn’t have an image problem.  It didn’t have an image at all so it just needed a little “wind”  to release pent up resident pride for which advertising can be perfect where, as in Anchorage at the time, there is little risk that it will spill over to harden negatives elsewhere.


  • The Chrysler/Detroit ad may have been better suited, had it just been run in Detroit where community pride was recently benchmarked at 24% compared to 38% on average for the 26 communities studied in the three year Gallup/Knight Foundation poll - slightly higher than results from similar studies of resident pride in Raleigh and Charlotte.


  • While the Chrysler/Detroit ad resonated primarily among Michiganders, even deployed there, studies show it would  probably have just hardened existing negative and positive perceptions.  Even an ad as excellent as this one is just too blunt an instrument to sway opinions.  But at home is where Detroit must first improve perceptions.


  • The 24% pride level in Detroit may be pushed a bit higher by the fact that it has loss of a fourth of its population over the past decade, if as surveys show, negatives are less attached to place.  To put Detroit and the communities benchmarked above in perspective, 91% of Durham residents are proud or very proud of their community, a 17 to 1 positive-to-negative ratio, compared to 1 to 1 ratios or less for the other communities.


  • Durham’s image problem was both more complex and much less pervasive than Detroit’s.  While Detroit’s has apparently metastasized nationwide, Durham’s image problem was always centered in two nearby counties.  Durham’s national image was strong and primarily needed damage control and brand management to limit any contamination from or barriers presented by negative opinions in neighboring communities.


  • Advertising is a bit like “friendly-fire” when it comes to community image.  Due to low credibility, it backfires with residents where pride, image and attachment are already high and with external populations, much to the consternation of those always drawn to big, showy ad campaigns, testing show that ads merely harden existing negatives and positives, even where there is a means to deploy it that precisely.


  • With resident pride at 91%, Durham residents just needed affirmation and empowerment-communication tools such as the precision of earned media and a “perceived injustice” element to brand management and defense.


  • Paid advertising has a role which is similar to the a “wind” that harvests inquiries from interest generated by the more rehabilitating and promotional “sun” of other tactics such as earned media and brand management.


I’ve deliberately over-simplified community image to issues of pride and negative or positive perceptions or image.  There are several other indicators such as aesthetic perceptions of appearance and sense of place, acceptance of other cultures, ethnicities and lifestyles and community engagement.

Everything begins though with sound marketing intelligence including scientific, generalizable research that pinpoints a community’s image both among internal and external audiences.  Every community has an image or perception issue, often below the false security of anecdotal expressions or proclamations by officials.

Only marketing intelligence can unwrap it.  Only marketing intelligence can benchmark any progress.  Only marketing intelligence can suggest what communications tactics or mix of tactics to use.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Here, Subsidize This!

Okay, I’ve heard a little too much from my neocon friends and lothers who constantly bash subsidies for alternative forms of energy designed to wean us off our dependence on fossil fuels, while at the same time, whining “drill baby drill.”

The folks at GOOD (for people who give a damn) have created a great infographic (click here or on the image below to see in full) showing each type of energy and the amount of subsidy for each both in terms of tax breaks and direct public funding.

One thing is clear: regardless of where we use energy, either at home or from the pump, renewable or fossil fuel, we aren’t paying the price the market would set for that energy.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

8 Germiest Places

I’ve never been a germaphobe, but after seeing this great infographic illustrating both telephonic and observational studies, I’ve certainly been more aware of who around me is not washing their hands.Capture

Now AARP has published a list of the 8 germiest public places:

  1. Restaurant Menus
  2. Lemon Wedges
  3. Condiment Dispensers
  4. Restroom Door Handles
  5. Soap Dispensers
  6. Grocery Carts
  7. Airplane Bathrooms
  8. Doctors’ Offices

Scary how many of these are related to places frequented during travel and/or every day or weekly stops around town.  Probably a good idea to always have some hand sanitizer or wipes at the ready and not just for visits to “a greasy spoon.”

Might not be a bad idea for community destination marketing organizations to generate awareness among visitor related businesses and organizations such as airports, train and bus stations, restaurants, hotels, theaters, museums, ballparks, shopping malls and centers, retail stores, taxi cabs etc. as well as their own visitor information centers.

Kudos to the many businesses providing sanitary wipes or dispensers at entrances. Hopefully businesses, including those that are health related, began to look at even more ways to create awareness, short of requiring the hand-washing sink’s faucet to turn on for a certain length of time after a flush in the restroom before the exit door will open!

Okay, maybe some of us just need to have a little more courage to speak up when our fellow human beings think they are invisible.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Duke Is Nation’s Favorite College Basketball Team

They may have lost last night in a bid to repeat as the NCAA tournament champion, but the Duke University men’s basketball team has been once again ranked the most favorite college basketball team in the country.

The annual scientific generalizable poll was conducted by Harris Interactive last week and released this week.Capture

The second most favorite team, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is also located in the four-country metro area centered around Durham NC, a census designation.

Duke University women's basketball team ranked 6th most favorite following UNC-CH at 5th.

While news commentators perpetuate anecdotes citing that fans love to hate Duke, the Durham team has now been ranked the most favorite in 8 of the 14 years in which the poll has been conducted, first or second in 13 of the 14 years. Duke’s lowest ranking was third and that was more than a decade ago.

Other scientific polls have long shown Duke most favorite among residents of Durham and surrounding counties but second statewide.

Visualization Of The Death Rate Per Watt Produced!

We all realize the news media can be a good source of information but only rarely is it the place I go for perspective, unless it is an editorial section like the Durham Herald-Suns’.

A good example is how apprehensive we’ve been over the nuclear reactors in Japan without having a clue how to compare it with other sources of energy.nuclear oil coal

Here is the data, here is a full illustration, here and imaged in this blog is a simplified version that appeared in Seth Godin’s blog on Tuesday.  You’ll need to click on the link above or the image to see the point.

