Friday, April 30, 2010

Water Restrictions Cause Pipes to Break

My nephew Mark is a water management professional with Marin County CA, out of necessity, light years ahead of others in water conservation.untitled

He mentioned something interesting during a discussion on a recent phone conversation of Durham’s move last year to water restrictions based on odd or even house numbers partly to make it easier for the news media to avoid confusion with other cities in the 22 county viewing/listening area, even though the water systems and supplies vary significantly.

Apparently, restrictions in LA were found last month to have been the cause of a dramatic increase in breaks in Los Angeles water lines.

Funny how water pressure works but it appears Durham’s approach is one the experts are recommending as a solution to LA to minimize the breaks.

Good example though of how complicated it is working with infrastructure and that more than regional politics or making it easy for the news media has to be taken into consideration.

If “Appearance Isn’t An Overarching Strategy – Tell Me What Is?

I’ve been unfairly tagged as little picture, tactical and myopic, so I’m not about to do that to others.

But how sad when I overheard someone the other day commenting on the guffaws and rolled eyes among City administrators when “appearance” was offered as an overarching strategy.

Read this blog which touches on a fraction of the ways and departments and divisions in City and County government that touch on “appearance.”

What is overarching then if appearance isn’t.    Gallup polling just revealed it as one of the top three elements that people respect most about their communities.

If the day to day leadership for Durham’s largest property owner can roll its eyes at “appearance,” where does that leave those of us who are just trying to keep up our house and yard or apartment????

Yes, I’ll bet when you add up public spaces, parks, city buildings, school buildings (really county but most are in the city,) right of ways, medians, streets, water reservoirs and street trees….that the City of Durham is the largest single land owner in Durham.

Burns me when people dismiss how crucial it is for the City to integrate “appearance” as a vehicle to achieve crime reduction, public health, assessed valuation, tourism economic and cultural development, business recruitment and retention, and community image and pride and improving property values  etc. to name just a handful.

If the City wants residents, neighborhoods and businesses to feel accountable for appearance, the people who run Durham’s largest property owner on a day to day better make appearance a priority as an example.

And all but a small percentage of residents are “stockholders” in the City as taxpayers.  So yes, we have a reason to be concerned that those running day operations throughout the City, including operational areas like budget, finance etc. don’t “get it” that polls show that more than 90% of residents view appearance as a community priority.

But again, I wasn’t there so let me give these the people in that room, who are charged with caring for our community the benefit of the doubt and I’m sure they were laughing and eye-rolling because the strategic importance of “appearance” is so obvious.

Come on people…if this doesn't make the case for appearance being an overarching strategy…then please make the case for anything that touches more areas?

But again, 3 out of every 5 people working in Durham, doesn’t live in Durham, maybe higher in local government.  So maybe this is reflective of that condition.

Gizmo’s That May Be Of Interest

Here are some cool productivity and conservation gizmo’s I’ve been intro recently.  They all work even better than advertised.

First is FITBIT, a very small wireless thingy that fits on your belt or attaches to clothing and automatically measures and downloads some cool health information including your steps taken during the day and other activities, sleep and calorie intake per day.product   You can also manually check a walk or run.

Next is Helmet Secure, a device that fits neatly on your motorcycle handle bar etc. and has a very cool and much better than has existed way to secure your helmet and/or jacket to your bike when you run into a store or meeting or restaurant.


Third is the Evolve Showerhead Ladybug Adapter that permits you to turn on the shower to warm up while you’re doing other things.  The water runs until it reaches the temperature set and then turns off automatically.  You then flip a little thingy when you get in and voila.  Saves energy and water.10335

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I’m A Believer In Clean Energy Durham!

I didn’t learn until today that I was in on the start up of Clean Energy Durham until this morning. At least as a donor.  Cool!Capture

Clean Energy is one of those innovative things that gives Durham its personality and character, coupling “caring,” “activism” and “innovation among other Durham values that make Durham distinct.

Here is a link to Clean Energy Durham’s 2009 Annual Report    Judy Kincaid, a former law professor is executive director.  She’s one of a very significant group of former Duke Grads who settled in Durham 30 year ago including Wib and Dub Gulley, Martin Eakes and Paul Luebke to name a few.  They are symbolic of Durham’s positive “brain-gain” to us a Richard Florida metrix and they have their fingerprints all over this community from Self Help Credit Union to regional transit to the General Assembly…

Support them if you can.  We’ve all be short term focused due to the downturn but with the upturn fully underway, we need to reach out to groups like this who are working so hard on a better future.

One way to do that is to use tools like this to compute your own personal carbon footprint and then make that as a monthly donation to offset.

That reminds me, I need to update mine for that Harley Cross Bones which is .47 metric tons or little more than $6 per month…and then there is the round trip I just took to see my family which is between 1 and 2 metric tons or maybe $20 per month….

Sojern Obviously Cares!

