Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Treshawn Council Commits to ECU

One of the things I miss in retirement is the people with whom I worked.  Minerva Council worked closely with me as an assistant for nearly half the 20 years I worked at DCVB.  There is a lot I could say about Minerva, determined, eager to learn, dedicated, hard working, innovative but another thing is she is a great Mom.4018646-1245696155-220x165

She and Chris have raised two talented young people and Treshawn, their oldest just verbally committed this morning to Eastern Carolina University in Greenville, NC.  He’s shown below in his position as linebacker at Hillside High School tackling a player for rival Southern High.

Congratulations Treshawn!  I know you’ll finish strong at Hillside and ECU is a terrific school with a very successful program while you earn your college degree.

Kudo’s to Zeitgeist

Online Colleges acknowledged Bill Geist’s Zeitgeist blog as one one of 80 Essential Blogs for the Modern Day Marketing StudentWell deserved my friend.


Tourism Is A Purer Form Of Economic Development But…

Tourism is not only economic development, it is as purer a form of economic development as exists.  Economic development is often defined as activities that add value to the local economy or economic base.

It should be widely known by now that tourism is purer because more of the activities involved  bring new money into the community from outside the local economy and tourism is centered around taxable spending not just the value of land purchases and capital construction so often cited as economic development.  Tourism also consumes culinary arts, retail sales, entertainment, nature experiences, heritage, arts, lodging and local transportation and makes those services more viable for local residents to use day in and day out, before and after the visitor has returned home.   Hosting visitors also requires much less and also lighter infrastructure. It can also help sustain a communities unique sense of place and of course the activities also generate local tax revenues for basic services that would have to be fully supported by resident taxpayers if the visitors had not left their taxable spending.Money

Traditional or supply-side economic development, also known as industrial or business recruitment can also generate economic activity but generally requires much more infrastructure and puts pressure on land use etc. and the impact often isn’t as pure as tourism.

But there are several things that lessen the impact of economic development for either demand-side tourism or supply-side industrial or corporate recruitment.

  • When the owners live outside the community, a significant part of the activity leaves before it can have an impact.
  • When supplies and services are purchased outside the community, a significant part of the economic activity is lost.
  • When commuters are hired to work in the businesses involved, all but their work-side spending leaves the local economy (in Durham work-side commuter spending is about $115 per week.)
  • When commercial or adaptive reuse developments siphon tenants from another part of the same community the economic impact is largely neutralized.

Far too many involved in economic development, either through ignorance or negligence, report the gross impact without revealing the real “net” impact from the examples above.  Either way, there is no longer any excuse and both local officials and news media need to hold them accountable.

Beware of any reports that don’t reveal or net out the leakage.  And beware of economic development professionals who neglect to focus on “optimizing” economic development by ensuring as much as possible the hiring of local residents, local purchase of supplies and services and locally ownership of businesses.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Questions Communities Should Ask About Festivals

Not all festivals are of interest to visitors.  But it sure makes sense for communities to focus on festivals that can be a local draw but also be supported in part by visitor centric economic and cultural development.  To work for both residents and visitors, festivals need three main attributes, 1) uniqueness, 2) distinctness and 3) visitor readiness.fullframe_new

The upcoming Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, April 8-11 has always had all three attributes and is a great example.

  • Unique because it was founded in Durham and documentary film festivals are not ubiquitous.
  • Distinct because it has roots in Durham which is also home to the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
  • Visitor-ready because from the beginning organizers worked with DCVB to address the needs of visitors and to appeal them.

Full Frame made it look easy but it isn’t.   A few years ago, there was a movement by a couple of well-meaning individuals to rally funding to pay an out of state company to bring a Jazz festival to Durham.  Although the festival ostensibly “made money” the proposal was for the City to come up with $200,000.

There was nothing wrong with the idea; in fact it was intriguing.

But the enthusiasts behind the effort had neglected to do any due diligence.  They had not looked at several important aspects e.g.

  1. Durham already had some jazz festivals, one at NCCU and another had just shut down for lack of support.  If the City had $200,000 (and it didn’t) wouldn’t it be better to make one of the existing events with roots here more viable?
  2. Durham had a full slate of festivals throughout the year and if a new one was going to be introduced it needed a time slot that wouldn’t compete for underwriting from sponsors, nor for audience.
  3. Durham festivals are already struggling for sponsors, not because they aren’t worthy but because Durham based entities also try to take care of festivals in cities and towns where commuting employees live.
  4. Durham does not yet comply with State House Finance Committee guidelines and the funds eligible for grants (up to one third) do not currently go to DCVB.
  5. And replicating another festival will mean it is very difficult to give it a unique personality.

There were many other aspects that I won’t go into here.  But you get the drift.  Enthusiasts of all backgrounds including businesses often start with the wrong question. They start with “you know what we need, a such and such festival and who can we get to pay for it?”  Instead they should start with questions like:

  • Do we need more festivals?  Are there calendar openings in the community-wide calendar available from the visitors bureau?
  • Is their enough sponsorship and underwriting available or will the event bring in new sponsorship from outside the area?
  • Will a new one be predatory, create churn or otherwise suck the oxygen away from an existing event?
  • If the community indeed needs a new event, will the one proposed be distinct and leverage place based cultural, natural or heritage assets or will it make Durham just one of many places with the proposed event?
  • What does visitor related research show the community needs?

