Thursday, March 20, 2008

Credit to the Professionals

The formula isn’t unique to Durham. A crisis evolves. The news media amplify it.

In the case of the drought, it is incredible how many hyper-critical "water management experts" surfaced, wringing hands, launching zingers, second-guessing professionals.

Normal these days, I guess, but a huge waste of energy and very disruptive and confusing.

It is a free country with free speech, so anyone can be an expert at anything, and with the Internet, there are a lot of instant, self-proclaimed experts. But don’t you think there should be a responsibility to openly admit error? An apology is due now to retired director Terry Roland and the professionals who manage Durham’s water supply.

Months ago, when it was popular to fret that “the sky is falling,” Terry calmly predicted Durham’s reservoirs would refill by April. He was right on target.

The drought may or may not be over. While entertainment for some, I can’t help but wonder if there is a significant cost to our lack of restraint... as well as the toll it takes on professionals.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Testament to Resilience of Durham's Brand

A true testament to the resilience of Durham’s innate brand is its ability to persevere through confusing and inaccurate attributions.

For the Nth time this week, we had to alert the newspaper in nearby Raleigh that Burt’s Bees is in Durham, not Morrisville, a little town between Durham and Raleigh. The reporter made the mistake of assuming postal service delivery designations conform with physical location; they don’t, but don’t get me on how “nuts” that is.

The NYC-based PR official for the company also made that mistaken assumption. It is tough enough to embed, protect and promote a community’s brand without it being convoluted by a Federal agency.

Speaking of Federal officials, also this week an Image Watcher related an eNews from North Carolina Congressman Robin Hayes noting the N.C. School of Science and Math in Raleigh. Actually, since its founding, NCSSM has been right here in Durham, N.C.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Place Fit

Last month in US News & World Report, Dr. Richard Florida summarized some research in his new book Who’s Your City by saying, “If you find a place that fits you, it gives you more energy.”

Durham is all about “fit,” and in DCVB’s role to tell the Durham story, that is key. Marketing is merely a way of helping people make decisions, decisions on where to live and visit in this case. It isn’t about out-shouting another place or trying to be all things to all people. It is about distilling the essence of a place in such a way that it helps people make the right decision for them. So I guess you could say marketing is equally responsible for dissuading as alluring.

The great thing about marketing Durham is that it is different and unique. Some would say odd and quirky. But that’s all about “fit.”

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Is Place Still Relevant?

I’ll admit to being biased because promoting a community’s identity is my job and has been for 35 years. But I regularly receive sermons that communities aren’t relevant anymore.

I don’t worry about the folks doing the preaching; they also have an agenda, and Durham’s identity for some reason is threatening. I worry more about the folks who parrot the comment.

But I have some powerful allies… the futurist John Naisbitt for one, who argued 20 years ago in Global Paradox that the more things become global, the more they will be local. Now Dr. Richard Florida argues in his new book Who’s Your City that “Globalization is not flattening the world; in fact, place is increasingly relevant to the global economy and our individual lives.” He goes so far as to argue that the place in which you choose to live is as important as who you marry.

It doesn’t matter if the outskirts of one community touch another. Or if they share an overlapping laborshed. Communities have unique cultural identities, and in some like Durham, residents are defiantly protective of that identity, regardless of who’s preaching that community is no longer relevant.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Coalition to Unchain Dogs

Groups like the Coalition to Unchain Dogs are what make Durham great. They canvas neighborhoods to identify where dogs are being chained and then work with owners on alternative solutions, including in some cases, building a fence. You can get a view on YouTube.

As “creative class” guru Dr. Richard Florida recently commented in an interview with Trendburo, “Rather than spending money on large projects such as an opera house or soccer stadium, to create a physical identity, communities should concentrate on the local initiatives already taking place that embody the community’s identity, tolerance, diversity and creativity.”

I think he had initiatives like CTUD in mind.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

More than $1.5 Billion

There is more than $1.5 billion in revitalization going on in Downtown Durham, and that includes many businesses and facilities that are visitor related.

This amount would be significant for any community, but it is astounding for a community the size of Durham and especially in light of the geographic size of Downtown.

Even more astounding is that most of it is generated by local developers and organizations. Greenfire, Scientific Properties, Hank Scherich are all locally owned and grown.

I can see the day nearing when Durham will have 800 lodging guest rooms Downtown and more than 100 restaurants, nearly double the number now.

Obviously, Durham’s emergence as a visitor destination has played a role, either generating demand to help justify the increase in supply or creating compression elsewhere in the community.

The big job, though, is marketing to draw more visitors to help play a role in making all of this development viable. We’re up to it.