Friday, November 30, 2012

Friends vs. Career

Last week, my brother-in-law shared an op-ed with me written by Steven Johnson entitled We’re living the dream; we just don’t realize it.  Johnson is a frequent TED presenter and author of the new book Future Perfect.

I was reminded while reading Johnson’s piece that as much as I try to stay current, some of my perspectives, such as the divorce rate, are outdated by some 30 years.  He also makes the point that so many of the positive trends in society are the result of a “complex network of forces” including the less publicized role that government plays.

In the build up to the upcoming new year, The Futures Company is one-by-one rolling out a series of white papers regarding what futurists there call 2013 “planning horizons.” Happiness

The first, one of five around the topic of “recasting success” is entitled Happiness: Is it your business?  The 17-page paper is an excellent update on what we know and can now measure about happiness including a factoid from a survey that shows that “globally only 37% of people agree [with the statement] ‘I would be happier if I owned more material possessions.”

The report notes that “governments worldwide are also turning to happiness as a better measure of social progress than Gross Domestic Product (GDP.)”  Happiness is also making businesses take another look at how it relates to the bottom line; and social entrepreneurs are being fostered by groups such as Bull City Forward in my adopted-home of Durham, North Carolina which has historically been a center of social innovation.

The Futures white paper on happiness distinguishes the momentary experiences from moods and focuses on our current knowledge and ability to measure what it calls the six main understandings related to overall life satisfaction:

  1. Frame of mind
  2. Wealth
  3. Autonomy and competence
  4. Basic needs
  5. Meaning and engagement
  6. Personal connections

It is reassuring to learn that globally the survey shows that “87% of people feel that your relations with your spouse or partner is highly important in determining how you feel, more so than any other factor including work, health and the amount of money you have.”

Another poll, taken in October, shows that by 2 to 1, Americans prefer great friends to a great career.  The ratio was up to nearly 3 to 1 for my age group which includes people at or approaching retirement age, maybe because from that vantage point it is even easier to make the distinction.

In my former career as a community-destination marketing exec for three different communities it was always difficult to choose, both because of the fact that I went about it was very intense and all-consuming but also because it is often very political.  Key is resisting special interests, however well-intended and that made it difficult to form friendships.

Many times those who seemed to be friends would turn out to be people or cliques who wanted to make unwritten and unspoken alliances where decisions would most likely be primarily based on “who’s asking.”

I have always been blessed to have two or three very close friends from places where I’ve lived in the past as well as in the cities I’ve represented. For this I am most grateful, and one of these special friends over the years has been my soon-to-be 40-year-old daughter, a connection I treasure.

I have numerous other people who I have considered and are perceived by others to be close friends and ironically, the common denominator for each one has always been trust.

These individuals have always been people who trusted me to do what I thought was right for the community and the organizations and stakeholders I served.  They were candid and well-aware of my flaws but always looked out for me, even when it wasn’t in their best interest.

I may have conversed with these friends only once or twice each year, maybe less, now that I’ve retired it might be considered ‘just in passing,’ but I know they “have my back” if needed.  Even though we may have exchanged less than a thousand words of a personal nature during our entire acquaintance,  there remains a deep respect and bond.

In many careers such as the one where I spent 40 years, the decision is not so much making a decision between a career and friendship as it is between being “liked” or being “respected.”  Bottom line: it is not all about friends.

The Futures white paper on happiness is well worth a read, especially with the overload associated with this time of year.  To subscribe to a daily email with the other trends, click here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Between Old Memories and Me

From the mid-1970s until I left Spokane, Washington for Anchorage, Alaska in 1978, I lived in Browne’s Addition, one of the community’s first residential neighborhoods.  It was heavily wooded and filled with former mansions dating to the 1880s which had been converted back then into apartments.

At the time, Browne’s Addition was just earning a distinction as a National Historic District.  Adjacent to downtown, the neighborhood was a short walk along a deep gorge of the Spokane River to my first job as a community-destination marketing executive.

However, on most days I drove so that at the end of the workday I could dash across the spectacular Spokane Falls for evening law school classes at Gonzaga University.

Browne’s Addition is where I gleaned my initial awareness of the pivotal contribution of historic preservation to what makes a community distinctive enough to be mined for visitor-centric economic and cultural development.Browne's Addition

This was also a period in life when I was dealing with a series of deep personal losses and, in hindsight, I am able to recognize it was one of maybe four times in my life when, if only for a few days or weeks, I personally experienced true depression.

Tom Lucas, a close friend from law school with whom I still have a connection through these many decades, and I used to take long walks not only through Browne’s Addition but over a bluff into a deep ravine along what was then known as Hangman Creek where it flows into the Spokane River, another part of the community’s narrative.

Resisting attempts over more than 100 years to revert the name of the creek to Latah, meaning “fish,” maps still show the creek named Hangman after an episode when up to 17 Palouse Native Americans were hung along that ravine following back-to-back battles with US Cavalry known as Four Lakes between what is now nearby Cheney and Spokane and Spokane Plains which took place between what is now the city and the area around the airport and Fairchild Air Force Base.

The battles took place with bands the Yakama, Palouse, Spokane, Colville, Lower Pend d’Oreille, and Coeur d'Alene tribes of Native Americans in retribution for the humiliation suffered by troopers in defeat a few months earlier.  This time the battle turned on a new rifle technology.

Not far from where I rendezvous with family on a lake each summer,  Cavalry had also pursued Indians down the Spokane River Valley, to a point between Newman and Liberty lakes along the border with my native Idaho, where they executed a herd of 700 Indian horses after culling 100 to keep.

Many communities like to date the places where they are located to a time significant only because it is when European-Americans first created settlements there.  This disregards the deeper significance of almost temporal place-based cultural, environmental and built assets and events so central to community-destination marketing.

When I transitioned in the late 1980s from marketing Anchorage to marketing Durham, North Carolina, where I now still live in retirement, many here were trying to bury any sign of the community’s past including its legacy brand as the Bull City, which I use today in the name of this blog.

I took some heat when the organization I led fully embraced the long-view of Durham’s heritage including using “bull” in marketing tools such as subtly forming a bull’s head inside the “D” of the community's first marketing logo and incorporating the word “bull” into tools such as the Bulls Eye Newsletter, the Bull Horn voice information system and even the name of the weekly staff meeting, “Remarkabulls.”

Eventually, a much more overarching but incorporating brand and slogan was distilled, but reconnecting with the community’s rich heritage back then had helped give voice to Durham’s unique sense of place without taking anything away from more recent attributes and events.  There is also evidence it played a role in fostering Durham’s signature adaptive reuse of historic buildings.

During my time living in Spokane’s historic Browne’s Addition during the 1970s,  I also reconnected during that time of deep introspection, to parts of my personal brand.  I returned to the country music of my roots adding a love of The Eagles to an earlier rediscovery via Gram Parsons (before and after The Byrds,) especially in duets with Emmylou, as well as Kris Kristofferson and outlaws such as Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.

Knowing my fondness, friends gave the lyrics for the song Desperado rendered in calligraphy to hang on the wall of my office.  The song, started by Don Henley in the late 1960s and completed in collaboration with Glenn Frey is a flawless description of not only depression but many of the lessons I’ve had to learn during my life.

However, the country music artist that most symbolizes that reconnection to my roots coincided with relocation to my now-hometown Durham in mid-1989.