So for every person killed by nuclear power, 4,000 die from coal power generation.

Durham is between two counties, one to the south, where Raleigh is located, is home to a nuclear power plant, another in the county north has a plant powered by coal.

Hmmm?  4,000 to 1 and I wonder which one I should be more concerned about.  And why am I not hearing a drumbeat in the local news about the coal fired plant?

Seth Godin, by the way, is a best-selling author on marketing and also an entrepreneur,  His is one the blogs I follow, but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone involved in community/destination marketing as I was for nearly four decades until I retired back in 2009.

By the way if you didn’t open this link to the Herald-Sun in the first paragraph, you missed a great cartoon about the bravery of the staff that stayed with the troubled reactors in Japan!

A Voice Connection To Sense of Place – Bob Harris!

I’ve always enjoyed sports events better on radio. I often kid that I got so nervous waiting for what is now simply known as “The Shot” nearly a decade ago during the finals of the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament that I left my Dad, who was visiting, sitting on the couch and went into the kitchen to do the dishes.

Actually, regardless of the outcome of that game, I just wanted to share it with Bob Harris via radio rather than the telecast we had been watching.  For me there has always been a more intimate and tranquil focus that comes with radio coverage of sports events.Capture

It dates, I’m sure, back to when I’d listen to the reassuring voice of Melvin Allen Israel calling Yankee baseball games from a radio propped up in the window of the barn on the horse and cattle ranch up in the Yellowstone-Teton nook of Idaho which was homesteaded at the turn of the 19th century by my great-grandfather and grandfather and operated then by my Dad. (Click on the little radio at this link to hear Mel’s voice.)

Just weeks after my arrival in Durham in mid-1989 when I was charged with jumpstarting the community’s official marketing agency, Bob marched up to me at an event.  “Hi, my name is Bob Harris,” he said, “you’ll be hearing a lot of me and I’m behind you, as Durham’s chief cheerleader, 100%!”

Bob has been calling Duke football and basketball games on the radio since 1976 and his new biography, How Sweet It Is – From The Cotton Mill To The Crows’ Nest is excellent with insights about Durham as his adopted hometown, his life and coaches and players and games down through the years.

Bob’s only six years older than I am so we probably both inherited a love of sports broadcasts the same way – except he grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan probably listening to Red Barber, heard at this link.  That’s one of the great things about Durham, it is accepting. Another great thing about Durham is “Bob Harris!”

We’ve been through a lot together over the past two decades and many more great calls.  His voice goes hand-in-hand with my love for Durham.

Oh, and if you don’t have access to Bob’s games, the book he wrote comes with a wonderful 80-minute CD of some of Bob’s interviews and calls including the one at this link from that 1992 East Regionals during March Madness.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Just 96,240 Acres Remaining!

Durham County lost just less than 2% of its tree canopy moving from 98,000 acres down to 96,240 acres in less than a decade.  About 51% of the County remains covered in hardwood and evergreen forests including nearly 40% of the City of Durham.

This is remarkable because, while Durham is the 17th smallest county, it is the 6th most populous, having grown another 20% over just the last decade.  It is also home to the State’s fifth most populous urban area, the City of Durham.DTA  By comparison Forsyth County, one and a half times more land area than Durham and home to Winston-Salem the fourth largest city, is down to 80,000 acres of trees.

Both Durham County and the City of Durham remain more forested than the averages for the state, 49% and other urban areas, 33%.  While only slightly more forested than Mecklenburg County at 50%, Durham is considerably more than Wake County at 44% which was burning an acre an hour in development prior to the slowdown.

The City of Durham has fallen behind the state’s largest city, Charlotte, which has preserved 46% of its tree canopy and participated in a “best practice analysis” documenting the economic value of trees as part of its “green infrastructure in conjunction with an organization called American Forests.

Trees not only clean the air, purify water, prevent soil erosion and  storm run-off as well as pollution, they are a key part of North Carolina’s personality, its unique-sense-of-place and brand and a top-of-mind aesthetic cited by virtually every relocating or expanding business, newcomer and visitor.

I happen to live on a hill separated by a heavily forested mile-long valley from Downtown Durham which unfortunately has a remaining tree canopy of less than half a percent despite the best efforts of some developments like American Tobacco.

There are about 80 trees alone around my home, all tall and mature and just part of a 10-20 acre tree cover for my immediate neighborhood alone.  I can also see tree covered hills and dales falling away to the south toward Jordan Lake and the west toward Chapel Hill.

For me and many in Durham, tree cover is also a significant part of home and property value.  There are also studies proving a direct correlation between community pride and aesthetics including trees.

I fear we’ve taken trees for granted in North Carolina.  They grow more quickly here than in many states across the country.  But in many parts of the state they’ve been clear cut for housing developments or timber sales.

We’ve also permitted the forests that remain in the state to be blighted from roadways by outdoor billboards, which pay nothing for the views they purposely obstruct nor nearly enough to justify swathing roadside trees belonging to the public.

It is commendable in Durham that we are worrying about replacing street and neighborhood trees as they age-out but we lack a sense of urgency and leadership resolve.  The embryonic Durham Tree Alliance, now in the formative stages through Keep Durham Beautiful and the City’s Urban Forestry Division is a start. The Alliance will eventually be a way for residents and businesses to work together to increase the community’s tree canopy.

If there isn’t already, an impact fee on any clear cutting for developments should fund even more replacement trees either in that area or the community overall.

Am I becoming a “tree-hugger” these days?”  Hell yes, and so is anyone who cares about the future viability of North Carolina as a business climate, an ecosystem and a quality place to live, work and visit!

Durham’s tree canopy is monitored and measured by Durham City-County Planning in part as a performance measure.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The March Madness Economy

Click on the image below to enlarge the full infographic on  Just helps put the whole “madness” in perspective.