If evolved with these things in mind, Festivals can be an integral part of a community’s unique sense of place.

Monday, March 29, 2010

1 in 4 American Children Don’t Have Enough to Eat

You don’t have to go far to find third world problems, right here in the USA. Free-lance writer Annemarie Mannion gives an excellent overview of hunger among children in this country in the current issue of The Rotarian monthly magazine. HUNGER

She reviews statistics documenting that 1 in every 4 children in this country (nearly 50 million) currently suffer from food insecurity as surveyed by the USDA. And 1/3rd of those or nearly 7 million have “very low” food security.

Very low food security is characterized by size of or skipping meals, being worried that food will run out, not eating when hungry and going entire days without eating etc

I can imagine people, many of whom were probably tail-gating in Searchlight NV this weekend, who will blow that off but it doesn’t matter who is at fault, we’re all paying the price.

Hungry kids aren’t always skinny. Some are obese because hungry kids often hoard, gorge or hide food. They have higher rates of emergency room visits (yes, we already pay for that) and higher rates of hospitalization and other negative health outcomes.

And the list goes on…just because you personally may have plenty to eat or think your kids or grandchildren are not at risk to be among the 49% of all children in households that will use food stamps by the time they are 20…doesn’t mean this problem won’t impact you…we pay now to fix it or we pay later in ways too numerous to list here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

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Author Unknown Revealed

For those who read yesterday’s post using the quote below, I now know and could have guessed the author is friend Maura Gast, crediting that “It came out of many late night reading and review sessions of drafts of the DMAI Future Study, influenced in my brain by lots of Richard Florida reading.”

Maura is past chairman of the board of Destination Marketing Association International and one of the best minds in community marketing.image

If you build a place people want to visit, you build a place where people want to live.

If you build a place where people want to live, you’ll build a place where people want to work.

If you build a place where people want to work, you’ll build a place where business needs to be.

And if you build a place where business has to be, you’ll build a place where people have to visit.   

- Maura Gast

Southeast Tourism Society

One benefit to community destination marketing is a number of excellent groups that offer continuing educating. One I wish I had been more involved with is the Southeast Tourism Society which held its Spring session in Nashville this week and meets in Greenville in the Fall.

STS is headed by Bill Hardman, based in Atlanta and founded nearly 30 years ago.logo_basic With 900 members, it remains unpretentious, hardworking and fun lovingly dedicated to raising the level of professionalism among tourism professionals.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Running From Idaho

I termed it “Running from Idaho” (my birthplace) during conversations with friends 40 years ago.  But thanks to country-rock music I never got far.

The chronology all came back to mind as a detour took me through Tennessee countryside on my way to Nashville recently for a speaking engagement at a conference.

The rock group, The Byrds always had enough country as did the Rolling Stones and the Animals and Neil Young and even the Beatles that even before I reached 20, I was being tugged back to my roots. gram-parsons

But Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay, bookended by Gram Parsons (shown on the motorcycle) both as part of The Byrds and then on his own with Emmylou Harris set the hook as the 60’s came to an end, then Kris Kristofferson, followed by The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and Willie, Waylon and the boys reeled me back in the early ‘70’s.

I could in particular identify with Kristofferson who had been a Rhodes Scholar, US Army Ranger and Helicopter Pilot before becoming one of the most significant country music songwriters.

People who know me know how eclectic my tastes in music can be but it is country-rock that resonates most deeply.

That all came back as I recalled my first and last trip to Nashville, back in 1976, again for a conference.  I was so disappointed to find Ryman auditorium deserted (shown below) and Tootsie’s and Printer’s Alley fading fast.TN_ryman

Lured by developers, the owners of Grand Ole Opry had run from their own roots to a huge, if not generic 4,400 seat theater 10 miles out of town adjacent to a “theme park (since replaced by a shopping mall.” Everyone was ga ga.

But it took no time at all to grasp that Grand Ole Opry’s owners has deserted Nashville’s unique sense of place.  It was too late by the time they clued in that those “long-hairs” were much closer to country music’s roots than their then-mainstream audience, which by the way were similar to folks from whom I was “running from Idaho.”

Some of it has come back.  Tootsie’s and the later famous Blue Bird Cafe are thriving if not a bit over-commercial and touristy.  Ryman is a very active concert venue now and even Grand Ole Opry comes back to its roots for a winter run there.

Nashville is doing its very best to build on its place based assets.  Communities could learn a great deal by looking at the details. But I still wonder how much more authentic it would all be had Grand Ole Opry stayed put.

Durham is fortunate to have some developers with a great appreciation for sense of place…but we’re not immune from making the very same mistakes Nashville did.

HC Insurance Reform Balances the Playing Field

As an Independent, I think healthcare insurance reform was an important first step to healthcare reform for several reasons and significantly for business, it levels the playing field.