I blogged yesterday about a flaw in the database many airlines use to print information about weather, restaurants, attractions on your boarding pass, at least the ones when you check-in online.picture-331

I filed a concern online with SOJERN about the misleading and mis-identified info appearing on RDU bound boarding passes and first thing this morning,  I received the personal response below from Katie Burton at the company.

Hopefully others at SOJERN listen to Ms. Burton and information on RDU boarding passes (as well as other airports serving polycentric areas with no dominant center, e.g. Seattle-Tacoma Intl, Minneapolis-St Paul Intl, Dallas-For Worth Intl, Bloomington-Normal etc.

Currently the info on the passes is just lumped as though the first city in the airport name is the location of the airport, the final destination for each traveler and equidistant to other destinations.  That certainly isn’t the case for Raleigh-Durham Intl. which is located midway between two metro areas and where only 3% of travelers to either overlap a visit to both on the same trip.

It sure would greatly improve the traveler experience, not to mention garner a lot of goodwill by being much more respectful of community brands.

Kudos for Sojern for caring.


From: Katie Burton
Date: April 29, 2010 11:07:33 AM EDT
Subject: RE: Contact Form - General Feedback

Dear Mr. Bowman,

I want you to know that we truly appreciate you taking the time to send us your feedback.  Sojern  recently partnered with the airlines in an effort to enhance the traveler experience.

We are welcoming all feedback in an attempt to continually improve this experience for everyone traveling.  Your feedback on our content in the RDU area brings up a very good point.  I have forwarded your feedback to our content team to review and make enhancements where needed. 

Please feel free to continue to provide us with any other feedback and ways we can improve this experience for you.

Katie  Burton

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Uh, Duh!

Here is a Raleigh reporter’s take on why Raleigh didn’t rank higher in a ranking of communities for “fun.”

“…the fun rankings didn't take into account, to name just a few, the nationally regarded Durham food scene, Chapel Hill's Ackland Museum of Art, and the Duke and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill men's basketball teams, winners of three of the past six national titles.”Capture

Uh, duh!   It is because those things aren’t in Raleigh or even “Greater Raleigh.”

Fortunately, more and more Raleigh is learning to stand on its own without over-reaching to claim assets in other communities.

And Durham is the beneficiary because the trend is finally revealing to the nation what Durham and the Durham MSA have to offer and that Durham truly is Where Great Things Happen.

Reusing the Fabric of the Past

The Durham Annual Tribute Luncheons keep getting better and better and you really missed something if you weren’t in the sold out crowd today.

Eddie Belk and Frank Depasquale were honored for doing so much with adaptive reuse of spectacular 1800’s brick factory buildings so much a part of Durham’s unique sense of place.  Below is one of the videos used and here is a link to more images and another great video.  Congratulations to DCVB, the sponsors noted on the link and to the entire community of Durham.

DPS targets low-scoring schools Plan would hold principals, teachers accountable

Only one problem with this headline in the Durham News today.  If that is all the plan holds accountable, it never will be successful.  Communities need to also hold “parents” or extended family (if they are the caretakers) accountable.

But I rarely hear state or local officials or judges or anyone else zero in on parental responsibility for student performance.Capture

In fact, school performance is predominantly about family.  If this is too hard on single parents, then lets talk about getting them resources, not just schools and teachers.

Unfortunately, family make up is often used to let people off the hook.  And it is not about the quantity of time anyway but the quality…reading with pre-schoolers, setting expectations for school age children, communicating with teachers and standing behind them, keeping up with homework assignments.

Airlines – Please Repeat After Me!

Just returned from a week in the Pacific Northwest and a visit with family.

Good air service both ways on Continental. But airlines and I mean all of them, repeat after me:Capture

  • People fly to communities or resorts or the countryside not to airports.

  • Airports serve many destination communities, even when they may be located in a certain city.

  • Many airports like RDU are not located in a city. RDU for example is located in a small town called Morrisville, midway between the owner communities of Durham to the west and Raleigh to the east.

  • Travelers destined for one community, very rarely visit more than one on the same trip (3% for example combine a trip to Durham and Raleigh on the same trip and typically they are being escorted by residents) because the focus of their trip typically isn’t more travel and because of a nearly universal consumer behavior called “distance or cognitive friction) which makes a mile away from home equivalent to 20 back home.

  • In fact the great majority of travelers don’t venture more than 7 miles from their hotel. So failing to accurately note locations can mean a lot of inconvenience and confusion, e.g. a 60 mile round trip in the case of RDU.

  • And please don’t confuse your vendors.. On tickets to RDU, a database company called Sojern (note image above) works with scores of airlines to helpfully print out some information on boarding passes (both to help travelers but I assume to make a buck for the airline from advertisers to offset the zero cost of printing off online boarding passes.

For the vast majority of travelers, who are not destined to Raleigh through RDU, they are given Raleigh area weather (actually the NWS is based at RDU, it just has an office at NCSU in Raleigh).