The graphic is also an excellent example of how to present a lot of information in a fun and engaging way, especially for people who don’t take in information through reading.

But it is also a good reminder for anyone involved in community destination marketing that the numbers are gross, not net.  It may be the impact generated by the event, but it can’t be interpreted as the economic impact on the communities or companies involved.

The latter would require calibrating spending specific to each location including leakage, netting out the expenditures that would have occurred regardless of the tournament and the expenditures that were displaced by the tournament because of disruptions it creates in normal consumer behavior etc.



It’s About Property Rights Alright - "OUR" Property Rights

A Mecklenburg lawmaker and co-sponsor of a bill that will unleash a torrent of digital billboards on North Carolina is quoted as seeing it as a property-rights issue, comparing swathing trees in front of outdoor billboards to cutting the grass in front of your house.

Even if there weren’t many reasons why his bill is disastrous for North Carolina, he’s focused on the wrong property rights.Capture

While the billboard companies buy, rent or lease tiny pieces of property on which to plant poles and hang huge, blinking digital billboards, they are ripping off millions of other property owners without paying a dime:

  • For the proven economic value of the “green” infrastructure they destroy,
  • For the scenic tourism they destroy,
  • For the unique-sense-of-place which draw residents and visitors to our cities and towns.
  • For the blight they reveal and to which they contribute along roadsides by swathing trees from the public’s right-of-way in many areas and blocking out view-shed in others,
  • For the clutter they create that can provide a screen for criminal behavior as noted in the “broken-windows theory” and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)

These public property rights are priceless and far beyond any value an outdoor billboard can provide in return, even if these companies were actually required to pay for use of the property they mask and destroy.

North Carolina’s tree canopy is one of its most distinctive attributes and less than half remains. The trees are economic infrastructure because they clean the air and water and serve as the backdrop for the state’s $17 billion tourism sector.

It is time we started valuing trees and learn from states that are lopping off entire mountain tops, as nearly 500 have been to-date, typically taking less than a day and the return…a measly 6% of the coal deposit there.

If legislators want to put North Carolina’s scenic beauty and tree canopy up for sale and turn the state into a drive through the yellow pages, at least they should practice good business and charge what they are worth in return – priceless.

North Carolinians deserve full value!

For more information on the “billboard bills” click here.

To express your outrage, click on the links below:

Senate Transportation Committee

House Transportation Committee 1

House Transportation Committee 2

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stickies Wisdom - Old School vs. New School Marketing

Some good things have been coming out of Wisconsin recently and I’m certainly not talking about union-busting or even Sweet 16 basketball or my good friend Bill Geist, master of the minimalist blog.

I’m referring to the humorous but insightful “stickies” posted by Lindsay, Stone & Briggs on the Madison-based firm’s website.  With permission I’m including two in this blog that illustrate what I call “old school” vs. “new school” marketing (click each to enlarge.)Marketing in 20th Century

The two illustrations, one labeled 20th century and the other 21st century, aren’t intended to be comprehensive and focus on advertising, just one component of marketing.Marketing In 21st Century

But even those still obsessed with the big, expensive, showy ad campaigns of yore will get the point, I think.

For other stickies go to the top, right of LSB’s website and click to enlarge them.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tourism Sector Representatives Stunned By New Proposed Statewide Billboard Threat!

There were a lot of stunned looks on the faces of representatives of North Carolina’s $17 billion tourism sector, meeting last week in Asheville at the Governor’s Conference, when news circulated that a car dealer from Jacksonville was justifying legislation filed on behalf of the Outdoor Billboard industry as “business-friendly.”

Fueling outrage across the state is the risk that the bill signals to the scenic beauty, historical and cultural features central to tourism as the state’s second or third largest economic sector and relied upon now by 40,000 Tar Heel businesses.Capture

Click here for a fact sheet on the companion Senate/House bills involved which will override local regulations, reduce publicly owned forestation, prohibit local enforcement of tree cutting and line North Carolina’s roadways with as many as seven digital billboards per mile.

before and after

Click on the images to see dramatic illustrations of the bill’s impact on tree cutting in the right-of-way and view-shed which belongs to North Carolina residents.

For more photos and before and after illustrations of the bill’s devastating impact on tourism and North Carolina’s unique-sense-of-place click here.

Click on each of the three of the links below to send emails opposing Senate Bill 183 and House Bill 309 to members of the Senate Transportation Committee and House Transportation Committee.

Senate Transportation Committee

House Transportation Committee 1

House Transportation Committee 2

Friday, March 18, 2011

Music Fridays – Joe Bonamassa!

Bill Geist, a friend of mine from Destination Marketing circles and a former radio DJ, turns his blog to great music on Fridays. I’m still trying to get Bang A Gong by T. Rex out of my head from his blog two weeks ago.

You are “dirty sweet” makes more sense in the slang of today than it did in 1971 but “you’re built like a car?” Good thing it has an undeniable beat.

Today Bill brings us Joe Bonamassa, someone I caught on the Palladium cable channel a while back. Joe's If Heartaches Were Nickels reminds me why I love the Blues. Thanks Bill!

Some Observations And Perspectives On A Downtown BID

I guess it is no great wonder that people are bugging me for a take on the proposal by our Downtown advocacy organization for a Business Improvement District.

In the career from which I retired back in 2009, I was an executive overseeing BID-like Community/Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) first as a non-profit contractor in Spokane, then as a voter-designated non-profit in Anchorage and most recently as a public authority in Durham, as these organizations are established in North Carolina with yet another layer of accountability.Capture

DMOs date back 115 years but didn’t really become BID-like until the 1960s and 70s about the time my career launched and near the same time the first traditional BID such as the one proposed for our Downtown originated in 1974.

Traditional BIDs designate a special district wherein owners of both personal property such as vehicles and real estate are are levied a higher tax to fund services to benefit only that district.