I realize that some small businesses before reading it or even the summaries will term it as coercion.  With the junk on many talk radio programs who can blame them.

But you see many small businesses try to carry or provide health insurance and some even try to pay a living wage because they know it is good business and it is right.  But many won’t do it until they must and we’ve been paying the price.  When the reforms kick in, even though they get significant incentives, the fact that all businesses will be in the same position will level the playing field in numerous ways.metsvsyankees04003gi2

I see the way we have dealt with health insurance as very similar to the way this country first tried to pay for hard infrastructure, with voluntary assessments.  But roads, sewer, water only make sense when everyone shoulders a fair share.

With healthcare, many of us have been carrying those who won’t or couldn’t insure.  Now we have the beginning of a means that will be much more equitable and it cuts the deficit.

I realized a few will argue that the old way was just fine.  But they were paying huge hidden costs regardless of what they thought.  Now the burden will be much more fairly distributed.

And you know what….healthy consumers are good consumers and good consumers are good for business.

And before we label this with partisan terms.  All the Democrats did is come around to some reforms proposed in part by three or more Republican presidents.

Demonizing Taxes

I’ve spent the better part of four decades forging partnerships between small businesses and local and state government officials.

It is easy to understand why small businesses may have a bit of chip on the shoulder and I admire what they do for this country. But in my opinion one of the worst things that has happened to our country in recent times is the wholesale, kneejerk demonization of taxes and government.taxes

The free market is great but it would still be in the dark ages without infrastructure and great communities and neighborhoods. Cutting the oxygen that provides those things is ludicrous and suicidal.

Kelly Miller, a friend and colleague from Alaska days who heads the destination marketing organization in Asheville NC gave me the following quote that illustrates why business and government are so interdependent:

If you build a place people want to visit, you build a place where people want to live.

If you build a place where people want to live, you’ll build a place where people want to work.

If you build a place where people want to work, you’ll build a place where business needs to be.

And if you build a place where business has to be, you’ll build a place where people have to visit.

-- Maura Gast

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mountain Top Mining vs. Tourism

On a recent round trip to Nashville to speak on a panel, I caught some disturbing images of "mountain top mining." Yup, it is legal in that beautiful state for a company to come in an just lop off the top of one of those beautiful, rolling hills. An industry that generates about 400 jobs in that state can ultimately decimate tourism, one of he state's largest.

There must be a better way to extract resources. The ultimate cost in lost tourism revenue in the future is something folks better think about...and the logic needs to be far more sophisticated than labeling anyone who raises concers a "tree hugger."

Monday, March 22, 2010

You Have To Take The Net With the Gross!

When answering his question about why most experts believe the ImPlan methodology is best for economic impact, I explained to a friend that “it is more conservative.” He abruptly responded “why would you want to do that” and refused to participate in a study.

He may fall prey to one of the methodologies still used by a very few old school feasibility consultants to tell their clients what they want to hear. Kind of like some appraisers who ask you what you want for your house? Not sure that’s what the lender has in mind for appraisal.

Good consultants no longer do that nor do good appraisers but unfortunately for local government, project promoters rarely reveal which is being used or the difference.Implan Chart

Our City and County typically asks DCVB to vet these studies now, if not to crunch the numbers, and I hope they continue to do that.

The difference between the two methodologies is that ImPlan nets out leakage among other things and it takes into account the specifics of a community. It is also important to note diversion based on the fact that rarely do consumers change their budget allocations, just because another opportunity in a certain category becomes available.

Shelly Green, the CEO at Durham’s official marketing agency, working with information developed by DKS and IHS Global Insights, has developed a chart (click to enlarge the image above) that demonstrates both the gross and net when it comes to the economic impact of visitors on Durham.

The illustration is now circulating the globe as another best practice innovation for Durham.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Touring Broadway Isn’t For the Faint of Heart!

While not surprisingly, the third season of touring Broadway shows lined up for the City’s Durham Performing Arts Center is still very impressive and a testament to the power of contract operating partners NYC-based Nederlander and Rhode Island-based PFM.

It also isn’t surprising but still disappointing that the longer standing series in nearby Raleigh folded. I can’t blame them for moving to shows using local talent but from a broader regional perspective, it would always be better if cultural initiatives in various communities complemented rather than replicated.ThirdSeasonThumbnail

It isn’t just that as experts warned, the Durham NC and Raleigh-Cary MSA’s even taken together aren’t large enough to generate enough Broadway goers to justify two series. According to The Broadway League, touring Broadway, even with many more theaters in more than 250 cities ( going on some say 300,) isn’t back to its peak of 15 years ago.

It's not the recession. Over the last 15 years years, even with a hundred more cities in which to play, the number of playing weeks and overall attendance has come no closer than 80% or so of the 1995 peak.

One area appears to be performing better, the gross for the industry, at $883 million in the last full year reported is taking in 10% more than 1995, even with fewer weeks and lower attendance. That may not be adjusted for inflation and keep in mind these shows are almost always very expensive to produce and move around the country.