Though he died tragically just weeks before that move, one can still sense Keith Whitely’s enduring influence over the subsequent decades by using his name to create a station on Pandora, one of my favorites.

His inspiration is often acknowledged by Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, George Strait, John Berry, Doug Stone and many others popular today such as Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Daryle Singletary and Joe Nichols.

In 1973, Whitely was just striking out from his teenage collaboration with Ricky Skaggs.  Up through my early years in Anchorage, you could still hear Whitely’s mark on bluegrass groups such as the Clinch Mountain Boys and The New South.

Striking out on his own, during the time I was in Anchorage made him more mainstream but Whitely wasn’t entirely comfortable with over-produced hits such as Miami My Amy.  Then, just as I turned 40, in the months before I arrived in Durham, Keith Whitely rebelled. He shelved one just completed and cut a ground-breaking album his way just a few months before he would be found dead at age 34.

It spawned three number one hits, one of which was co-written by Don Schlitz, “When You Say Nothing At All.”  Coincidentally, Schlitz is a Durham native and graduate of Duke University here, who had left his job as manager for a Roses store, during my time of intense introspection and epiphany in the early-to-mid-1970s, to pursue a hall-of-fame career as a country songwriter in Nashville.

Posthumously, Whitely continued to have hits well into the 2000s including Somewhere Between, Between An Old Memory and Me and two for which he had only cut demo tapes such as Tell Lorrie I Love Her an ode to his wife Lorrie Morgan on their wedding day and a duet she cut after his death entirely ‘Till A Tear Becomes A Rose.

I am fortunate that my four brushes with depression, occurring between 1967 and 1987, lasted only a few days to several weeks and compared to many who suffer much more frequent and lasting episodes, I feel blessed.

Introspective melodies such as Whitely’s continue to resonate deep inside me, maybe synchronizing to my internal metronome.  Never bringing me down, instead they are an uplifting and reassuring reminder of how fortunate I’ve been in life, but also as an empathetic reminder of those who aren’t.

Maybe music, such as his, also serves as a soundtrack for much of my life including my now-concluded career.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Solution for Tourism’s Achilles’ Heel

Second only to dining, retail shopping is the second largest beneficiary of tourism spending.  Unless drawn to destinations distinctive for place-based assets such as small independent retailers, for many trapped in the geography of nowhere tourism is only a form of generic shopping.

But when it comes to industries across the tourism sector of the economy, retail shopping is emblematic of an even more serious Achilles' heel, in my opinion.

Results from a remarkable surge in shopping during this past Thanksgiving weekend are heartening for continued economic recovery, but they also illustrate that as more and more daily shopping shifts online, tourism will become even more essential to store-front retail.

Of more significance to anyone taking a long-view at retail or any of the other five or six industries that comprise the tourism sector of the economy is a study by economist Dr. Catherine Ruetschin that was published earlier that same week by Dēmos.DEMOS

Many jobs in tourism, including retail, don’t fall into the stereotype of low wage but far too many do.  Those leading the tourism sector, which is fueled by community-destination marketing, are plagued by the majority who still refuse to pay a “livable wage,” none more so than those in retail.

Even more than from lack of enlightenment, the tourism sector’s relationship to “livable wage” is plagued by the condition sociologists and economists compared in 20th-century observations about the resistance of hockey players to wearing helmets.  Even though nearly everyone acknowledged they were needed, fearing some unidentified disadvantage, few would use them until they were made mandatory for everyone.

In her study, Dr. Ruetschin notes that as of 2011, retail generated $4 trillion in annual revenue, comprising 6 percent of US Gross Domestic Product, employing 15 million people.  But according to the Bureau of Economic Statistics the typical retail sales person earns just $21,000 per year with cashiers bringing home an average of $18,500.

Even before being adjusted for inflation, this is less than I made nearly 40 years ago as a start-up community-destination marketing executive.  Meanwhile, the nation’s leading retailers, according to the analysis, earned $35 billion in profits during just the first half of 2012 and paid out $12.8 million in dividends, financed in large part by increased workloads and forfeited wages.

Ruetschin’s analysis and recommendations focus on the 42% of all workers primarily employed by large retailers (1,000 or more workers) in year-round positions.  She illustrates that for these giants paying low wages is a choice not a necessity, and that it is bad for business, the economy and society.

The study estimates that establishing a wage floor of $25,000 a year ($12.25 per hour) at large retailers would generate between $12 million and $15 million in new consumer spending and would result in 102,000 to 132,000 new jobs.

Directly impacting 3.5 million workers and their families which totals 5 million overall, this would take less than 1% of overall sales, much of which would be offset by the job creation and new consumer spending as well as increased productivity.  The change could be weighted at the lower end of the scale and tapered upward so as to not impact other ranges.

It could be done with less than an average of 15 cent increase per consumer per shopping trip while lifting millions of the working poor out of poverty.

Retail’s Hidden Potential is a must read for everyone in the tourism sector.  It leaves unresolved only that pesky condition found among hockey players: how to execute a win-win-win change without making it mandatory.

Maybe those in the tourism sector who are willing to spearhead the change can learn from the arbitrary move made 100 years ago by another tourism pioneer:  Henry Ford, raised wages in 1914 in already-high-wage Detroit.  The $5 per day was part base pay and part results-behavior-based incentive and Ford knew he would make up the difference in reduced turn-over and productivity.

It didn’t hurt that their new daily wage and increased productivity made it possible for employees to buy the Model T cars and trucks they were building for Ford along newly-industrial-scaled assembly lines with standardized parts which in turn had been made possible with increased company profits.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When Explorers Grasped the Importance of Watersheds

Nearly a third of Americans (31%) don’t know where their water comes from, twice the proportion of places such as China and Singapore.  The proportion is apparently even higher among members of North Carolina General Assembly, in the state where I live, if you judge their flippant actions, subverting clean water for the benefit of out-of-state billboard companies.

Elected officials such as these who do not prioritize clean water fail to grasp or just don’t care that 83% of Americans are concerned about the availability of clear water for the future.

The study which indicates these facts and statistics isn’t part of any environmentalist plot.  It was conducted by the mega-corporation GE.

As illustrated in this blog, the source of our drinking water is found in the slogan for the now-150,000-member strong Trout Unlimited, formed in 1959 as I turned 11-years-old, which is “Protect – Reconnect – Restore.”

From his days as a river guide near the headwaters of the Snake River in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, where I was born and spent my early years, an elected office who is a friend of mine in Durham, North Carolina, where I have now lived for nearly 25 years, should have known better than to make the cynical comments recently attributed to him in public records and news accounts.

Administrators in Durham are wisely proposing to revert wetlands to filter 485 urban acres of urban run-off to protect water supplies for downstream communities and save the City millions of dollars in treatment.  To me this is a no-brainer and it should be to my friend too!

Early explorers always searched for the sources of mighty rivers.  The break-through that identified the ecosystem around Yellowstone as the “headwaters of the nation” came from observations by a U.S. Cavalry Trooper as he escorted and documented several survey teams there.

Then-Lt. “Gus” Doane, who had grown up in California and attended the University of the Pacific before enlisting to fight in the Civil War, learned that studying watersheds was a much quicker and more accurate way to identify the sources of waterways, according to George Black, author of a fascinating new book entitled Empire of Shadows: The Epic Story of Yellowstone.