DMO’s are BID-like because beginning in 70’s they transformed from being funded by public grants and private memberships to being self-funded by a dedicated special sales-type tourism development tax levied on the rates paid by the 20% of visitors staying overnight in commercial lodging facilities.

The special tourism tax was pioneered and dedicated to funding community-wide marketing of the jurisdiction where they were collected (not just a specific types of businesses or sub-areas) by generating visitor-centric economic and cultural development back into that jurisdiction. DMO funding is now also increasingly supplemented by tourism BIDs or special prepared food and admission taxes to spread the cost over more of those who benefit.

In summary then, both types of BIDs levy a special tax either on a specific consumer or property owners in a specific district to fund services specifically to benefit only the jurisdiction (district or community) where they were collected.

Granted, I’m a bit out of touch since I retired but given my background, and after reading and listening to presentations here are what I see as a few pros (positives) and a few cons (concerns) regarding the proposal for a Downtown Durham BID:

First the Pros:

  • As with anything Downtown Durham Inc. (DDI) does the proposal for a Downtown BID is very well thought out as well as open and transparent from what I have seen. Apparently tentative votes to approve have been secured but there is still time and I believe a willingness to embrace public comment and make adjustments.

  • With the proposal to deploy 40% on overall appearance, DDI grasps something not yet reflected by our local governments. As a comprehensive overarching strategy, appearance can reduce crime, improve public health, extend the life of infrastructure, increase tax valuation, engender positive perception and pride, lower barriers to economic development and much more.

  • DDI has good reasons for proposing to team with an out-of-state contractor to handle the BID services even though a local or locally-developed alternative, had they existed, would leverage more economic return for taxpayers. As BID-like organizations did under my watch for marketing intelligence services, it can be valuable to have outside perspective and objectivity or as a means to glean “best practices” when an endeavor such as the proposed Downtown BID is new to the community. This contractor appears to know its stuff.

  • The proposal promises to respect and foster the genuine and authentic texture so much a part of Durham’s unique sense of place and overall brand including Downtown. I trust that DDI’s current executive will embed that value so deeply that these funds will never be turned around by future administrators or governing boards who might be tempted to make Downtown too slick and shinny or Vegas-esque.

  • The proposal promises to foster indigenous events that leverage Durham’s unique sense of place and BID funds give Downtown the means to be self-reliant while stretching resources by respecting and leveraging the strengths of other organizations with missions to be community-wide in scope.

Now a few concerns:

  • Often elected officials across the country including a few here at home seem resentful of special, dedicated taxes. Money is power to them and a few always seemed determined to find crafty ways to undermine or redirect dedicated funding even when it subverts public policy. Ironically, some Downtown Durham interests have even been complicit in undermining the public policy marketing use for which the special tourism tax was meant to be dedicated. As opponents of this proposal fear, the integrity of a Downtown BID may be no less invulnerable as officials come and go in the future.

  • Feelings are mixed about DDI being the City’s and County’s conduit for the BID funds. It has been a stroke of genius for local governments to underwrite the organization’s relentless focus on advocacy/public policy such as keeping officials and community-wide departments ever-vigilant of revitalization, closing gaps and overcoming barriers. I hate to see that focus diluted and maybe there are both/and alternatives that will allay some of those opposed where BID funds are administered by DDI while under the governance of an inclusive and publicly appointed, resident-only board, while DDI’s private self-appointed board continues to oversee its advocacy mission. Regardless it is time DDI underwent third-party accreditation.

  • Understandably non-Downtown taxpayers are eager for the returns promised on investments from hundreds of millions of dollars shouldered community-wide by businesses and residents as well as visitors to get this small but significant geographic area back on its feet. Deservedly they may feel it is time to be recompensed if there is room for an extra assessment. But Downtown has a ways to go yet and as long as these non-Downtown taxpayers are shown respect and recognition by Downtown, I think they understand the need to be patient.

  • The promotion proposed for the BID appears over-reliant on advertising maybe because it is simpler to explain and gives many an ego rush but ads are just one component of promotion and with limited credibility because it is “you talking about yourself.” Hopefully, whatever promotion mix is used with BID funds, will be comprehensive and data-driven and synchronized to leverage with the overall marketing of Durham. Ads can work fine to pull residents Downtown for events and as a very efficient “twofer” within the visitors guide to both harvest Downtown’s share of existing visitors and reach the nearly 8 in 10 business executives who, according to national studies, shop a community first as a visitor before making official contact about relocating a business.

For nearly a decade and a half, I have urged creation of a BID for Downtown Durham and while I truly do understand and empathize with the concerns being raised, I believe this is a sound, equitable proposal and the dawn of a new era.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Rankings Benchmark Metro Areas For Well-Being

The four-county metro area centered around my adopted home of Durham, North Carolina ranks chart27th on the Gallup Well-Being Index released Tuesday.

Durham is the second highest ranking MSA in North Carolina a few positions down from Raleigh-Cary. But clicking on the chart to the right to enlarge it is more revealing and can be customized to your state and MSA.

Durham ranks about the same as it did the year before in diabetes but well below the average of all metros. The percentage of people who are obese in Durham is down from last year and also well below the average for MSA’s.

But we’re also exercising and eating fresh produce less often in Durham than last year, below the average for all metros.

There is a certain well-documented condescension about Durham among the population down in Raleigh-Cary, fostered in no small part of news media based there. So before they go all smug on me, that MSA has a higher percentage of both of people with diabetes and who are obese.

But apparently our neighbors to the south and east nudged Durham out by two spots by exercising more and eating their fruits and veggies.

Gen Y Are Going All Harley!

People subject to stereotyping may think that I’m a typical Harley-Davidson rider since I’m nearly 63 years old even though I didn’t take up motorcycling until two years ago.img-9_html__98441_zoom

Even most H-D enthusiasts are under the out-dated impression that enthusiasts of this American icon are older and getting older.