This may also be why Nederlander has launched a huge Broadway effort in China. Smart company.

Judging by the last 15 years of ups and downs in touring Broadway and the decline in interest overall for both musical plays and non-musical plays, it could be in part due to a consumer behavior termed “access to opportunity.” This consumer trait impacts everything from sports to automobiles. The easier it is to find the product, the less intense people feel to buy right away.

They are still interested, but it is oh so much easier to put off consumption until another day because it seems like there will always be another day. And it isn’t just “access to opportunity” to one item. In this case, “access to opportunity” for leisure in general makes it harder and harder and more and more expensive to sustain audiences for all types of leisure.

That is part of the reason why more and bigger are not always good things. It is also why visitor participation nationwide for concerts/plays/dance has remained around 4% or so for many, many years, the majority of whom take it in on trips for other purposes.

Destinations like Durham are rich in shopping, dining, theaters, spectator sports, museums and art, nature areas, historic sites and much, much more.

It is also why the folks who did the Cultural MasterPlan for Durham made one of the top priorities, the development of a coherent process for making decisions about cultural facilities…

Quoting a very insightful New York Times headline, “Build it and They Will Come (But not for Long.)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Could Be My Hobbies Are Nostalgic

It has been 10 days since my first daffodil bloomed and already it has been joined by more than 50 others and 7 trees have leafed out, the grass turned deep green and ready for its first cut and buds are on some rose wood.  It is like flipping a switch.

I realized today that a lot of my hobbies are probably nostalgic.  I like plant and animal life and that could easily date to being born on a ranch.  I monitor a weather station that beams info to NOAA and that can come from my Father always having a very cool set of guages including temperature and barometer.200px-SoloistPoster

Even a quick 30 mile ride on the “Bones” out through the countryside yesterday revealed that not only is plant life coming alive but so are smells….a dairy farm, some black top curing, spilled gasoline, the musty smells of earth and warm sun etc. are smells that have been in my memory bank for nearly 60 years.

So is my love of history.  I’m just finishing Friedman’s very insightful  From Lebanon to Jerusalem all of which is as relevant today or even more than when he wrote it after stints as a journalist in both places.

By the way, movies are also a love and if you haven’t already, rent The Soloist .  True story and pretty true to the book by Steve Lopez.  At one point, it was too real and got uncomfortable because we still haven’t cracked the issues of mental health and homelessness.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest was a pivotal movie for my generation but I don’t think we’ve been any more enlightened and in some ways far more cruel with the way we’ve handled the issue of mental health.

By the way, The Soloist is about “us” who think we’re not mentally ill.  With that, the loud but soothing sounds of a Bulldog tell me its time for another motorcycle ride.

Is That Whining I Hear Or A Finger Violin?

I found myself two days ago with more than 700 other people at Durham Bulls Athletic Park when someone I barely know told me something ludicrous.

We were part of creating Google’s logo for an aerial shot coordinated by the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau as part of an appeal to host that company’s test a new super speed broadband.  We were both wearing “red” but I was “o” and she was in the “e” at the end of the logo.

This lady told me an official told her that someone was going around complaining that DCVB wasn’t doing enough “special” for the newest of Durham’s dozen performing arts theaters.  She was probably disappointed at my reaction because I am so relaxed in this retirement “gig.”

I doubt I heard the whole story and it would be so easy to fill this blog with all of the things DCVB has done for DPAC working hand in hand, long before the facility opened with the professionals contracted by the City of Durham to operate it.  Not the least of which is to spearhead the million plus visitors each year to pay the lion’s share of the facilities debt service.uncle-sam-stop-whining 

But the ludicrous part of the comment if true is that it isn’t DCVB’s or any destination marketing organization’s job to do special things for any one individual ingredient of a destination.

The things a DMO does for a community as its marketing agency should be the things that accrue the most benefit to the destination overall but also things that can be equally beneficial to all of the destination’s ingredients.

Even if a request like DPAC made of DCVB to recruit and train and outfit what will soon be a corps of 1,000 volunteer Durham Wayfinders had its origin with one facility, it was Bureau’s job to rapidly deployed to dozens of Durham’s other events and cultural and sports facilities as well.

It is a DMO’s primary role to tell the destination community’s overall story in a way that is compelling to the types of travelers likely to travel there and to get on the list for consideration.  One of four secondary roles is to get these visitors to circulate once they are here.  Others roles involve providing a platform for businesses and organizations to harvest their fair share, providing a common brand to make all messengers consistent and research to inform development decisions.

When a new facility or event is added, it is the DMO’s role not only to rapidly weave it into promotions but to keep a close eye on existing counterparts to that facility to try to offset the likely impact until the dust settles and the honeymoon period is over and equilibrium returns.

And as an official with Americans For The Arts told me recently, it is absolutely essential that the DMO pay equal if not more attention to those parts of the community that are unique and give each community texture and avoid getting caught up with just the “big guys.”

Now accusing a destination marketing organization like DCVB of not doing enough for a particular facility is an old, old trick meant to cause the DMO to overcompensate or to “go along to get along” instead of fulfilling its mission.