During one expedition, Doane found himself overlooking a plateau in the heart of Yellowstone, rimmed by a perimeter formed by four incredible mountain ranges, the Absaroka (pronounced ab-soar-kah,) Teton, Madison and Gallatin.

They were broken only by the rivers that flowed in every direction and emptying basins along the Columbia-Snake, Green-Colorado and Missouri-Mississippi river systems flowing into the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of California.

Doane’s hydrological-breakthrough came from stepping back from the “trees to view the forest,” something he and others failed to do a few months earlier while conducting the Marias Massacre of an innocent band of Blackfeet Indians.

In part, federal elected officials in 1872 set aside Yellowstone Park as green infrastructure to protect water quality as New York state officials did Adirondack Park in 1892.  This took an incredible amount of foresight often found missing in elected officials today.

The several watersheds in Durham, like most places across America, are far more subtle but even more fragile.  Those who continue to dismiss the role of watersheds, wetlands, streams, and rivers as sources of clean water are what people along the Tetons in my native state of Idaho, describe as “all hat, no cattle.”

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Fault Line of my Youth

The fault line for many of my 19th-century ancestors, as well as for my own early years, runs north-south along the mountains that form the border of southeastern Idaho and Wyoming from Montana to Utah, bookended by thermal geysers.

The fault line begins just north of the cattle and horse ranch my parents worked when I was born on the banks of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in the very Yellowstone-Teton nook of Idaho which had been homesteaded by my great-grandparents and grandparents.

The fault line ends just south of Soda Springs along the old Oregon Trail, where the verdant oasis of upper Cache Valley is formed between the Bear River and Wellsvile ranges of the Wasatch mountains.

I didn’t need the television westerns of the late 1940s and 1950s to get a glimpse of the real Old West.  We traveled its roots several times each year along this fault line between visits to the homes of my paternal and maternal grandparents located at each end.Shoshone - Bannock Historical Slide Show

The route was first blazed by bands of Northern Shoshoni and Bannock (a northern Paiute-speaking minority population among the Shoshone) Native Americans especially after the mid-1700s when they became the first of the northern tribes to adopt horses, a technology that enabled them to successfully pursue and harvest herds of Buffalo.

Following the expedition of Lewis and Clark, the first European American explorations of the north end of this fault line were conducted in the first decade of the 1800s by John Colter and then Andrew Henry for whom the North Fork of the Snake River of my origins is named.

By the 1820s when fur trappers such as the legendary Jim Bridger began to use full length of this route, the thinning herds of Buffalo were requiring members of these tribes to travel further and further north, always making sure to avoid the territory of the Blackfeet and Crow.

The Buffalo had all but been extinguished by the time three of my ancestors, two paternal (Shumways) and one maternal (Harper,) spent a day with Bridger (101 years to the day from the time of my birth) at the fort he had established (actually a small trading post with some out-building lodges) four years earlier on the Black Fork of the Green River in southwest Wyoming.

If my pioneer ancestors had headed northwest into Idaho, as Bridger first recommended, through the South Pass dividing the northern and central Rockies to settle in upper Cache Valley just below Soda Springs along the Oregon Trail, they would have passed by the future site of a small dam on the river feeding Bear Lake, later maintained by my maternal grandparents while I was growing up.

Instead, they initially headed southwest and deeper into what was then Mexican territory and through the Wasatch mountains into the 17-mile- wide, 25-mile-long Great Salt Lake Valley.  It may not have been as lush and fertile as Cache Valley but contrary to myth, Bridger knew the valley of the Great Salt Lake was anything but barren.

As two of my ancestors, who were among the first three to enter the valley, began to immediately plant crops, they would have looked out on high Rocky Mountain plateau, covered by not only sagebrush, a sign the soil was good, but tall grasses and trees and bushes lining the numerous streams that flowed from pine-forested mountains across the valley floor to the Jordan River.

But in 1860, just more than a dozen years after spending the day with Bridger and four years after settlers first entered the lower extreme of this 50-mile-long, 20-mile-wide valley, two other great-great-grandparents, Bowmans and Neeleys, pioneered the firsts settlements in upper Cache Valley after all, including Franklin, the first town in Idaho.

Centuries before, the fault line route of my youth had been blazed north from Cache Valley by Native Americans to the nook along the Henry’s Fork where another pass through the Tetons carried them into Jackson Hole and up into Yellowstone.

For the nearly 40 years before my ancestors settled upper Cache Valley, Mountain Men such as Bridger had further deepened this route of my youth, holding the very first Rendezvous’ during the mid-1820s at each end of this fault line.

Within a few short years of my ancestors pioneering the south end of the fault line, gold discoveries first in Idaho and then south-central Montana, meant the route north along the southeastern edge of Idaho was quickly converted into a stage line carrying carried passengers, supplies and gold to and from the east to fund the war intended to preserve the union.

However, at the time, this stretch of Idaho between the Montana gold fields and Utah border remained largely uninhabited.  Skirting, in part, what was known as Jim Bridger’s Bad Lands, the route was marauded by gangs euphemistically known as “road agents.”

These masked robbers on horseback often carried sawed-off shotguns and over just a two or three month period in the fall of 1863 they killed 102 people leading to a rise in vigilantes along the route and by the end of the decade regiments of U.S. Cavalry.

At the dawn of the 1860s, Native Americans along the route were becoming shell-shocked by the stream of migrant wagon trains crisscrossing their ancestral lands but more than that, they were starving as game was made more scarce and driven further and further away while grasslands used to raise horses was converted for cattle.

Any flare-ups were quickly contained as especially Mormon settlers attempted to peacefully co-exist, believing it was always easier to “feed than fight.”  One of my paternal great-great grandparents often served as an interpreter between settlers and Shoshoni bands as they resolved conflicts in upper Cache Valley.

However, as gold was discovered, interactions were convoluted by the bigoted treatment of Native Americans by those just passing through in search of riches including droves of pro-slavery secessionists as they confronted those seeking to create a homeland.

The Civil War back east had already recalled the “best and the brightest” talent from federal agencies in the west where events involving Native Americans were exaggerated by the desperate need for gold to finance the war effort.

As war broke out, another of my maternal great-great grandparents named Messersmith, left the Nevada goldfields where he had partnered with a Missouri boyhood friend, who would later become famous as the author Mark Twain, so he could enlist in a volunteer Union Army Cavalry Regiment formed in California and tasked with protecting the routes where gold was carried from that state through Nevada, Utah and Idaho to the east.

In the summer of 1863, as President Abraham Lincoln was delivering his unifying address following the turning-point Battle of Gettysburg, the United States was at war on two fronts, one against the slave-states of the south and another against Native Americans in the west.

The name of my Cavalry-trooper ancestor does not appear among those in a detachment that was surely witnessed by another ancestor as it rode past his Nashville farmstead north of Franklin, Idaho just five months before the Battle of Gettysburg.

A handful of miles further up the Bear River, these troopers conducted the first and largest of the massacres of Native Americans that would occur in the three decades before the declaration in 1890 indicating that the west was won after the Massacre at Wounded Knee.

A few decades later, when my maternal grandfather and his brothers and sisters formed a small horse-drawn wagon train behind my great-grandparents and headed north along this route to new homesteads near the Tetons, they passed that Nashville crossroads where my soon-to-be-grandmother lived.  They also solemnly rode past the site of the Massacre at Bear River.