Not so anymore.  Matt King, the editor of HOG magazine (Harley Owners Group,) writes this month that beginning in 2008, Harley-Davidson took over the top spot in sales of new bikes of all engine sizes to the age group 18-36, or Generation Y.

Harley-Davidson is more popular with Gen Y than it was even to Baby Boomers when they were that age based on total sales.  Signaling the power of the brand, 94% of Gen Y riders who start with previously-owned Harley’s indicate that when they buy a new bike, it will be a Harley-Davidson.  The next most popular brand appeals to 15%.

Now what about that cross-country on the Cross Bones that I keep toying with?  For inspiration, I’ve been reading about Bessie Stringfield, an African-American woman who made eight solo long distance rides in the ‘30s and ‘40s covering every state.  And that’s during a period when roads weren’t as safe, nor was much of the country for an African-American.

She rode, according to a brief by Charles Plueddeman in HOG, for 63 years, owning 27 Harley-Davidsons after she switched from the 1928 Indian Scout she learned to ride on at age 16.  Ms Stringfield died in 1993 at the age of 82.

I think I can do it…now about that Liberty sidecar so Mugs can come along, “pink” doggles and all???  Sweet!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Haunting Exchange In The Rio Chama Valley

We didn’t talk long but the conversation stayed with me. Our paths crossed high up in the Rio Chama Valley as that river makes its way south from the San Juan Mountains to flow into the Rio Grande just north of Santa Fe where we both stopped for gas.

He was a veteran heading south for home after clearing his head a bit in the Rockies following a tour in Afghanistan.  He also happened to be a Native American and told me a bit about the significance of that valley.

I was cutting north to Pegosa Springs before turning toward Durango, Colorado on the most recent of my two 6,000-mile cross-country round trips over the past five months.Osama

It was small talk on a bright, beautiful, Rocky Mountain morning near the Continental Divide.  I thanked him for his service to our country but when I told him I’m wasn’t at all sure the USA should be in Afghanistan, he just shook his head and muttered, “you’re right, we shouldn’t.”

This brief exchange kept coming back to me as I made my way through Michael Scheuer’s newly- published book, Osama Bin Laden.  Scheuer, who was chief of the CIA’s Osama Bin Laden Counterterrorism Unit in the late 1990s and a consultant to it through 2004, also wrote a 2007 book I had previously read entitled Imperial Hubris: Why The West is Losing the War on Terror.

The author is an outspoken critic of American leadership.  He believes it is misleading to the American people and a mistake to simply demonize an enemy like Osama Bin Laden but he’s clear about wanting to “bury him.”  As I finished the book I went back to a part where Mr. Scheuer summarized Osama bin Laden’s three central aims, translated from the al-Qaeda leader’s own words:

  • bleeding America into bankruptcy
  • spreading out U.S military and intelligence forces to the point where they have little reserves or flexibility; and
  • stripping away American allies and creating as much political divisiveness as possible in the United States.

Seems like he’s doing pretty well so far, no?  The point of Scheuer’s book is that it’s not about “us" or our culture or democracy..“it’s always been about our foreign policy, stupid.”

The book tells of a turning point for Bin Laden before the first Gulf War when, after ignoring instead of heeding his incessant speculation about the intention of former Iraq president Saddam Hussein’s to invade his homeland, the Saudi government snubs his offer to rally an army of mujahidin veterans fresh from the Afghan victory over Russia to defend its border and instead permits the U.S. to establish a military base there.

I’m sure Scheuer would argue that the Saudis are still playing into Bin Laden’s hand by sending troops into Bahrain yesterday to quell protests there.

The alleged corruption in the Afghan government combined with its president’s repeated lecturing of the U.S. Military for not waging war more carefully and now coupled with the loss now of more than a million lives in the two wars, both civilian and military, and a monetary cost estimated to be $1.29 trillion by years end make me think Scheuer’s correct.

Maybe we’re just fulfilling Bin-Laden’s chief aims and we need to back up, pay a lot more attention to experts like Scheuer and get on the right track.  We need to revisit the lessons of the Vietnam War.

Looks like I might finally have found something upon which Glenn Beck and Ron Paul and I can agree!

In any respect, Scheuer’s books are well documented and well worth a read.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Organizational Grit May Also Be The Secret To Basketball Greatness!

I have accumulated some great memories as a Duke basketball fan of 22 years, nearly all via television, including the Hill pass to Laettner whose shot beat Kentucky in overtime or Sean Dockery’s unbelievable shot at the buzzer to beat Virginia Tech to cite two of many.

But the most memorable, experienced in person, is the night I was standing just off the corner of the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium and feeling the sound wave concussions as Jeff Capel hit a running 40’ shot to send a 1995 game with UNC-Chapel Hill into the second of several overtimes.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski was out that year due to severe back problems and Duke was down, winless in the ACC and Carolina was ranked #2 in the nation at the time.

That shot and that entire season took “grit.”

I don’t know whether Capel should have been fired as the Oklahoma coach yesterday after two straight losing seasons after three winning seasons including making the elite eight in the big dance.

But I do know that, if those two losing seasons were the criteria as intimated in the story linked above, then Oklahoma and a lot of other schools would have fired Hall of Fame Coach K when he had two consecutive losing seasons in his first three at Duke.

I also know that any grit with which I was credited during a two-decade run at the helm of DCVB before I retired in 2009 was bolstered by the grit shown by both the Durham community and its destination marketing organization by standing behind me through thick and thin.

In the face of adversity, grit is proven as the key ingredient to personal success as noted in this link, but it is just as important for the organization to have grit as Duke’s retired athletic director Tom Butters showed through Coach K’s losing seasons.