But it hasn’t been common at all in Durham.  I can only recall thee people who tried this in my two decades here and it didn’t work.  Nor did it backfire, because a DMO must be even handed even when its hand is bitten by those it feeds:)

And I wouldn’t be surprise if one of these very individuals is either doing DPAC a disservice or giving it very bad advice.  Either way, you can bet DCVB won’t take its eye off the ball nor will there be one bit of retribution.

Hotels first used this technique of whining for special treatment, probably shortly after DMO’s began to evolve in 1896.  But a core value of any destination marketing organization worth a salt is to balance any and all special interests.  The only special interest a DMO serves is the community.

So if what I was told is true, I hope the officials to which the whining was allegedly directed fired back immediately that a destination marketing organizations role is to do special things for the community as a whole.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Going Dual!

I’ve been trying over the last five years to focus home improvements on saving energy and especially water after the drought a few years back.

One I did recently should win the favor of Council Member Diane Catotti, already a friend and someone I admire and appreciate.  I already had low flow toilets but working with Ben Franklin Plumbing here in Durham, I had them retrofitted to be “dual-flush.”Retrofit-Kit_L

This means the handle swings up for a #1 flush and uses half the water that a down flush des for #2.  Works just as promised.

It will take a while to recoup the cost.  As it has with better high efficiency faucets, shower heads, rain harvesting, drip irrigation and other measures like an on-demand water heater, front loading, high efficiency washer and dual fuel HVAC etc.

I’m just hoping codes are being updated to require these innovations in all new construction.

But I’m listening on talk radio right now to people who insist it is their right to go around without health insurance (or auto insurance I assume) and thus the public (you and me) should pick up the costs when they or their family members have accidents or disease.

I wouldn’t even want to approach such people on their right to use all of the water they want, pollute the air when they want and have the rest of us pick up the tab.

You can tell we’re a pretty “spoiled” society when some of us argue their right to do things that take the rights of the rest of us away…when we have to bail them out.  That’s pretty much the value of government.  Doing things or requiring things for the good of the whole that aren’t practical for the private sector or volunteers alone.

But the same guy asserting his right not to have health insurance would probably argue that we could do without the road system or create and maintain it with volunteers and donations.

Two Minutes of Advice – Thirty Years Later

Funny how small acts of kindness can have a significant impact on your life.  I’m indebted to a 30 year friendship.

Just out of his teens, Rolf Klug emigrated to Canada from Germany after WWII.  He had spent the war in the countryside with relatives watching the sky light up when his home town of Koeln (then aka Cologne) was bombed. 

He made his way across Canada to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory and started a VW dealership just as VW was taking off on this continent and back when VW also carried Porsches.

He sold that and moved across the border to Anchorage, Alaska to build an AVIS car rental franchise and that’s where I met him.  He was a decade older and vice chairman of the board of the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau and on the interview team when I was recruited just as I was turning 30, to go there in 1978 from Spokane WA.

My early years in Anchorage were times of nationwide double digit inflation, double digit mortgage rates and back then, at least in Alaska, salaries were trying to keep pace.  One of the cool things about natural resource-rich Alaska, at least then, was the the even greater value placed on people and ideas as a resource. map_of_alaska

Rolf volunteered an idea to me a year or two later that 30 years later is impacting each and every day of my life.  He advised me to take every annual increase in compensation and to begin deferring it for retirement.  Equally remarkable I immediately acted on that advice.

All through my 20’s I had spent everything I earned with the exception of buying a modest life insurance policy every other year or so.  Rolf’s advice seemed painless.  If I never saw the raises, I wouldn’t spend them.

Later in that decade, deferred options like that were standardized into 457 plans.  I kept on deferring right up to the maximum permitted.  I’d kid with the accountant each year that no matter what increases were earned, my take-home never budged for decades.

Of course, I also contributed to the state retirement system when I came to Durham so I was saving maybe 25% or more of my compensation overall for quite a few years.

Another friend gave me sage advice a few years ago to put half of the deferred savings into a guaranteed annuity.  I did and thank goodness.  Even though my deferred savings have recovered fully with the market, half of those funds weren’t touched and will remain stable as the remainder continues to grow but with ups and downs.

So when I read how few people are preparing for retirement.  I don’t feel smug.  With great empathy, I am grateful for the sage advice of some good friends.

And it probably wasn’t easy, even though he he is a decade older than I was, for Rolf to give me advice, especially personal financial advice.  But he did and if he hadn’t I’m not sure where I’d be but I sure wouldn’t be reinventing myself for the next phase of life.

Sooooo… if you’re in your 20’s and 30’s, you may want to take Rolf’s advice too.  Believe me, if you start deferring any raises, no matter how modest, you won’t miss it.

And Rolf?

We’ve remained friends and keep in touch.  He went on to build a cruise business in Hawaii and initiated Holland America’s extremely successful international marketing. Also retired, Rolf has lived in Bellevue WA for many years now so we connect either via email or in person when I’m in the Puget Sound area visiting my Mom and Sisters.

I’m obviously very indebted to him.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Secret To Changing “Litter” Behavior!