The Raleigh area which includes Wake County and nearly dozen towns east of RDU is not a term used to reference the Durham Metro area which includes Chapel Hill and about a dozen other communities in the opposite direction.

So to make it simple, reference the Triangle Area or the just the complete airport name. And the recommended dining in the example attached refers to dining in the Raleigh area but two are nationally recognized restaurants alright but they are located in Durham, which of course is not in the Raleigh area.

And the attractions listed in the Raleigh area, three of the five are actually in the Durham metro area, a good clip out of the way for someone actually visiting the Raleigh area (60 miles round trip if there isn’t traffic.

So if you want to serve travelers you owe it to at least “not” confuse them or inconvenience or mislead them…

And if you list restaurants and attractions, just list them by destination community…not by the first name in the airport name.

And for our part? We passengers will try to never confuse airport names or mix and match airline names. And for all those folks who may tell you this is petty – well they are obviously lack empathy or understanding for what it means to travel. So who cares, right? You’re in the travel business.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Never Fumbling For A Boarding Pass

I did a trial run receiving and using my boarding pass via bar code emailed to my iPhone.  It worked great at TSA and the first boarding but not the connecting flight.  The problem may have been the gate agent though.thumb

I had hard copies just in case.  Very cool and simple.  It comes as a link via email and stays open in the browser even when you do other things.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Great Example of A Community-Wide Calendar

To me one of the key services any Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) can contribute both as part of its role and for its community in general is a through, comprehensive community calendar.Capture

Click on the image to see two-week snapshot, the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau sends out to nearly 6,000 residents each week.  It is pulled from a searchable online calendar.

You’ll notice that it also provides a link where producers of any event held in Durham can submit their events to the editor online.  There is also a link to quickly share it e.g. Facebook, Twitter etc. and a place to forward to friends so they can subscribe.

The calendar itself can be mined for information on thousands and thousands of events throughout the year.  This e-version is broken down into types of events with a showcase example from the upcoming two week period but a click through takes you to a comprehensive listing for each type of event.

DCVB also has arrangements with other calendars, e.g. Duke to feed their events directly into the community-wide Durham calendar.

There are many ways DMO’s can do this and should.  No organization is in more need of the listings and in a better position to make a consolidated database of events available, providing a one-stop resource for residents and visitors alike, and saving other organizations and facilities throughout the community the trouble or reinventing the wheel.

DCVB can even customize a pull for any organization still reticent to be viewed as leveraging the assets of others.  DCVB launched the community-wide, consolidated calendar in 1990 at the suggestion of the then City and County managers.  It went online a few years later when the Internet became available.

There examples in other communities but none more comprehensive.  A community-wide calendar is one of the conversation-thought-starters noted in a toolkit for communities, shaped by a Joint Task Force of Americans for the Arts (AFTA) and Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) now posted for comment.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Americans for Prosperity, the same group outside group that torpedoed Durham getting the same resources as were given to Charlotte and Raleigh is auto-dialing throughout Durham attacking Durham’s based Center for Responsible Lending in hopes of creating enough confusion to defeat the bill in the US Congress to avoid repeating the Wall Street disaster from which we’re just recovering.

Do not “trust” Americans for Prosperity or be confused by their gibberish.

How Marketers Should Appeal to Men

Marketers targeting a male audience need to understand the critical differences between men and women, according to Dr. Bob Deutsch of marketing firm Brain Sells. Namely, men consummate and women cycle.

Male Consumers Seek Powerful Image
Men and women are different biologically, psychologically and socially. Deutsch advises that men live in the “now.” They are concrete thinkers that like to consummate and complete what they set out to do.” Men are interested in power and in looking good, even more than being good.

When it comes to attractiveness, both sexes want to garner attention, but each for different reasons. For men, looking good is looking strong, confident, authoritative and adventurous – being a standout. Men concentrate on looks to the extent that it signals something about what they do, have done or can do.

In contrast, regardless of how much a woman wants to attract in the contest of beauty and brains, their focus is on hope and details, and they concentrate on how appearance reflects their inner being. Therefore, successfully marketing to men, as opposed to marketing to women, requires more than changing colors, fonts and/or packaging.

Four Tips for Marketing to Men
With these essential gender differences in mind, Deutsch offers the following four tips for marketers seeking to appeal to male consumers:

1. Time. Men tend to hone in, more quickly than women, on what they’re looking for. Men are not browsers, but shop for what they need “now.” In contrast, women can shop for something now and put it away for “later.”
2. Causality. Men are concrete and tend to tightly focus their awareness. Their notion of cause and effect is linear and men are visually-oriented because of this concrete literality. Seeking clarity, men create absolute distinctions: black-white, yes-no. Men dislike ensembles and tend to buy individual items. In contrast, many women like to think about how they can put together “outfits” and are creative in selecting, say, a variation on a scarf or a belt that will change the nature of one basic outfit.
3. Space. Men structure and relate to space as compartmented and sequential. To men, space is not relational, as it is for women. These kinds of underlying, fundamental gender differences can have critical implications not only for what makes an item compelling, but also for store design and product layout. For example, many women like the challenge and somewhat disorganized variety of off-price retailers such as T.J. Maxx or Marshalls. Men, even men who shop in such places because of price, are not there out of joy or desire.
4. Other People. For the male, it’s every man for himself. Men prize individuality and self-reliance. They conceive of other people as “my competition.” Daily life for them is a contest with winners and losers. This is in contrast to women, who often view other people as a source of strength. Note, too, that men never shop together. Women often shop with a friend and make a “day” of it. A man focuses on himself - the “me,” while a woman is focused on the “we.”