Small Businesses Underestimate Usefulness Of Websites

Communities seeking to grow the vitality of small, neighborhood, independent businesses must deal with the fact that fewer than half provide access via the Internet, according to analysis of data sources by Formstack (click on the image for full illustration.)Small Businesses and Websites

Of those small businesses that do utilize the websites, 80% just provide basic information such as location, hours and phone number perhaps and only 30% are involved in ecommerce.

The proportion of small businesses using websites has increased from a third in 2007 to forty-five percent in 2009.  Telling is that the proportion deploying websites rises dramatically as gross sales increase, reaching 69% for businesses with annual sales of more than a million dollars.

Only 19% cite cost as a factor while 41% just don’t see the need.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Obsession With Bumper-Sticker Problem Solving

A decade ago a friend, who happens to be a member of the Republican Party and at the time an elected official, joked with me after some of his peers blew off some data-based conclusions and proposals.

“Too many of us Republicans,” he told me, “are obsessed with bumper-sticker problems that lead to simplistic bumper-sticker solutions.”

He went on to clarify that he wasn’t literally referring to bumper stickers. He was using the term in reference to how many people tend to short-hand complicated issues around a simplistic anecdote.

He may have been referring to the apparent anger-fix many seem to get today by demonizing terms such as public sector pensions or collective bargaining, new fence requirements for swimming pools, tenure or EPA standards.

I think that’s what Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks meant when he cautioned lawmakers two weeks ago to budget cut wisely not stupidly and to “never cut without evaluation.” Well worth a read if you missed it.

Washington State Democratic governor’s approach of sitting down with her unions to identify cuts seems to follow that advice, while the Wisconsin Republican governor’s union-busting approach appears to do little to erase his state’s budget deficit.Bringing School Home

Similar cuts to the Environmental Agency seem vindictive and in Brooks’ words “stupid.”

“Teacher tenure” is another bumper sticker currently being used to focus anger and finger-pointing even though the teacher’s union has called for better evaluations and a return to the original purpose of tenure.

I just now got around to reading the results of the 2010 report based on responses by 40,000 of America’s elementary, middle and high school teachers to a blind questionnaire on how best to improve student achievement. Wow, talk about an “evaluation” lawmakers should read.

Imagine that: ask teachers how to improve schools, what a novel concept! As you might expect, it was funded in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (hats off to Melinda’s alma mater for just bringing a record 19th ACC Tournament Championship back to Durham, as victors over rival UNC-Chapel Hill 75 to 58 and being positioned as #1 seed for the NCAA tournament.)

The results of the survey also linked above are loaded with graphics to aid non-readers, which unfortunately describes many are who are obsessed with bumper-sticker problems and solutions.

Click on the infographic shown earlier in this blog that illustrates a handful of the results or click here. How’s that for a “bumper-sticker” summary?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Population Indexing and Trouble Ahead For The Sunbelt

Journalists struggle with “population” stories such as those following the release of recent 2010 Census updates, typically reporting the numbers without context or, as both the Raleigh paper and the business journal seemed to do, smugly turning it into a horse race or popularity contest.

Granted, both the news releases and agencies involved in planning should make it a lot easier and instead, like a page on Wake County’s website, often make the same mistake. But there is still no excuse for not at least mentioning context or that the numbers aren’t “apples” and “apples” without being indexed.

Later on I’ll mention two new and very useful books I’ve read recently on cities and growth but first let me explain more about what I mean by indexing data to context, something that impacts any performance measure.

Data and information, to be comparable from one community to another or one county to another or one metro to another, must be put in context or if possible indexed. For example when comparing one city’s or country’s growth to another, it should be indexed to factors such as available, developable land area.2010 Population Update

Durham for example is a single city-county (slivers were permitted to be annexed by a few other communities to facilitate developments primarily not located in Durham County) but:

  • Durham is also located in a North Carolina county with the 17th smallest land area in the state.

  • A vast portion of Durham has been locked away in watershed and a significant part submerged by a lake that provides the drinking water that has enabled Raleigh’s and Wake County’s growth.

To compare Durham’s growth, either as a city or as a county, to the much more expansive Wake County or Raleigh, which is the largest of Wake’s dozen cities and towns, the numbers would need to be indexed somehow to available and developable land or, if that isn’t available, population density. Wake is nearly three times the land area of Durham with a far greater proportion that is still developable.

Similarly, while Winston-Salem and Durham are close in size, any comparison of growth must be indexed because Forsyth County is nearly one and a half times larger in land area than Durham and much larger still when accounting for how much of Durham is in watershed or under water.

Community values is another important factor that also relates to population growth. Durham, for instance has been less into “big” and more into sense of place and has grown very steadily over the past 120 years as shown by clicking to enlarge the chart shown above or at this link, while Wake County was “burning” an acre an hour in development before the economic downturn.

A Raleigh value has always been to be a large city, a value shared by Charlotte which Raleigh hopes to eclipse and should because it appears to have much more developable land.

So in many ways, as it was in the last decade, when indexed to “apples” and “apples,” Durham is not only growing at a very strong but manageable clip, and its growth rate may be faster than any of the large urban areas of North Carolina, something that gives residents here a great deal of concern.

North Carolina’s major cities have grown because they benefited from employers relocating or expanding from rust-belt cities. But as things like the view-hostile bills submitted in the General Assembly at the bidding of the outdoor billboard industry threaten to turn our state’s visual appeal and our unique communities into a ride through the yellow pages, our planners and policy makers, economic developers and neighborhood leaders need to read two new books.

One was published in mid-February and the other early March and they are must-reads for smug “big is better” and “it couldn’t happen here” thinkers.

Triumph of the City by economist Edward Glaesner is the longer and to me the more data-packed of the two. It lays out a compelling survey of what makes some cities thrive and others wither.

The even more recently published is Sunburnt Cities: The Great Recession, Depopulation, and Urban Planning in the American Sunbelt by Justin Hollander and Frank Popper with sobering warnings for high growth communities and thoughtful recommendations for declining cities on how to contract intelligently during the process of turn around.