During their 15 day-journey along that 200 mile fault line of my youth to their new home along the Tetons, they camped one night at Fort Hall, the reservation where Bannock and Shoshone tribe members retreated following a post-massacre agreement with the federal government brokered at Fort Bridger.

My then-19-year-old grandfather’s memoir notes that he felt uneasy that night as “Indians” gathered around their campfire, but with me as I was growing up, he was always in awe of Shoshone-Bannock prowess as fellow horsemen. 

With my daughter this summer, I traveled along portions of this ancestral fault line as we were returning from an annual lake-side family rendezvous along the northern Idaho border with Washington state.

We traveled Interstate 15 rather than the blue highways such as US 20 and US 30 that I traveled with my parents as we used to shuttle along the fault line between grandparents during holidays.  But the portion we did travel that afternoon took us through the Fort Hall Reservation, ironically now estimated to add more than a third of billion dollars each year to the economies along the route.

Two treaties in the aftermath of the Massacre at Bear River first created the Fort Hall Reservation but were never ratified, nor was peace along the route to the Montana gold fields guaranteed by President U.S. Grant’s 1868 and 1869 ratifications of treaties with some Bannock and Shoshone bands following a series of guerilla skirmishes known as the Snake War.

Native Americans who had once ranged over the part of Idaho roughly below where the Salmon River dissects the center of the state as well as eastern Oregon and northern Nevada and Utah and up into northwest Wyoming with occasional forays as far away as Mexico and Canada were now forced onto just 1.8 million acres at Fort Hall.

Encroachment meant the reservation was further distilled down to just 544,000 acres triangulated today by the towns of American Falls, Pocatello and Blackfoot.

A few months after Grant’s treaties and the completion of the transcontinental railroad, army surveyors passed through the Fort Hall Reservation along the fault-line route of my youth, accompanied by an official documentary photographer and joined later by a guest painter courtesy of the soon-to-be Northern Pacific Railroad.

At the northern end of the route, where I would be born nearly eight decades later, the team surveyed first the Idaho approaches to Yellowstone and then entering the northern gateway from Montana, what would result less than a year later in an act signed by Grant to create the world’s first national park accompanied by euphoria and hyperbole around its potential for tourism.

However, less than a decade after Bannocks and Shoshone were cornered onto the Fort Hall Reservation and a handful of years following the creation of Yellowstone National Park, news announcing the 1876 defeat and massacre of General Custer and his 7th Cavalry at the Battle of Little Big Horn was delayed by a telegraph malfunction in Bozeman, Montana so the dispatcher cut south down the fault-line route along the southeastern edge of Idaho.

At Eagle Rock (now called Idaho Falls) his purpose was thwarted again by an equipment malfunction so the rider continued south past Fort Hall and past the farmsteads of my ancestors to Franklin in the upper Cache Valley where he was finally able to announce the tragic battle’s outcome to the world.

Custer had been tasked with protecting survey and construction crews building the Northern Pacific, in part to open Yellowstone Park to tourism.  Ironically, less than a year after Custer’s last stand, during a 115-day inspection of the Pacific Northwest, Union Civil War hero and then-US General of the Army, William Tecumseh Sherman took a few days with his son to be tourists in Yellowstone Park, noting how vulnerable it was to desecration.

At the same time, inflamed when the government reneged on agreements and attempted to force them onto a still smaller reservation, a very peaceful, eloquent and reluctant Chief Joseph along with nearly 800 Nez Perce rebelled along the border of Oregon with Idaho.

Joined by a few bands of Palouse and Northern Shoshone allies, over a five month period, these descendants of tribesmen who 70 years earlier had guided Lewis and Clark through north-central Idaho, repeatedly clashed along the same route with US Cavalry as they fought their way 1400 miles across central Idaho and then crisscrossing down the Bitterroots where Idaho and Montana divide.

The warriors and their families passed just a few miles north of what would later be the ranch of my boyhood and into Yellowstone Park where some renegade members encountered 22 tourists, killing two, before turning north into Montana and finally surrendering just short of the Canadian border.

Halfway through the dramatic 1877 flight of the Nez Perce, fearful of starvation during a famine, Bannock and Shoshone bands at the Fort Hall Reservation on the southern end of my fault line route along the southeastern Idaho border, grew impatient with the failure of agents to deliver food and other treaty promises.

The warriors broke out of the reservation and waged a series of conflicts across southern Idaho along the Snake River plain and into eastern Oregon known as the Bannock War before surrendering again to Fort Hall.

The Snake River is named for Shoshoni not because that is the meaning of their tribal name but because of the undulating sign they would make whenever identifying themselves.

I was born a little more than 50 years after the so-called end of the American frontier which was declared 122 years ago in 1890.  Memories were still very fresh along that 200 mile north-south fault line of my youth as I came of age.

During my grandparents lifetime, tourists in Yellowstone were entertained with staged-attacks by “Indians” during during horse-drawn “observation” wagon tours of the Park’s wonders.

I felt a sense of reflection and remorse as my daughter and I traveled once again this past August along that fault line and past the Fort Hall Reservation.  If only we had fully incorporated Civil War general-then-President Grant’s policy for not only the reconstruction of the southern states but also the peaceful integration of Native Americans.

Based on the findings of the then-relatively-new science of social anthropology espoused to Grant by Lewis Henry Morgan, a Republican state senator and the Quaker, Sir Edward Burnett Tylor, the enlightened policy was all too soon undermined by those seeking only revenge.

All of this is to say, that as a nation, not only are we still trying to resolve the issues at the heart of the Civil War, but we’ve never fully come to grips with what was done to Native Americans as the west was settled.

(As sources to help piece together this family history backgrounder, I have used  background and memoirs related to personal ancestors such as Harper, Shumway, Neeley, Messersmith, Bowman and White as well as personal memories.

I’ve also studied and gleaned perspective from The Shoshoni Frontier and the Bear River Massacre by Brigham D. Madsen and fascinating and highly-recommended new texts such as Empire of Shadows: The Epic Story of Yellowstone by George Black and Atlas of Yellowstone by Marcus, Meacham, Rodman and Steingisser.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Infographic - The Power of Brand Advocates

Power of Advocates

Click here for full infographic or here for COMBLU

Friday, November 23, 2012

Organic vs. Manufactured Energy and Enthusiasm

Thanksgiving weekend for me has always been about football but not just because of the always-fierce rivalry games between universities in my native Idaho and adjacent states of Montana, Washington and Utah, first broadcast via radio and then later television.

It was also usually the last weekend of the year when one could get in one last game of touch of flag football, both as I was growing up and then continuing as an adult up through my late 40s.

Three things struck me last weekend, when on a spectacular but crisp fall day, I was the guest of some friends at a rivalry game in Durham, North Carolina, where I now live, between North Carolina Central University and North Carolina A & T.

When you enter O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium on NCCU’s campus from the southeast gate, where we did, you suddenly find yourself right at field level, just steps from the end zone, as shown in the photo in this blog.

I realized that it was the first time I had been at turf level on a field such as that since high school, even though in my part-time role with the office of tours and conferences while attending Brigham Young University in the early 1970s I had coordinated the President’s box.

The second thing I noticed was the organic energy exuded by the fans and university officials.  Unlike what so many places try to manufacture, both college and professional, this energy was genuine, authentic and contagious.