As noted above, men are interested in power. Women are more interested in security. Men relate to “things” themselves. Women relate to the relationship between things. In today’s world, men might, for example, be paying more attention to grooming aids than they did years ago. But men are still grooming to go up the hierarchy, to be Number One, and be recognized as Number One. Modern man is still primal man, regardless of how much hair a man has to groom.

Tale of Two Cities

I’ve always been intrigued about how two destination communities, comparable in population, number of commercial lodging guest rooms and in number and type of destination assets twenty years ago could have grown so differently 20 years later?

While lodging is only one of six or seven industries in the tourism sector (tourism is not itself an industry) it is a good measure because guest rooms are always built in response to (following) increased demand (more visitors.)   Of course, experts note “build it and they will come” is a always a very risky strategy for any sector or industry but particularly with commercial lodging.

While one of these destinations, lets call it “A” was more established with more marketing resources, two decades ago as destination “B” first launched destination marketing, the two were a mere 200 guest rooms apart.

Twenty years later, Destination “B” has generated sufficient new visitation to warrant a growth of more than 94% “net” guest rooms (net because some rooms closed,) more than three times the 28.6% growth in Destination “A.”

  Rooms 1989 Rooms 1999 Rooms 2009 % Variance
Destination A 3700 4995 4758 28.6%
Destination B 3909 6714 7594 94.3%

Analysis of destination marketing strategies during the two decades reveals that Destination A continued a very traditional path of putting nearly all of its effort into conventions and meetings which represent only 10% of all visitor potential.

But Destination B leapfrogged its more established peer, deploying market research, benchmarking and technology to not only grow more quickly but diversify its visitation.  While sustaining marketing share for conventions, meetings and other business travel, Destination B’s marketing has also successfully generated much more growth in types of leisure and personal travel.  The two destinations kept pace in population.

On paper Destination A still has a very impressive overall visitor product and good potential.  But Destination B by taking a then-unorthodox approach, has tripled Destination A’s growth over the past 20 years.

Using these new strategies, Destination B also eclipsed two other similar sized destinations, overtaking a traditional leisure destination with a 1100 guest room advantage and growing 2.4 times more quickly and closing on a much larger destination by growing 1.6 times faster.  Destination B has also surged over the 20 years to outpace another high-growth destination competitor by generating 12 more guest rooms per 1,000 residents.

No wonder, some destinations are beginning to mimic the strategies of Destination B.  But they won’t find the same success, unless they apply them based on good sound data, specific to their condition.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Comment Period for AFTA – DMAI Toolkit Runs Through June 1st

June 1st will be the cut off for comments, both public and among members of Americans for the Arts (AFTA) and Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) for the toolkit shaped by a Joint Task Force.image001[4]  The comment period began on April 14th.

The toolkit is a white paper of suggestions, conversation and though-starters to enhance the relationships at the community level between the Destinations Marketing Organization and its cultural-heritage stakeholders including presenters, facilities, organizations and events.

A blog has been set up to make it easy to both read the tookit and then post comments.  In addition both AFTA and DMAI will circulate it via internal listservs and newsletters.

After the comment period, the document will be updated and both AFTA and DMAI will then run it up to their boards for endorsement and from there it will be distributed to members, discussed at meetings and webinars and embedded in continuing education and certification programs.visitor activities

Cultural-heritage is an umbrella term for performing arts including dance/concerts/plays, visual arts including galleries and art museums, festivals of all types and craft fairs and heritage organizations including historic sites and museums of all types.

Comments on the toolkit may also be submitted via this blog.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tourism Must Be A Steward of Place

While tourism is possibly the highest form of economic development or adding value to a local economy, it has an even more significant role.

A community Destination Marketing Organization must not only spearhead visitor centric economic and cultural development but it must also be the steward of place and place-based assets, cultural, built and natural, so integral to a community’s identity.

While a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) must focus on marketing to drive visitation to make a community’s assets sustainable, a key DMO role is around stimulating and convening discussions and planning in a community that will help residents, neighborhoods and local governments work with the private sector to enhance what they love about their community.


This involves convening forums like Durham, North Carolina’s Annual Tribute Luncheon to focus attention and discussion on the ingredients of place (cultural, built, natural) and how they can be integrated to create and sustain distinctive, dynamic and prosperous communities.

