Wednesday, December 13, 2006

State of Durham's Economy

Durham is so extraordinary, and it is such an honor to be part of this community. Sitting through the 9th Annual State of Durham’s Economy Breakfast (which DCVB co-founded and co-sponsors) was humbling. There is so much greatness in one place.

For instance, Ryan Wuerch, founder of Motricity, gave some remarks about why they chose Durham as home. This is the company that provides ringtones etc. all over the world, and it's based right here. They are the wireless industry's leading provider of content, and it's all done just blocks from where I write this blog.

Each year as we go through hundreds of economic development and quality of life benchmarks, it’s clear that Durham is indeed where great things happen. It's also clear that great things alone won’t make a pesky image problem go away.

No, it's not in our head, and it's not just a complex. Studies have proven that Durham is assaulted by highly negative word of mouth from residents in nearby communities, often fed by the fact that Durham is the only major city in the state covered by two major dailies, Durham’s and one from Raleigh.

Late last week I had a conversation with John Wagner, plant manager for Merck’s vaccine plant. He volunteered that I was right on--in comments during a discussion--that it was vital that Durham be vigilant and inoculate newcomers as early as possible to this negative word of mouth. He said that, by the time they were orienting executives about Durham, several construction people had been down earlier and had already become contaminated by exaggerations and war stories that would make your skin crawl.

Many people don’t have the stomach to stand up and confront inaccurate information about Durham. We get paid to do it, but it's not the most fun part of the job. But as branding experts say… you either defend a brand or your competition and enemies will define your brand.

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