Finally, the game itself reminded me of something I miss from when I first moved to Durham more than two decades ago and the then-single-A minor league Durham Bulls were still playing in the city’s historic Durham Athletic Park (DAP) which coincidentally is now restored as the the home field for NCCU’s baseball team.

Back then, both the team and the facility still resembled what had been made famous twelve months earlier in the movie Bull Durham.  Nothing was taken for granted.  Every throw to first was an adventure compared to today’s smooth-playing AAA team whose players are only a phone call away from playing in the “Bigs” as they play in the city’s acclaimed, made-to-look-retro ballpark.

The only predictable parts of the football game last weekend at NCCU were the appearances of the acclaimed marching bands for both schools.  The game featured what seemed like half a dozen blocked kicks and missed snaps and the back and forth wasn’t settled until overtime, unfortunately in A &T’s favor.

It was great entertainment and proof once again that genuine energy and enthusiasm trumps manufactured enthusiasm and that quality entertainment is rarely measured by stadium size or skyboxes or being “major league.”

Thursday, November 22, 2012

More Than Giving Thanks – The Key to Willpower

During my adult lifetime, the “holiday” I most looked forward to during this time of year was January 2nd when things finally got back to normal.

Yes, you wouldn’t know it by my behavior as a grandparent, but I was a holiday curmudgeon during my now-concluded, nearly forty-year career.  But if I had a favorite holiday, it was Thanksgiving.  Short, sweet, to the point and with modest expectations.

It is overly simplistic to tie attitudes about the holidays to an individual’s upbringing.  But it seems to me that many adults who take holiday preparations to extremes are trying to compensate for childhood memories, either disappointing or the lack thereof, while many who are turned off when it comes to holidays have wonderful memories to look back on.American Values Survey

According to the recent in-depth American Values Survey, by 73 to 1, our society believes that family has the greatest impact on our values, ten times greater than schools.

More than 80% feel that they have it much tougher today as parents than their parents did, 22% of American parents are focused on making kids happier today, while 76% are focused on helping their kids be successful in the future.

One important ingredient for any future success is willpower which many believe cannot be taught, or in my experience, established in adults once they become part of the workplace.

However, a new study by researchers at the University of Rochester finds that willpower is strongly linked to a child’s ability to find trust in and/or rely on parents and other adults to keep promises and commitments, a prescient irony belatedly gleaned by many of us from the haunting lyrics of the 1974 hit Cat’s in the Cradle, performed and written by the late Harry Chapin based on a poem written by his wife Sandy.

It turns out that keeping promises and other commitments to children is also linked to the ability to defer immediate gratification.  Maybe it also has something to do with the way Americans view “struggle” compared to Asian parents.

I also wonder if even as adults, being let down by those to whom we entrust the safeguarding of our society is at the root of why the percentage of American trusting in the rewards of hard work has fallen to 70% including 64% among Democrats and 66% among Independents.

Only 44% of Americans now believe that our country’s traditional value of “upward mobility/ability to pull oneself up by bootstraps” contributes to America having stronger values than other places in the world.

Only 36% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 today believe that the free enterprise system contributes to strong American values and only 20% of Americans overall believe that people are generally altruistic vs. motivated by self interest.

Only 47% of Americans attribute the weakening of American values to “apathy/lack of strong work ethic,” compared to 63% who attribute this to “political corruption” and 61% to the “influence of money in politics” which brings us back to trust in the system when the rewards for working hard are trumped by special interests.

Giving thanks is not only a holiday, as declared by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, during our nation’s deepest division and an ancient tradition, but a secret scientists have identified as a prophylactic to depression and the blues throughout the year.

Hug your kids, your grandkids and great grandkids on this holiday, but also remember that keeping promises and commitments and being reliable are pivotal to future success.

But this doesn’t should not be construed to mean “overprotection” – a mistake which is often made today by what has become known as “helicopter parents” who choose to hover over their offspring rather than instill values which will contribute to their success in the future.

The key to success is failure and researchers who have proven this to be true find it far more directly linked to success than intelligence.

I wish that everyone could be as fortunate as I was to find my life’s work as described by Bold Academy-founder Amber Rae on this Fast Company blog, both during my now concluded career and in retirement by recognizing that:

1. It doesn't feel like work.
2. You are aligned with your core values.
3. You are willing to suffer.
4. You experience frequent flow.
5. You make room for living.
6. Commitment is an honor.
7. The people who matter notice.
8. You fall asleep exhausted, fulfilled, and ready for tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Red States Lead In Fatal Crashes

As families travel the highways this Thanksgiving holiday, they should keep in mind another grim difference between red and blue states: the number of fatal traffic accidents.

As they do in measures such as “takers vs. makers” and numerous social ills such as obesity, here too, red states lead blue states according to an analysis by Stuart Silverstein for FairWarning Reports this week.

“The 10 states with the highest [traffic] fatality rates were all were red, while all but one of the 10 lowest-fatality states were blue.”

According to the report, the discrepancy isn’t due as much to resistance to federal safety mandates as it is to things such as better access to medical trauma centers.

Still, apparently stubbornness has its price.

Many Americans, such as I, who credit Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower with the nation’s Interstate Highway System, are surprised to learn that its leveraging financing scheme is based on one established much earlier for freeways in California under Republican then-Governor Earl Warren.

The unanimous ruling to desegregate schools under Warren as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court should have been no surprise.

As a Republican governor he had already desegregated the California National Guard and helped repeal school segregation statutes in that state that had historically been aimed at Asian-Americans.

Warren also created a state system of 300 childcare centers for working mothers and came within an eyelash of instituting the nation’s first comprehensive, prepaid system for healthcare.

All of this is to point out that Republicans can look to their heritage to find a way forward.

Hopefully, too, in states such as my adopted North Carolina where they now hold super-majorities, Republicans will govern in humility, knowing their status is due more to politically-moderate Independents than it is to blocs of votes from their own party.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Fingerprints of Change

The fingerprints of change are often evident decades before they are credited in narratives.

In the United States, concern for the environment is often traced to then-Republican President Richard Nixon’s announcement in 1970, the day after my 22nd birthday, when he laid out plans to establish the US Environmental Protection Agency, following the enactment six months earlier of landmark environmental policy legislation.

However, by then, concern for the environment at the federal level had been percolating for at least 80 years, beginning with the 1899 passage of the Harbors and Rivers Act under another Republican President William McKinley.

It was the states that pushed for central supervision of environmental matters and by 1913 the federal government began to study the health risks related to water pollution.

At the turn of the 19th century, Chicago, Illinois was seeking to stem forty years of typhoid outbreaks there, the disease that had claimed the son of Republican President and Illinois-favorite-son, Abraham Lincoln after sewage from army camps had polluted the Potomac River adjacent to the US Capitol.

Chicago rechanneled its sewage discharge away from Lake Michigan, where the city also drew drinking water, to the west and into the Mississippi River where it eventually found its way downstream and fouled drinking water for St. Louis, Missouri, creating one of the earliest environmental interstate conflicts.

According to sustainability historians such as Dr. Jouni Paavola, early in the 20th century, New York and New Jersey similarly clashed when NY objected to NJ sewage being rechanneled into upper New York Bay and NJ objected in return that garbage was washing up on NJ beaches after being dumped at sea by NY.Government and Water Infrastructure

In the 1920s, under another Republican President, Calvin Coolidge, federal agencies were first granted authority to protect migrating water fowl, regulate pesticides, study air pollution and control pollution from oil.