This was relatively new to me when in March 2006 I attended the first-ever “civic tourism” conference hosted by the founder Dr. Dan Schilling.  I’ve probably attended hundreds of local, state and national conferences in my career but none has been as immediately thought-provoking as that one.

It is there I heard Dr. Scott Russell Sanders read from his extraordinary essay, "The Geography of Somewhere.

The two subsequent conferences (the third is in Fort Collins CO August 11-14, 2010) have drifted away from the concept and more toward mobile labs, I’m sure as a bow to “left brainers” (97% of right handed people) who become frustrated with concepts and the originality often required to make each community distinct.

Labs can be good as long as people aren’t too literal and try to copy-cat.  It typically isn’t hard to get communities to invest in tourism-related product.  But it is very hard to avoid becoming like everywhere else and to use a description coined by Louise Stevens, look like they went shopping for cultural or sports one day and came back with one of everything.

A DMO’s challenge is to junk any notion of keeping up with the “Joneses” and to focus instead on each communities unique, inherent assets and how they can be integrated and leveraged to sustain the reasons people live in and love their community.  The reasons vary by community, but the key word is “distinctive.”

I encourage every DMO to attend.  I also encourage Dr. Richard Florida, of whom I am definitely an advocate, to attend.  He’s come a long way since dissing tourism in his first book and will find “civic tourism” right on target with his book Who's Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life.

Annual Tribute Luncheon And Unique Sense of Place

Durham’s Annual Tribute Luncheon is coming up April 28th.  It has been sold out for weeks but I’m sure table sponsors are still filling their seats.ATL_logo

The luncheon’s purpose is to bring tribute to individuals and groups who shape and promote Durham’s unique sense of place.

For nearly two decades, the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB,) with a mission that includes using tourism as the steward for Durham’s unique sense of place, has produced this luncheon in lieu of the traditional annual meeting where organizations and all too often executives spend far too much time trying to bring attention to themselves.

The ATL as it is affectionately known by its loyal sponsors, typically draws one of the largest turnouts but also one of the most diverse audiences of any event in Durham.

This year honors Eddie Belk and Frank DePasquale, two Durham architects responsible for most of the adaptive reuse projects in Durham, e.g. millions of square feet of beautiful, brick tobacco warehouses with unique architectural details, converted to space for restaurants, stores and offices.

Last year when the luncheon honored the pioneers for Durham’s social enterprises and entrepreneurships, those terms were still not widely known, although I had picked up the term years ago in Fast Company Magazine.

It may just be coincidence, but less than a year later, enterprises like Durham native Ryan Allis’s iContact are moving in that direction (Ryan has always had it as his core) and another Durham native, Christopher Gergen’s Bull City Forward is working to make Durham even more of a center for social innovation, enterprise and entrepreneurship.

Kudos to DCVB’s Tourism Development Authority for using its influence to bring attention to the importance of Durham’s unique sense of place.

Time For Tourism To Put Up Or Shut Up

When summer season tourism interests in North Carolina persuaded legislators to curb the school year, arguments seemed logical enough, e.g. free up students as part time workers and free up families to go on vacation.

But by now we should be able to see scientific, generalizable research that proves the logic and quantifies the benefit because there certainly research on the other side compelling research supporting longer school years, longer school days and summer sessions.bus

A few of us spoke up and opposed the movement from the outset because 1) there are inherent risks in telling educators how to do their job (I could hear the hue and cry now if the shoe was on the other foot) and 2) such a significant step should be based on far more than than anecdotal huff and puff. 

There are so many reasons business might be up or down and there was and still is no research revealing the societal  costs of limiting the school year.  Even if as an official did in Texas years ago, there is a quantification of what it means to tourism and taxes, that must also be balanced with a quantification of the costs  to educating young people.

When asked, lobbyists and proponents still get defensive, intimate they have seen information but it isn’t public?  To me that means that we’re still stuck looking at anecdotal information, which is not generalizable.  And as things often do, apparently this has now turned personal and therefore political, not logical.

My bet is tourism is going to pay a huge price for this when the pendulum swings back and it always swings back.  Because there is ample research that keeping kids in school longer, for more of the day and for summers has a huge payoff in closing achievement gaps and accelerating performance.

The letter-to-the-editor in the Herald-Sun, Saturday, April 17th, is also anecdotal but I hear anger like that building among parents, school officials and residents and volunteers interested in school performance.  My guess is that when the damn breaks and the pendulum swings the other way, it isn’t going to be pretty for tourism and the costs will far outweigh any benefit.

Tourism interests who have been dogged and inflexible and even crowing a bit over being able to tell someone else “what do do” are going to pay a price if not in backlash at the cash register then certainly in terms of political capital.

I think the majority of tourism interests are lukewarm at best if not opposed to curbing the school year.  A few have spoken out but far more just keep their head down and have said nothing. Oh yes, the “good ole boy” system is alive and well in tourism where critical thinking often takes a back seat to the mighty knee jerk and the fear of conflict or argument is palpable.