People litter but they litter a whole lot more where litter is tolerated, where it appears no one is caring for public spaces.

All of the education, public service spots, community jaw boning and “should” talk won’t curb the tendency to litter or be careless unless…local and state agencies demonstrate a relentless commitment to well kept medians and right-aways and a zero tolerance for littering.no_litter_allowed_sticker_customized-p217298849570328592tdcj_210

It is human nature.  People are automatically more careful and sensitive when they enter an area that is very clean and well maintained, whether at work, in a home or on the street.

But if people enter an area that isn’t well cared for, it is a fact that they are less careful.  If people drive down a street where litter is obviously tolerated, they’re more likely to litter.  If medians and right of ways are shaggy and seedy, they are more likely to become driven over, rutted and littered.

So we can sit back and tell people how they should behave.  Or local and state governments can set a compelling example with zero tolerance for litter, ordinance and code enforcement, green, well kept medians and right of ways and otherwise demonstrating as much care for public space as we all want people to treat it.

There will be a few that try to trash it but they will be much easier to spot…and for the majority, they will automatically become more sensitive and concerned.

If our local and state agencies lead out and treat the community as though it were for sale…the curb appeal will be contagious.

Visitors Generate Property Taxes Too!

Durham’s community marketing agency does an incredible job of benchmarking the impact and relevance of visitors to the community, thanks to partners like DK Shifflet & Associates (DKSA) and the company now known as IHS Global Insights.

That includes documenting “all” tax revenue yielded for federal, state and especially local governments. And this includes local property taxes, not just sales and use taxes.


Why property taxes? Because visitors impact property taxes big time. Tourism is “demand-side” economic development.

DCVB spearheads community marketing to draw and optimize visitor demand which in turn both makes existing visitor related businesses sustainable and generates interest in the marketplace to make new businesses feasible.

The more hotels, restaurants, entertainment centers, nightclubs, taxi cabs/limos, malls and retail stores thrive, the more the value of property increases and the more demand there is for property.

Thanks to the analysis, it is clear 100% of lodging properties, a third of restaurants and a half to a third of retail stores, sports teams and entertainment venues would not exist without visitors.

And the property taxes in the tally are just those paid directly by visitor related businesses and only those supported by the proportion of each companies business reliant on visitors. It could be argued that compression created in and around these businesses by non-visitor related businesses should be

And with visitors there is no such thing as a guaranteed base. Each and every traveler has an open decision at the beginning of the year and Durham has to earn their return.

So “all” visitor generated and visitor reliant tax revenues count, including property taxes, just the same way as local government would use additional property taxes to evaluate or justify a relocating business or adaptive reuse of historic properties.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Forever Redwood – Forever Toady


Durham is widely known for social innovation and enterprise.  Historically it can go back to George Watts Hill innovating employer health insurance for employees and today it is Burt’s Bees, TROSA, SEEDs and many more.

So when my older English Bulldog passed earlier this year I thought of Forever Redwood for a memorial.  Forever Redwood makes furniture and I’m just getting a nice little, stepping stool, engraved for Toady seen below in a glamour shot:)Toady's Glamour Shot

But Forever Redwood’s mission is reforestation and conservation of these spectacular trees found mostly in Northern California.  The parent company is OAG or Old-Growth Again Forestry and the furniture is just how they fund the reforestation and forest management to restore more of these forests and this greatest of trees.

The furniture is made from logs left on the forest floor where logging took place in the past century.

Forever Toady, Toadetta, Toadalicous, Toadster – Mugs and I still miss you!

I’m Counted

My census form came via mail yesterday and I returned it by mail this morning.  Very simple to complete and oh so important.


Genealogy is one my many interests (right up there with my weather station, motorcycle, landscape, books, movies, Blue Devil basketball and of course my bulldog Mugs.

I use several sites but in particular has permitted me to find census records not only in the US but other countries going way, way, way back.  In fact, I have some relatives like Mohun (his son and I share the same first name) and Montgomery who were knights with William and listed in his 1085-86 Domesday Survey.

US Census records aren’t public until after 70+ years but that means I’ve found some for my parents too.

I catch a fair amount of talk radio and I just don’t get the folks in our country who claim to be patriots but resist everything including the Census except my Dad when he was alive could sound that way.

He was always saying FDR and the Supreme Court sold us down the river…everybody he didn’t agree with was tagged a socialist or communist ….and he was a little racist…

Fortunately, I had equal numbers of strong Democrats and strong Republicans on both sides going way back to my Great, Great Grandfather Charles Harper who in one of the first wagon trains across the plains and in his 90’s was very clear in a news article about being a Democrat.

But from my earliest memories of relatives feeling strongly about politics, they were always proud to be citizens of this country, grateful the government did things only the government could do and always willing to stand up and be counted…even my Dad.

Regardless of your politics, your ethnicity, even your citizenship…completing the Census form is one of the most important things you can do…

And if you choose not too, don’t give me a bunch of crap about how important freedom and this country are to you…

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Historic Service Stations

Bob Chapman’s plans to restore a second, historic service station is so “Durham.”  This time its the cool, old Gulf Station that sits diagonally across the corner of Geer and Fostergulf_fostergeer_SE_1952 (click photo for background on the building on the blog “Endangered Durham.”