A week after my seventh birthday, in mid 1955, just a year after the US Supreme Court had desegregated schools and as officials were preparing the first nation-wide immunization of school children against polio, federal agencies under another Republican President, Dwight. D. Eisenhower, were first granted the responsibility to control and mitigate air pollution, 15 years before Nixon created the EPA.

Far from being a power grab, as it is stigmatized by many of today’s Republicans, the federal government centralized environmental protection only after attempts failed so miserably to incentivize control and standards at the local and state levels.

Today as many elected Republicans sabre-rattle in my adopted home state of North Carolina threatening to overturn environmental regulations including those that safeguard air and water quality, hopefully they are reminded that:


  • North Carolinians love their state and its beauty and sense of place.  The majority of voters in all three parties view what’s good for the environment as good for the economy.


  • As a North Carolina native and conservative Republican, who champions his party’s environmental legacy, wrote recently about environmental desecration: it “is as impious as it is imprudent. It is certainly not conservative.”


  • They remember the rule espoused by the late William F. Buckley, a famous conservative Republican, when he implied that anyone voting to foul the environment should first be required to similarly foul the area around their own home and family and neighborhood including the water they drink and the air they breathe.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Awakening to the Inclusive Cost-Benefit for Burying Utility Lines

As I laid awake in the 1920 bungalow where I lived at the time in Old North Durham, I could barely hear the radio over the sound of windows rattling and the loud ruffling of the soft-top on my Jeep Wrangler parked a few feet away on the street before a huge urban street tree.

As the clock struck midnight on September 5, 1996, the radio newscaster announced that Hurricane Fran, my first-ever, was not skirting the coastline, as most do, but headed 170 miles inland, straight up I 40 toward my adopted hometown of Durham, North Carolina just as some of my community-destination marketing colleagues at the time were rushing into the eye of the storm to get home from a sales mission.

The huge Category 3 storm roared directly over my little house and its adjacent forest at about 3 am that morning taking down a huge portion of Durham’s beloved tree canopy, knocking out power to much the community, flooding storm drains, sending water flowing over stream and river banks as well as bridges and leaving many roads impassable.

Day-break on September 6th brought a beautiful and eerily still and humid morning.  In this part of North Carolina, two decades of polling shows that nearly eight out of ten people characterize where they live by the name of a specific city, town or county.  For the next largest group, it is a specific neighborhood, with only a tiny fraction citing an amorphous region.

That morning, my world was distilled down to only next door neighbors and my block on Shawnee Street.  Maneuvering the Jeep around downed trees and other obstacles, I slowly migrated with others to a friend’s house in the adjacent Trinity Park neighborhood of Durham.

Friends gathered throughout the day and into the night as my friend, then a restaurateur, used his outdoor grill to cook virtually everything from his and his neighbors’ freezers and coolers before the food could spoil without electricity.

Everyone was grateful to drink warm beer or wine and many there that day learned to drink whiskey and vodka “neat.”

Twenty-six people lost their lives to “Fran,” as have more than 1,000 North Carolinians to hurricanes dating to before 1700.  The deadliest, Hurricane Floyd, would come three years after Fran and was recorded with indelible images taken from helicopters of thousands of pigs as they floated above roofs on flooded down-east farmsteads, leaving a memory that my mother, in the Pacific Northwest, still associates with North Carolina.

As Floyd churned north it also flooded the first floor basement and recreation room of the apartment where some friends of mine lived in Basking Ridge, New Jersey at the time, forty miles east of New York City.  The heavy rains that accompanied that huge, slow moving storm overwhelmed storm run off systems and the flooding destroyed everything they had accumulated including invaluable photographs and family heirlooms.

I had only lived six years in Durham, or anywhere east of the Rockies for that matter, when Fran hit.  I was into my 24th year here when Hurricane Sandy, a Category 1, veered overland in the northeastern United States on October 29th this year, passing again directly over Basking Ridge at approximately the same time in the wee hours of the morning that Fran did over my little house in Durham 16 years ago.

We haven’t learned many lessons since Fran.

FEMA has learned and the Corp of Engineers has learned as have emergency officials in some states, but utility companies are still in denial, insisting it is too expensive to bury power lines even in view of the renewed devastation in Basking Ridge.

That’s only because utility companies haven’t factored into the market the vastly greater costs that come with storms and outages in general when power lines have not been moved underground.University of Florida Simulation Model To Evaluate Burying Utility Lines

Florida utility regulators have persuaded utility companies there to cooperatively track storm-related costs.

If they haven’t already, I can see New York and New Jersey doing the same.  In fact, maybe a silver lining in New York City’s devastation is that Wall Street and Madison Avenue will join forces to finally persuade utility companies to begin burying all utility lines.  While they are at it, they should also take on climate-change deniers.

Even for “ready-aim-fire” types such as myself, change doesn’t begin with “analyze-think”, it begins with “see-feel” to use terms coined by authors John P. Kotter, a Harvard business professor and Dan S. Cohen in their book The Heart of Change.

In my experience over 40 years as a community-destination marketing executive where I took on a multitude of challenges including Durham’s image turnaround, before my retirement several years ago,  I found that analysis, rationale and measurement are important to executing change, but the passion, determination and grit crucial to initiating change always begins with seeing and feeling.

The costs that come from the refusal of utility companies to bury power lines is not the only “negative externality” or transaction spillover that economists and market analysts should insist be computed into costs rather than pushing them off on society.  They also rob communities of the economic benefits of street tree canopies.

Rather than bury the power lines, they have crews mutilate the trees during maintenance and then bully city and county administrators into replacing them with much less beneficial species.  Florida regulators are asking utility companies to track and include a variety of broader costs and benefits into future decisions about burying power lines such as:

  • Storm-related costs
  • Lost utility revenues during outages
  • Costs incurred by customers for losses during outages
  • Costs to customers related to lost opportunities
  • Damage to green infrastructure and loss of ecosystem benefits to communities

More states such as North Carolina need to emulate the cooperation demonstrated between Florida’s electrical utility teams and academics and policymakers including Ted Kury, an economist and director of energy studies at the University of Florida’s Public Utility Research Center, which has developed a simulation tool to help utility companies assess and make much more enlightened decisions about undergrounding power lines.

Maybe, just maybe, the experience of those still recovering from Hurricane Sandy can finally begin to shift this paradigm.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Infographic - Sprint Cup VS. Formula One By The Numbers

Source: Column Five

Friday, November 16, 2012

New Analysis of Brand Engagement

For each of the last four years, ComBlu, a Chicago-based company has analyzed the effectiveness of a wide range of businesses, across many industries including a few that are really parts of sectors.

The objective of all of this work is to benchmark effectiveness of engaging customers before, during and after purchases through a mix of branded online presence and communities such as various form of social media.  It is also designed to raise the level of professionalism.

ComBlu “broadly identifies community as an engagement ecosystem” that includes “offline conversations, social networks, review sites, gated brand communities and content hubs.”  The newly released report analyzes and rates 92 major businesses across 15 economic sectors and their engagement across 219 online communities.

Community-destination marketing organizations (DMOs,) where I spent a nearly 40-year career spanning three different cities, are “content hubs” at their core.

These DMOs are advocacy organizations which also aggregate, curate (a term used by the authors) and make searchable the natural, built and cultural place-based assets of their respective destination communities including visitor-related (many of whom will evolve into newcomers who almost always visit first) businesses, organizations, events, activities and features in a potential destination.