The time has come to either put up (as in put up some good supportive cost/benefit data) or shut up.  Within tourism circles, there is still time for those who share the concern about the long term consequences to pull some others “down off their horses” for a strategic conversation about the future of consumer behavior and how to work with the schools, not against them.

Tourism needs an intelligent, well-educated workforce.  And Tourism offers some great careers in interesting, well-paid jobs.  Tourism needs to be big enough to start the dialogue and seek a win-win, now that it has made its point.

Sometimes you have to adapt to societal change.  I’m sure people stayed at the beach longer on trips before their were cars or four lane highways too….but looking at the great arch of historical tourism development, tourism’s strength has always been more about adapting to consumer behavior than chest-beating for a return to the past.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

“THE DOG” Makes Durham, Durham!

The “Dog” as it is affectionately known is only one of a dozen performance theaters in Durham.header_left

But as Randy Cohen, VP of Local Arts Development for Americans for the Arts recently observed, a destination community makes a big mistake if it focuses only on the mainstream facilities that make it similar to other places and overlooks the unusual venues and performances that give it unique character and texture.

To me, Manbites Dog Theater gives Durham character and beginning a couples of night ago and running through May 1st, “The Dog in its 23rd season premiers “Oldest Living Confederate Widow-Her Confession” an adaptation by the author, Alan Gurganus of the best-seller along with Jane Holding.

Manbites Dog is a small performance theater on the edge of Downtown Durham’s Central Park District but it is also a professional, non-profit, theater company.

It is good for a destination like Durham to have both mainstream and unique cultural offerings but lets always remember how crucial it is to cultivate and support the unique.

After all, when the “Boss” was in town this weekend to show his teenage daughter Duke University and surprise Roseanne Cash on stage at Page Auditorium concert for their hit duet, where did he head?….right to the Ninth Street District, another not-so-slick” ingredient that gives Durham its character.

And believe me, Bruce Springsteen knows a thing or two about genuine and authentic.  And for big-time,a little thing called “Wicked” will kick off at the Durham Performing Arts Center next week.

Reasons To Believe!

One of the first things I noticed about Coach K is how natural it is for him to be part of Durham.  Read his off the cuff remarks below and see how he personifies Durham’s overarching brand or character and personality both at home and wherever he might be.23-172x230  Coach K is clearly a reason to believe Durham is indeed “Where Great Things Happen!”

As if the big community celebration at Cameron wasn’t enough, the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau brought together a partnership with the City, County and Chamber to congratulate the national champs including coaching staff at back to back events Thursday first at American Tobacco Historic District and then across the street at a Durham Bulls game, after DCVB reminded the co-sponsors to include the Durham Bulls national championship in the recognition.

That’s Mayor Bill Bell with Coach K, who along with Commissioner Michael Page as chairman of the Board of Durham County Commissioners recognized the national champions.

Here are verbatim comments Shelly Green, DCVB’s CEO, recorded at the event:

Coach K:

“Thanks for making Durham such a great place not just to go to school, but to live…

…We truly have one of the great cities in the United States.  And when you win a sports championship, whether it be with the Durham Bulls or the Duke Blue Devils, it’s a heck of a thing. But what it does, it brings the spotlight on what we do here in our home town. So thank you.

I could tell you that the guys sitting behind me. I’ve had 30 teams at Duke. This was the most together team I’ve ever had an opportunity to coach. This is the first team that I allowed a guy to have a beard. It’s the first team where I allowed a guy to wear a white belt. I’m mellowing.

I speak on behalf of our whole staff. We love our team. We loved everyday being with them. A lot of times a lot of you are parents, teachers, you’re leaders in your businesses, and you give a lot to your family or to your business team and a lot of times people don’t give back to you. I can tell you, this is the freshest I’ve ever been at the end of the season because anything that we gave to this team, this team gave right back to us

I just want to thank you for coming out this evening. I know we have our home opener tonight [Durham Bulls] and we just swept the series so let’s sweep another one. Let’s keep smiles on our faces all year round. And remember that Duke and Durham, we’re the same. We both start with a D. Second letter is still U and there are a lot more similarities than that. Duke always wants to be a part of the Durham team. And we always want to be your hometown team.” – Coach K

“First off, I want to thank the city of Durham for your support and everything. It feels good to be able to bring this to this city and to know I was a part of it. And you know our team, we worked very hard all year to get to this point. Our senior class it took us four years to get here and just to be able to come back to Durham and Cameron and see a banner that we put up, I don’t think there is any better feeling. So again, I just want to say thank you. It’s been a great four years and the rest of these guys behind me, there’re going to keep it moving.” – Lance Thomas

“I just want to echo what Lance said. Thank you guys for all your support. It’s been a great feeling having the Durham community around us; especially with all this Carolina country around us. This is a nice area where it is all unified and we get a lot of support and just to be around this community and I can’t tell you the amount of times people have come up to me and just said thank you and I just want to thank you guys right back.” – Brian Zoubek

“Going off what these guys said. I just want to stress how proud we feel. How great of an experience it has been for us. But, we feel so proud to play for this university and I feel so proud to play with these guys; it’s a special group. And I think it has shown throughout the year but I don’t feel like, teams like this don’t come around all the time and to play with guys like these was a special experience. You guys are great and it’s just been an honor for me and an honor for us so thank you so much, I appreciate it.” – Jon Scheyer

Friday, April 16, 2010


Analysis by Yankee Group shows that not only was the TV ad revenue down more than 21% (five times more than anticipated) from ‘08 to ‘09 but the dramatic fall was cushioned to 12%+ by an increase in online revenue.