This cross roads at the north edge of Downtown’s Central Park District is also home to:

  • Stone Bros. & Byrd, a cool retro, country store and garden center
  • Historic Durham Athletic Park where the movie “Bull Durham” was filmed,
  • King’s Sandwich Stand (under renovation) still Hollywood producer Thom Mount’s favorite,
  • Durham County Cooperative Extension Office
  • … a charter school, some cool condos, a park and a historic grade school now used by TROSA.

The area has what experts call optimal serendipity…and a term that sums up much of Durham’s unique sense of place…more on that later.

The Question That Never Goes Away!

Funny how  you still hear some very smart people scoff at “tourism” as “economic development.”  Tourism is so much the epitome of economic development that it is always a bit touchy to drill down and seek to understand a comment like that.

Veteran community developer and planner Nancy Thompson in Missouri writes and collaborates on a series of blogs at and she gets at the essence of economic development…"the definition of economic development should be those activities that cause a net gain of money flow into the community380698neonstoresign

Maybe the source of the comments is a preoccupation with only one type of economic development that dominated the first part of the last century…it is more “supply-side” focusing on attracting relocating businesses.

Tourism is “demand-side” economic development.  A community launches marketing activities centered hopefully around its distinct brand or character to draw the interest of visitors and they bring in money from outside the community to:

  • Sustain and retain local businesses and facilities,
  • Make new businesses and facilities feasible,
  • Absorb excess capacity ensuring quality of life for residents
  • Create and sustain jobs and personal income,
  • Sustain “place-based assets” and “sense of place” and,
  • Generate local tax revenue and tax base.

In essence tourism “adds value” to the local economy and that is the essence of economic development.

We heard a good deal this week on the growing importance of exports to GDP and “tourism” is in essence an export.  Visitors consume goods and services above and beyond those needed by locals.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Index Tells Me We’re Losing the Litter Battle

I’m not a spokesperson for Keep Durham Beautiful but the results of this year’s litter canvas tell me this is one area the City (and the County) have lost some ground and this is only one aspect of overall community appears.

We we don’t have any “extremely littered” areas (guess I need to look again at the freeway exits) and the volunteers are probably getting better and better at conducting this annual snapshot. 

What would be even more telling but probably a little scary would be a similar index on overall care of landscape, rights of ways, medians and….parks.

I hope officials are cognizant that appearance is one of the strategic ways to impact many areas…e.g. property values, community pride, economic development, crime reduction and much more.



Saturday, March 13, 2010

Updated Nielsen Info on Asian, African American and Hispanic Consumers

Tom Pirovano at Nielsen just posted some updated information and projections through 2050 showing the rapidly changing diversity American consumers.  It is a must read for marketers.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Pay Your Share Internet!

Click to enlarge this chart below that appears on today depicting new Forrester Research on the continued, spectacular growth of online shopping.

Even during the recession this area has continued to explode with 154 million people buying something online this year.  It is time to have these companies all pay sales tax…we need to level the playing field for small, locally based businesses and help offset the tax burden on residents who will ultimately shoulder the burden this causes local and state governments.

I’m tired of hearing these giant companies whine…pay your share.  Or let me put it another way, collect your share.  Only a small part of sales tax is shouldered by the business anyway…even more reason they should stop whining!

Expedia, Amazon etc…take leadership and do the right thing.



Credit the late Jack Bond for Innovating the Longevity Incentive

It seems some folks around the country have been intrigued about how the Tourism Development Authority in Durham came up with the idea of making what amounted to 8% of my compensation over the years a longevity incentive.  So here is how it happened.

When I came to Durham, even though by that time I had nearly two decades of destination marketing management under my belt, I worked without a customary letter of agreement for the first few years until I had proven myself. 

During the discussion of the initial agreement, the TDA employed a best practice formula from a national association of one month of pay for each year served should the agreement end, up to a certain limit.   It is considered fair because community marketing can be very political and mined with special interests.

Jack Bond

I was blessed in Durham in jumpstarting DCVB to team with both an excellent City and County manager, Orville Powell who is now a professor in the Midwest and the late Jack Bond who passed away in 2001 and in shown in the photo above. They really grasped the potential for DCVB’s mission to generate non-resident revenue for the City and County and each bent over backwards to make us successful.

When Jack retired as County Manager in 1991, he served terms on the Tourism Development Authority (DCVB’s governing board) while in private business and during stint as Deputy Chief Auditor for the State.   

It was Jack, quickly endorsed by other Authority members,  who suggested that the severance be re-articulated into an earned longevity incentive instead of just the typical parachute for when an executive is fired.  Actually I've learned since that severance covers a lot of meanings like this, not just when you "get" severed.

Jack and other Authority members saw that I was a good fit for Durham and while they knew how much I love this community they also didn't believe it was fair or smart to take take that for granted.