Both are relatively quick, worthwhile reads.

Rather than reading too much into current population trends we would do much better to read books like these lest we risk repeating the mistakes of communities further north from whose decline we have been the beneficiaries.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A More Organic Grocery Alternative For Ninth Street!

As I settled back into Durham after my most recent cross-country, I read of speculation that a giant Harris Teeter may be planned right next to one of Durham’s organic and indigenous districts.

If the developer is who I surmise, there is no one who has done more to sensitively revitalize both the Downtown and Ninth Street districts and he does his homework. He cares.

But it seems to me there are much more complimentary grocery stores for an area like the Ninth Street District and hopefully developers aren’t rushing to beat the master plan in the final stages of review which wouldn’t permit something that out of synch.

New Harris Teeters run 70,000 sf which is why some have nick-named them “MajorTeeters,” a name we also affectionately gave the Grand Tetons looming above where I grew up in that nook of Idaho, pardon the pun.MOM's

That is nearly twice the size of a traditional supermarket.

I can see why Harris Teeter wants to get back into this area.  It was a huge mistake when it pulled out of the nearby Northgate complex as it was being renovated.  Someone obviously made the mistake that a lot of feasibility people do and neglected to realize the “black hole” on demographic maps is in reality, Duke University, one of the largest employers in the state.

The Ninth Street District already has Whole Foods, formerly Wellspring Grocery, which was originally located where the old Scarborough Grocery was and Magnolia Grill is now and then moved to the site that later became the former George’s Garage, both locations were right on Ninth Street and a perfect fit.

There are other, smaller alternatives perfect for Ninth Street, if another grocery store is needed.bloom_logo

At 30,000 sf, smaller than a traditional supermarket, a Bloom Grocery Store, an upscale, tech-savvy “different kind of grocery store” concept based in Salisbury, would work much better in that location.  I saw a Bloom’s for the first time last year in the Dilworth neighborhood, a similar historic area of Charlotte.  

Or maybe even better in size would be a MOM’s which run about 11,000 sf like the one in in College Park, Maryland where the owner ignored advice about demographics because he knew it was the right fit.  Mom’s are about the size of the old Wellspring (now Whole Foods) when it was directly on Ninth Street.

Don’t get me wrong. Harris Teeter is personally my favorite traditional supermarket.  I just don’t think it is a good fit in a funky, gritty, organic, indigenous district.  It could kill a Ninth Street.

If communities have a choice and want to thrive economically in the future, be very careful to sustain indigenous districts.  Just ask the folks down in Chapel Hill where a Gap store came and went and Franklin Street has never been the same.

I hope the speculation turns out to be unfounded because one things for sure, based on the Chapel Hill experience: a big box can destroy an organic district, but pulling it back out later won’t restore one.

Change Anything On April 1st–No Foolin’

Even before Jimmer Fredette, some great things have come out of my alma mater BYU and another derivative is being released on April 1st entitled Change Anything by the Vital Smarts guys who brought us books like Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations.

These guys convert research into personal success into information including “how to” techniques and this book deals with the “science behind personal success,” maybe even including the recent research I cited at West Point on the role of “grit” in success.

Watch the illustration-music-only video below and read the first chapter.  I can hardly wait to download this book, from my local independent bookseller that is.  If this book is anything like Crucial Confrontations was for me, it’s a game-changer.

Looking Back At the Best And a Belated Tribute

I worked directly with a dozen or so Chamber of Commerce execs during my now concluded nearly 40 year career managing community/destination marketing organizations in three communities.

If you know me, it goes without saying that I consider Harvey Schmitt down in Raleigh as not only a close friend, even in my retirement, but as one of the very best Chamber execs on the planet.csteinbacher

But in the three cities I represented, no one has impressed me more than Casey Steinbacher at the Durham, North Carolina Chamber, home of the legendary Bob Booth.

Before retiring back in 2009, I frequently enjoyed early-morning coffee with Casey, worked side by side on some projects, consulted by telephone on issues and even served her as an ex officio advisor to her board.

Chambers and Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) are two very different and distinct organizations and models with very different missions but in savvy communities they still strategically partner and team where a project is mutual.

A quick Google search revealed that I’m more than a little out of touch these days. Casey is honoring Durham as Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) and bringing the group home for its spring meeting as her term winds down.

This group isn’t to be confused with the big business guys who throw their weight around during national elections, ACCE is a professional association for more than 1,000 heads of local, community Chambers, advocates for their local business climates.

During my just-concluded 12,000 miles traveling cross-country on two road trips in five months, thanks to the exceptional news and blog aggregator by the Durham News Service, I saw an announcement that the Chamber is teaming up with DCVB on production of Durham’s official publications for visitors and newcomers.

Here are just a handful of reasons I can see that move making perfect sense as part of Casey’s vision:

  • It leverages a strategic partner’s expertise in graphic production, comprehensive content, distribution and community branding, much as DDI did to produce the Downtown Durham Guide.


  • It strengthens the “Make It Durham” effort with options to interweave even more with Durham’s overarching brand signature, e.g. “Make it Durham – Where Great Things Happen.”


  • It applies nationwide research and analysis revealing that 80%of newcomers and 75% of relocating business executives try a community out first as leisure visitor.


  • It frees the Chamber publication from fundraising and reinvests every dime of revenue goes into vastly expanding content and greatly broadening distribution.


  • It moves beyond the model of restricting content to members to comprehensive listings that best serve the target audience while giving members special recognition.

Thinking back also reminds me again that I have neglected to pay tribute to the first Chamber exec with whom I worked.  Born ten years after my Father, the late George Reitemeier graduated from high school the year I was born.  He was 39 when he was appointed to head the Spokane Chamber in 1970, a post from which he retired in 1993 before passing away in 1999.