Overall Ad revenue was down more than 12% including print, TV, radio and outdoor.yankeegroup-media-averages-apr-2010  Spot TV advertising was down nearly 24%.

Overall media viewing time per person fell from 14 to 12 hours with most of the decline in the time watching television.

Online media viewing far outpaces now he amount of time watching television each day and Internet ad revenues continue to increase.


Working At The Margins To Conserve Is A Game Changer

Conservation, like innovation can occur at the margins. To me this means making small changes in existing practices that add up to big changes.puma-launches-clever-little-bag-sustainable-packaging

Last week in a meeting, I noticed the water bottles from Deer Park had a message noting then had made the screw top caps smaller, just as they have done the amount of plastic in the bottles themselves. This adds up to millions in savings both for the company and the environment and the caps fit just as snug.

Now Puma, a mega producer of shoes is doing away with the traditional shoe box. At first it doesn’t look like it but the outside shown in the photo is a bag and all that exists of the once fully enclosed box is an insert.puma-launches-clever-little-bag-sustainable-packaging-1 The bag is PET plastic.

Encouraging these kinds of changes by major manufacturers can add up to even more conservation that some of the big game changers.

For the statistically-minded among you the “Clever Little Bag” concept will help PUMA reduce the water, energy and diesel used in manufacturing by more than 60% per year.

  • Approximately 8,500 tons less paper will be consumed
  • 20 million Megajoules of electricity will be saved
  • 1 million liters less fuel oil will be used
  • 1 million liters of water will be saved
  • 500,000 liters of diesel will be saved during transport, and
  • Up to 275 tons of plastic will be saved thanks to the replacement of traditional shopping bags with the lighter built-in bag

Oh and the clever little bag is the idea of an enviornmentalist!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Fav Job (s)

I don’t know whether the term then was garbage man or garbage collector but it remains my favorite job (other than obviously the last 40 years in community marketing.)LEA106

I realize looking back that I had a lot of very different jobs growing up:

  • My first at 5 years old when I graduated from drying the dishes to washing the dishes.  My Mom was very determined I wouldn’t grow up with any of those “rancher” stereotypes for inside and outside work.


  • At six I worked digging post holes with my Grandfather and went on my first cattle round-up (and got lost.)


  • I had my first newspaper route at 9 years old in a small town of 1,000 and even fewer actually households.  This was my first job working for non-family. I still remember the sights and smells and darkness of early morning and there weren’t many street lights then.


  • I went on to “moving” sprinkler pipe twice a day at 10.  I also had a lawn mowing business and that included moving sprinklers but a different kind.


  • Then baling hay which was more like loading and unloading bales during junior high.  And getting up very early before track practice to cut asparagus before the sun came up.


  • When I could drive, I did a stint driving grain truck only it was actually grass seed and they worked three shifts.


  • And I also worked in a salvage store where we took goods from fires and floods and resold them.


  • My senior year in high school I worked in a service station (gas stations before the era of convenience stores.)  Did a brief stint as a flagman for highway construction.


  • And during the summer spraying trees in the Targhee National Forest which involved getting drenched in DDT and bathing only once a week and sleeping in tents.  Definitely not a favorite.


  • I worked construction on a new hotel and then got a my fav job working as summer replacement on the crew of a garbage truck for the county.  It was in the days of back loaders where you loaded a big bin in the back, then when it was full ran a big scoop that compressed it up into the bed.  Then went to the dump when it was full and emptied it like a dump truck.

It took several loads a day to do a route.  I only got to work on the back end.  People had metal garbage cans in those days and often more than one.  I learned the skill of reaching down as the driver slowed, picking up a can without getting off the truck and while it was still moving, tossing it behind my back to the other hand, flipping it upside down to empty and then reversing it to put it down on the grown just a few feet from where I picked it up.

Great skill to have and obvious no OSHA in those days.

  • And college I worked in and eventually managed the Office of Tours and Conferences and then start up with a convention and visitors bureau,  launching my 40 year career in destination marketing.

I’m sure I left a few jobs out.  I regret that today, kids don’t appear to get the opportunity to work through jobs like this.  Many don’t never even have to do chores.  They have to be missing something that can’t be replaced with other activities.

Maybe it’s why, as I read recently, that “Millennials” are the first generation of Americans ever not to list work ethic as a top value in surveys.  But maybe that’s because they haven’t had jobs and the fulfillment of a day’s work.