ComBlu believes that consumers seek information in as many as 10 different places before making a buying decision, and other studies show that “official” hubs such as community-destination marketing organizations, when not member-driven, are considered among the most reliable used.

Community DMOs are well advised by a statement in the report citing that:

“a social-only strategy is an incomplete line of attack, as is a “branded community-only” approach. The two are symbiotic and contribute to overall engagement. It is important for brands to understand what to do where and optimize the natural leverage between the owned and social infrastructure.”

A few communities such as Durham, NC, where I live, understand that safeguarding a destination community’s identity and reputation has always been a core element of community-destination marketing.

Even before the advent of the Internet, these community brand managers heeded the report’s admonition that organizations “need to both own the place where conversation happens AND be present in places outside their gated properties where people are talking.” To this I will add the fact that they also need to know when to intervene or to enlist the aid of the 6%-8% of internal and external audiences who, according to the study, are potentially proactive advocates.

The 1,100 community-destination marketing organizations in North America are not represented in the report’s analysis, but several industries which are part of the tourism sector are, including eight entertainment businesses, five beverage businesses, nine retailers, seven consumer product businesses, three hotel chains and three airlines, nearly 40% of all those evaluated.

At one point in the report, the analysis accurately implies that because people travel only because of the places they visit, the entities that get them to the destinations or provide a place to stay or something to do are “missing a huge opportunity to crowdsource” information about the overall destinations in which they are specifically located or to which they serve rather than just about their specific businesses.

The authors of the report astutely theorize that the percentage of businesses with cohesive strategies may have dropped this year (to 37% overall and 17% among hotels and airlines) because companies are experimenting and innovating.

I have always valued the report because it identifies and monitors not only 33 “best practices” and their rate of adoption both overall and among rock-star businesses, but it also points out five “worst practices” that are still lingering in the strategies of far too many businesses and organizations:

  • Worst Practice #1: Moderating comments, stories and photos before posting.


  • Worst Practice #2: Asking for information at registration and promising…pertinent content and never delivering…


  • Worst Practice #3: …leaving up hopelessly outdated content…[on the web]


  • Worst Practice #4: Having a banner calling out “what’s new” and never having anything new listed.


  • Worst Practice #5: Asking community members to submit their success stories but not disclosing the criteria for selection or qualification…

Click here to download the full report released this month including the “best practices.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

An Even Bigger Drag On Productivity

For me a career in community-destination marketing, a visitor-centric form of economic development, required the perfect blend of traits and interests such as altruism, historical context, passion, strategic thinking, innovation, growth orientation and community.

A day doesn’t go by during my retirement, however, that I’m not embarrassed by the apparent selfishness, insensitivity, self-centeredness and stinginess of some of the businesses who are among the primary beneficiaries of my former profession.

A recent example is the news coverage of some comments a week ago attributed to the CEO of Papa John’s, a publically traded business he founded in 1985.

A complete reading of the article shows that he is threatening to cut employee hours as a dodge around healthcare reform out of one side of his mouth, he’s whining at the same time about the increased costs he estimates that the healthcare overhaul will add.

Then, out of the other side of his mouth, he undermines that argument by saying that everyone will be required to have health insurance and businesses such as his will merely pass the costs along to society with the hidden costs of healthcare the reform is designed to curb.

The same was true in the mid-1920s when vehicle liability insurance was first made compulsory (something that also began in Massachusetts) and was initially opposed by many conservatives including business owners and leaders for many of the same reasons they oppose healthcare reform today.

A pizza delivery business such as Papa John’s is filled with the kinds of “hidden” costs that businesses themselves create and pass on to customers.  In Papa John’s case this include a nearly$3 dollar fee which is now added after an purchase is made and tacked on to the bill as if it were, but it is, in fact, used in part to cover commercial liability insurance for drivers using their own cars.

Fortunately, more and more businesses in various sub-segments of the tourism sector are stepping forward to pay a living wage, and to provide benefits such as health insurance and even acknowledging, as a Marriott official did recently, that paying even targeted taxes, when  levied in a timely fashion and used in part to help businesses thrive, do not hurt business.

A drag on society and the economy that is at least as debilitating as healthcare costs is the cost of childcare.  As illustrated in the excellent infographic created by Column Five Media and shown in this blog, in many states such as North Carolina, where I live, the annual cost of childcare is more than the average annual tuition at a public university.

Nothing hurts both business productivity and upward mobility than the cost of childcare.  It is also an issue at the core of any hope of improving student achievement and better preparing future generations for a global economy.

Making childcare universally available, accessible and affordable is an investment America can no longer overlook.  It is also one business owners and leaders can champion and shape as a direct impact on productivity and the bottom line.

This is an area where I hope that tourism sector businesses, which overwhelmingly require shift-work, can finally step forward and show leadership as so many have in the areas of brand simplicity, customer loyalty and innovation!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Strategic Overhaul for North Carolina Marketing

In 1995 I was honored when I was nominated by my state for an appointment as a Presidential delegate to the White House Conference on Travel and Tourism, but it is clear today, some 17 years later, that many other attendees did not take notes.

One of the clear outcomes of that ground-breaking conference was an understanding that tourism isn’t an industry, never has been, never will be. It is, instead, a sector of 6 or 7 different industries.  When I got back to Durham and the community-destination marketing organization where I was an executive until several years ago, we flipped that switch immediately.

Seventeen years later, you can use someone’s reference to tourism as a sector vs. an industry to quickly determine how strategic they are.  Of course, being thought of as a strategic thinker is something almost everyone seeks but lamentably few qualify as such despite the best efforts to teach it in leading-edge programs today such as Appalachian State University’s Hospitality and Tourism Degree Program.

It is more a mindset than a matter of smarts and the difference is more than semantic.  Anyone who has flipped the switch from viewing tourism as an industry to a sector of industries is more likely able to take the long view of leadership which in the words of Dr. Roger B. Porter, a Harvard professor and classmate two years ahead of me at BYU means they:

“…are more concerned with investing in the future than in immediate gratification, and they value dynamism, change, and innovation over security and stability.”

North Carolina Governor-elect Pat McCrory has an opportunity to overhaul state government the way Governor Bill Umstead did in the early 1950s and nowhere more so than in travel and tourism and the way the state is marketed overall.

Like Umstead, a Durham native, who embedded the development of Research Triangle Park in his overhaul, which after his untimely death happened to be carved into Durham pinelands and the launch of what would become North Carolina’s transition into a powerhouse for research and development, especially in healthcare, McCrory has the opportunity to set the tone for North Carolina’s marketing for the next 50 years.

In the late 1950s, North Carolina’s approach to both development and  environmental conservation were fused into one department.  Similar to how these two forces have become under separate agencies, today the state’s marketing has become much too fragmented with many divisions and departments trying their hand at marketing with little or no strategic coordination with the state’s destination marketing agency.

A more strategic, forward approach to marketing the state won’t be a replica of what McCrory saw in Charlotte when he was Mayor.  They have done some novel things there but it is still essentially old-school, facility-driven community-destination marketing, the way it was practiced in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

At its core, destination marketing, regardless of whether it is for a community or a state, is about promoting a the destination as a whole.  As a destination, the State of North Carolina has had some remarkable leadership over the years, but those leaders’ hands have been tied by a mix of old-schoolers in the tourism sector and fragmentation within state government.