I went to work for George in my mid-twenties while going to law school at at Gonzaga at night.  But I also answered to the separate governing board for the Spokane Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, for which the Chamber was serving as a temporary incubator as was a practice back in the 1960s.5247212867_87c3a35a53

In 1975, as the just-concluded and environmentally-themed Expo ‘74 began its conversion to a spectacular 100-acre Riverfront Park surrounded by hotels, restaurants and shops, the SACVB board decided it was time for the organization, as Spokane’s community/destination marketing organization to become fully independent, as the great majority are.

Needless to say this put me in between the proverbial “rock and hard place.”  George had his reasons for opposing the CVB’s transition to independence maybe because his own board was dragging its feet.

As you might expect, in my 20s and my first real job out of college, I took it all a bit personally.  Everything seems personal in your 20s and it did get personal and very public.  I’m sure George could have easily steamrolled me but he didn’t.  He also didn’t make it easy.

George though was not like “frenemies” I’ve run into more often than I’d like to think, a word used to describe individuals who act like a friend to your face or in a personal context but do their best to discredit and undermine you behind your back, often putting you in a corner ethically.

Some tell-tail indicators, for those who haven’t run into “frenemies,” are that they will believe they are always right, that they are dead certain they are smarter than you are and that they think they know how to do your job better than you do.  “Bless their hearts” as we say in the South.

George was different.  He was ethical and he told you right to your face what he thought.  He also respected your decisions if you could back them up with logic and information.

He may have had trouble listening, at least to a kid in his 20s.  Part of it was the times.  It was the mid-70s.  I wore my hair longer and for the times was able to mix some pretty progressive politics with a passion for small independent business owners and visitor-centric economic and cultural development.

I was also determined to do my job, no matter how long it took, no matter the price to me personally.  He may have disagreed but he respected those traits.

SACVB did become fully independent in 1976 and stabilized for a couple of years before I caught the attention of the infant destination marketing organization in Anchorage in 1978 and was recruited there as chief executive based I later learned on  recommendations from the CEOs in Seattle and San Francisco.

George  would be very proud of Chamber peers like Casey and Harvey, and I think he would have been proud of what I was able to accomplish in my now concluded career in DMO management, much of which was due in no small part, both to what I learned from him and the toughness I developed going through that transition in Spokane.

Regretfully, while I thought about it often, I failed to ever call and tell him thank you in person.

A belated thank you George, R.I.P.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

An 8th Grade Lesson In Managing Talent

He never talked about it much, but I learned while frequently pawing through a my Grandmother Adah Rae’s trunk full of army uniforms and sports memorabilia that my Dad was a four-sport standout in high school but he didn’t say a word when I came home with a “D” in P.E. in the 8th Grade. P.E? Really, REALLY?

Of course he also didn’t let me hide behind the excuse that I was going through an incredible growth spurt that reduced me to all knees and elbows and kept me out of football that year. Some things defy determination and will and grit.

It was my most embarrassing moment, rivaled only by the day when as a first grader, the third graders suddenly asked me to join in the tackle football games (no helmets or pads) they played during recess along one side of the Ashton, Idaho Elementary School.43-letterD-q75-348x356

I picked up a fumble on the first play and ran for a touchdown - the wrong direction! I’m not making this stuff up.

I had always excelled in sports before the dreaded “D",” but during that 8th grade year no amount of determination seemed to work until I caught up with my body that Spring and things started to click again in both baseball and track and field.

My Dad’s response, when I got that “D,” ignored that failure or anything having to do with improving in P.E. class. He simply said, “Why don’t you go out for varsity football in the 9th grade,” which I did. I made the team as a wide receiver so I wouldn’t get hurt. Everyone could tell I didn’t have my Dad’s frame.

I promptly and seriously aggravated an Achilles tendon in an “away” game and spent several months going to school early so I could soak in the whirlpool or what we called a whirlpool in those days, and doing other things to help the inflammation heal.

Dad’s next suggestion – “Why don’t you go for the school record in the 440 next Spring?” I did and not only broke that record but received the “most improved” award for athletics in Junior High. I wish I could say the happy ending is that I was a stand-out in High School. But I blew my left knee out.

My Dad’s solution – “Why don’t you focus on grades and getting into college,” Good idea!

Dad never came to one of my games or meets or matches. Maybe he knew the pressure I was under trying to live up to his name. He worked two jobs most of those years along with my Mom rather than declare bankruptcy like a middle man did after he took delivery of my parents’ stock one year before paying them a red “cent.”

For as far back as I can remember, he always played sports with me incessantly when he came home and that continued until I left home as an adult and even after. When it became clear I was a south paw when I was handwriting or eating but right-handed in sports, he encouraged me to switch hit. When I did excel on a team and came home to tell him about it, he was quick to bring me back to earth, sometimes not so gently.

My Dad didn’t make sense to me then, and our love and respect for him now that he is gone are much stronger than the humorous “bigger than life” caricatures that light up conversations about him at family gatherings today.

He was a star in sports but he didn’t do what the other parents did when it came to competitive sports. Knowing what I know now after a nearly 40-year career in building destination marketing teams and trying to help people motivate themselves, I realize my Dad never got the credit he deserved as a parent or as an astute manager of talent.

He never focused on failure or living up to expectations. He knew the kind of pressure I put on myself and my inherent grit and determination, a pressure I wasn’t always keen to modulate for those around me.

In hindsight I see that he had a very unique knack for helping me focus beyond the hurdle I had just missed, to a new and higher goal. I would have been a better executive and developer of destination marketing talent and teams, if I had taken more cues from my Dad.

He was always so proud of his children and grandchildren and he would have been delighted to see the pure enthusiasm his mid-kindergarten and first grade great-grandsons have for sports, as they took me through basketball, football, soccer and baseball workouts in just the first few hours of my recent visit with them.

Thanks to my Dad, I also have a great road-map for how to deal with any “D” they may ever get in P.E.