So they installed the longevity incentive in my employment agreement predicated of course on my meeting some stiff performance requirements and forgoing any employment with competitors.  It worked and I worked hard to earn it, just completing a supercharged 20.5 year relationship.

It wasn’t the TDA’s only innovation.  Working with an HR expert, they implemented a performance based compensation plan 10 years ago.  Under that plan up to another third of the CEO's compensation is put at risk each year and calibrated to performance.  The CEO then  employs this with all other staff but the percentage at risk varies.

DCVB owes its remarkable marketing success to two pillars…research and innovation.  And the TDA has also been not only innovative but thoughtful and conservative and fair when it came to matters of compensation.  The longevity incentive was just part of that.

Even though the longevity was earned over two decades, it made good sense for DCVB and for me at the end of my tenure to pay it out over five or more years.  I would have argued for that regardless of the current short term budgetary impacts.

And anyone who knows how intense destination marketing can be and that I practiced it at an even higher level of intensity, knows I probably made $8 an hour when all was said and done and loved every minute of it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Watching The Flowers Grow

Retirement is definitely not boring.  And I’m getting to see life at a different pace and with time to read, walk Mugs, blog etc.  But also some thing I’ve missed over the years. While I only live a mile from Downtown,  I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a stand of about 70 trees, some 50+ feet tall, Virginia and loblolly pines, ash, elm, maple, oak, red bud etc. and nearly 100 shrubs.  But this year I also planted 100 bulbs and the first one flowered today.


first flower

When Big Never Seems Big Enough

There are a lot of reports that seemingly exaggerate cultural-heritage as tourism activities, usually by not using all traveler as the base so the percentages look higher.

If it is on purpose, it is understandable in a way.  It takes a lot to get through the thick skulls of many tourism officials who are stuck back in 1896 and obsess with conventions and meetings to the exclusion of the bigger picture.



Thus I’m anticipating some questions about the chart above (click to enlarge) during a national joint task force I’m chairing of destination marketing and cultural-heritage officials. 

But when you click to enlarge the next chart of all visitor activities regardless of “main” purpose for the trip, you’ll see that cultural-heritage activities taken collectively are every bit as significant as conventions and meetings and individually hold their own with spectator sports/Olympics.

The issue isn’t bragging rights nor to enable a sense of entitlement.  Destination marketing organizations must shape each individual community’s story to appeal to its strengths and to optimize spending and visitation while balancing special interests. 

visitor activities

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Online/Digital Overtakes Print in 2010

Bill Geist, a friend and college for many years pens a very informative and witty blog called, you guess it, Bill Geist’s Zeitgeist.


Today he notes research that predicts 2010 will be the first time advertisers will spend more online/digital than on print.  I won’t be surprised but as he notes advertising is really only one marketing tactic among many and decisions are about blend and going where your customers are.

And even drilling down to just advertising, it is all about blend, not either/or.

And to know where your customers are you need research.  And unfortunately, all to many marketers have yet to include research as the foundation of marketing.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Malls and Sense of Place

Greg Lindsay’s blog for Fast Company recently was an excellent overview of how and why malls became so standardized and the impact on the sense of place in some communities.


Durham is fortunate that when the company formerly know as Urban developed The Streets at Southpoint here, it took a very innovative approach and tried its best to tie the mall in to Durham’s look through extensive brickwork, chimney’s and faux retro outdoor signs.

Durham is also fortunate that its first mall of this type, Northgate, is still owned and continually updated by a local family that remains dedicated to the community.  They are often handicapped by a mall or two in a community to the east and south that has routinely required leases forbidding a store in Durham and greatly misleading national tenants with misperceptions that the region is centric when it is very polycentric with no dominant center, requiring two if not three or four stores of a type.

Northgate has also been handicapped by demo maps that show nearby Duke University as a black hole, when in reality it is one of the largest employers in North Carolina.   Kudos to Northgate for fighting through this BS.  When Durhamites assert that there is simply no such place as Raleigh-Durham (the truncated name of a co-owned airport,) remember you’re being loyal to local families like the one that owns Northgate.

Durham is also a leader in urban gardening and enthusiasts might be interested in a Fast Company blog today about adaptive reuse of part of a Cleveland mall for that purpose.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

United Breaks Guitars Song 3 - "United We Stand" on the Right Side of Right

Dave Carroll has completed his trilogy that began with “United Breaks Guitars,” which has crested 8 million viewers.

One Laptop Per Child

People didn’t believe me but when I retired from DCVB 60+ days ago, my goal was to decompress and get back in touch with some other aspects of my life after nearly 40 incredible intense years in destination marketing, more than half at DCVB.

My goal, based on some sage advice is to wait on firming up any plans including where I volunteer, for at least a year.   But of course, with my penchant for reading, things catch my eye including the article in Rotary magazine this month about a global education program called One Laptop Per Child.


The image above is a $75 tablet third generation version due out in 2012 that Andy Greenberg reviewed just as I retired.  This is a fascinating project to fuel education in remote areas, where virtually indestructible laptops can readily network with low or self power, empower teachers and open the world to kids 6 to 12 years old.