A first order of any strategic realignment in this state must recognize and adapt to the reality that over the past thirty years it has been the marketing agencies of North Carolina’s cities and counties, working in collaboration, that have collectively driven nearly 80% of the state’s tourism growth.

McCrory is in a position to generate synergistic realignment of the paradigm in North Carolina state government, just the way Governor Umstead did with the state’s approach to economic development 60 years ago.  Fortunate for North Carolina and especially Durham, a McKinsey Global Institute Report last year entitled An economy that works: Job creation and America’s Future, two of the three most potent sectors for job growth will be healthcare and tourism.

According to the report, the tourism sector alone, reported to be the nation’s fifth largest employment sector, is projected to generate one in seven jobs over the next decade, adding to sub-segments such as the 1.9 million in arts, entertainment and recreation and more than 11 million combined in sub-segments of foodservice and accommodations.

Ironically, soon-to-be Governor McCrory will need to look no further than the state constitution for an overarching strategy to guide any strategic overhaul of North Carolina’s marketing.  By a vote of more than 7 to 1, in 1972 North Carolinians embedded an oft-ignored constitutional amendment that reads in part:

“It shall be the policy of this State to conserve and protect its lands and waters for the benefit of all its citizenry, and to this end it shall be a proper function of the State of North Carolina and its political subdivisions to acquire and preserve park, recreational, and scenic areas, to control and limit the pollution of our air and water, to control excessive noise, and in every other appropriate way to preserve as a part of the common heritage of this State its forests, wetlands, estuaries, beaches, historical sites, openlands, and places of beauty.”

Unfortunately, the following year responsibilities for economic development and environmental resource protection were segregated, leading to desecrations such as the recent legislative give-away of roadside beauty to out-of-state billboard companies, something McCrory lamented during the campaign.

North Carolinians have a very deep love for their state and its incredible and unique sense-of-place.  They deserve an overarching strategic direction for the state that puts the protection of its sense-of-place at the top of any list of development priorities, just as the state constitution requires.

Election rhetoric aside, no one has a proven track record of doing this more than Governor-elect McCrory!

Monday, November 12, 2012

“Rewarding Pragmatism, Compassion, Working Together, Compromise and Sincerity”

As even casual observers of this blog know, I truly am a moderate Independent when it comes to political ideology.  I voted both for Republican Pat McCrory for Governor of North Carolina, where I have lived for nearly 25 years, and to re-elect President Barack Obama.

To me, they are both moderate realists, a group that could be credited with making a significant difference in their election victories.

I frequently read commentary on both the right and the left to keep informed, but I personally identify with one published last week by Rob Ellsworth, a moderate and former Republican.

We share links with my native state of Idaho and adopted home of North Carolina as well as a love of English bulldogs and I too have been disturbed by hyperbole on both the left and right following the outcome of the Presidential election but more so with that coming from the right.

Exasperated with his former colleagues Ellsworth lamented that:

Your inability to reason, compromise, or let new facts and evidence challenge your predetermined outcomes led millions of moderates to no longer be able to stand on stage with you.”

But he also cautioned that “there isn’t a mandate for Democrats in this election. Liberalism wasn’t rewarded in this election. However, calm pragmatism, compassion, working together, compromise and sincerity were rewarded.”

Nor was there a mandate for Republicans in 2000 when they lost the popular vote and only won the White House via the electoral vote aided by a determination from the US Supreme Court that split along party lines.  Liberals then may have only been slightly less disrespectful than conservatives are today who are now as they fly the American flag upside down to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with last week’s election.

I have no doubt that Mitt Romney, who was a college classmate of mine, would have made an excellent President. Both he and President Obama are moderate realists.

In the end, I was ultimately swayed not by any particular difference between these two gentlemen but by the fact that I just felt less comfortable with extremely partisan forces surrounding Romney.  I doubt that even the seemingly more resolute Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush could have survived the drag created by these “wackanoodles,” to use the term used by a Republican operative attributed to their ilk.Middle Class - Pew Center

I grew up a Republican when a moderate Republican, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was President, but in the 1960s I supported both a Democrat, John F. Kennedy, and a Republican, Barry Goldwater, both of whom were more moderate than either is often portrayed.

In the 1972, the first election in which I was eligible to vote,  I supported the late Democrat George McGovern because I thought he was more sensible and moderate, especially about the war in Viet Nam.

There is some substance to the perception that I became Independent because, in my 40-year career in community-destination marketing, it was a wise career choice and a way to avoid the ebb and flow of local partisanship, even in communities where elected office is supposed to be non-partisan.

Once or twice over the years, in places where registered Independents were not eligible to vote in primary elections, I’ve even briefly changed my affiliation so that I could vote.  I’ve probably supported as many Republicans as Democrats, with moderates always being the common denominator.

I truly wish the value political parties bring to the electoral process could be supplanted by a “No Labels” approach to which I subscribe, but that paradigm-shift will take decades if ever it occurs.

Voting itself, which was one of the first moves by government to be participative (the creation of trial juries by England’s King Henry II being the first) is too slow and infrequent.  Social networking initiatives such as crowdsourcing is being used by the US Patent office and may provide a window into what to expect in the future.

Moderates dating from George Washington, our first President, have cautioned about the dangers of hyper-partisanship.  I am persuaded by pieces such as one posted by Dr. Robert Reich a day before last week’s election and entitled “We the People, and the New American Civil War.”

While America is known as “the land of opportunity,” the emergence of the middle class is a relatively recent phenomena as shown in this Pew Research Center graph published last summer in The Atlantic.

The middle class emerged in the 1950s and 1960s during a time of moderation and bipartisan cooperation.  During the 1970s, it sputtered for a decade, fueled by the inflation created by the war in Viet Nam and two oil crises.

During the 1980s and 1990s, tax cuts and technology fueled the markets and the growth of the investment class but not the recovery of the middle class.

I agree with Reich who summarizes his election eve assessment by writing that:

“So we come to the end of a bitter election feeling as if we’re two nations rather than one. The challenge – not only for our president and representatives in Washington but for all of us – is to rediscover the public good.”

However, I am even more persuaded by a post-election assessment by conservative columnist David Brooks.  After a wonderful job of giving historical context to the obsessive suspicions many Americans have over the size of government, Brooks makes an observation about the values of some Americans who made a significant difference in last week’s election:

“The Pew Research Center does excellent research on Asian-American and Hispanic values. Two findings jump out. First, people in these groups have an awesome commitment to work. By most measures, members of these groups value industriousness more than whites.

Second, they are also tremendously appreciative of government. In survey after survey, they embrace the idea that some government programs can incite hard work, not undermine it; enhance opportunity, not crush it.

Moreover, when they look at the things that undermine the work ethic and threaten their chances to succeed, it’s often not government. It’s a modern economy in which you can work more productively, but your wages still don’t rise. It’s a bloated financial sector that just sent the world into turmoil. It’s a university system that is indispensable but unaffordable. It’s chaotic neighborhoods that can’t be cured by withdrawing government programs.”

Numerous sensible and moderate solutions (many by Governor Romney such as capping tax deductions) have been proposed to each of the problems and challenges our country faces if as Americans we can rise above the only obstacle, partisanship.

Maybe we should also listen very carefully to some of our newer Americans who made the difference in this election.