Membership Driven Resources Rob Visitors

While only 4% of Destination Marketing Organizations are still part of a Chamber of Commerce, there are still many others who are independent but also restrict promotions to members only.

Memberships as a model are very obsolete but I have some perspective on that because during my nearly 40 year career in destination marketing, the first half was spent in two different destination communities where we relied on memberships.

But I think it is very unfair for a community’s Destination Marketing Organization to deny visitors information based on who is and  isn’t a member.  It should be about visitor satisfaction, not just the businesses and organization who benefit.members-only3

One DMO I know runs all promotions including paying for construction and operation of the visitor information center with revenues from a tax paid just by those visitors who stay overnight in commercial lodging.

But then it turns around and restricts the businesses and organizations it lists in publications, on websites and in the visitor information center to just those businesses and organizations who pay a special membership fee and then it charges even those members an extra fee to be in the information center.

And I doubt very much the visitors to that community have a clue they are being given very limited options and an extremely narrow perspective.

I don’t see a problem with charging memberships, although the cost of such a program compared to the benefits has always seemed suspect.  But I believe members should get value added-benefit, not exclusivity.   Publications and information about a community should be as comprehensive as possible and then bold listings or editorial for those who pay extra such as members.

That way it’s much fairer to the most important stakeholder of all – the visitor.

Oh, the same goes for private so-called visitor or relocation guides that restrict listings to advertisers and worse only print a smidgeon of what’s needed to serve the visitors or newcomers, pocketing the rest as profit or as a kick back to another organization.

They are doing a disservice both to communities and visitors.

There should definitely be a prohibition on deliberate misuse of references that mislead visitors and newcomers into thinking they are getting objective, balanced information.

How America Pulled Itself Back From the Brink – And Why it’s Destined To Stay On Top

Two reports, one in Newsweek Magazine yesterday and today an editorial in USA Today are positive about the economy.

Daniel Gross, who’s subtitle is used as the title of this blog) gives an excellent recap of just how remarkable the turnaround has been (a swing from shrinking 6.4 percent first quarter 2009 to growing 5.9% by the fourth quarter) but why.  He compares the quick actions of the public and private sectors to the very slow reactions that led to Japan’s lost decade.gross_237-thumb7

He also does a great job of showing how economic insecurity or “declinists” as he terms them have proclaimed “ things have been going south in this country since the cruel winter in Jamestown, VA, in 1609.”

USA Today’s editorial is entitled “Don’t low now, but the economy’s bouncing back” and gives the viewpoint to ignore the downbeat commentary because the recover is busting out all over.”

But it is more than that.  Today, it seems we have a significant element of our country actually clouding that turnaround with hopes an insecure or angered public will forget who got us into this mess and give them more clout in November.

But I sense that 24/7 news coverage is about to swing from doom and gloom to revealing just how fast things are getting better.  The pendulum always swings back.  The economy is all about confidence.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This Weekend Marks The End and The Beginning of Another Era of Partisan Rancor

This weekend, at Bennett Place State Historic Site in Durham North Carolina, marks the end of of Civil War and the end of one era of partisan rancor and the beginning of another.


You see, the rancor too common today in the US Congress isn’t new.  What’s unusual have been the periods of non-partisan cooperation in our nation’s history.  Although, it is being portrayed by many in the news media as unusual and of course parlayed into millions by talk show host yanking people’s chains.

But it isn’t new at all.   Right here in Durham, 145 years ago, the War Between the States effectively ended.  What about Appomattox?  I guess the winners wanted to declare it prematurely “over” as President Bush did the Iraq War.

But General Lee was careful to only surrender his much smaller army at that Virginia Courthouse.  The war waged on until the largest surrender of the War in Durham between Generals Sherman and Johnston effectively ended it.

Per President Lincoln’s express wishes, Sherman had negotiated a surrender based on reconciliation and healing, not vindictiveness.  But in the midst of negotiations here in Durham, Lincoln was assassinated in Washington D.C.

And Radical Republicans (their term not mine for an extremely reactionary element of the President’s own party that took power) demanded the most vindictive settlement possible and the nation lived with the horrible after effects for fifty years and some say even today.  What a monumental missed opportunity.

Lincoln had to battle reactionary partisans his entire presidency.  In fact several states seceded when he was elected, paying no attention to his conciliatory words and the cost in life and limb and treasure was staggering.  Oh, and the news media also played a huge role getting people riled up, even without vitriolic talk show hosts.

Maybe the Republican strategy today of demonizing everything will give them the power they seek…but at what cost to the nation?

Have we really learned the lessons of 145 years ago?  It doesn’t seem we have.

AFTA-DMAI Toolkit Moves to Comment Phase

Posted for a period of comment now is a draft toolkit shaped by a Joint Task Force of Americans for the Arts (AFTA) and Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI.)  Copies will be posted soon by DMAI and AFTA and blog open for public comment will be available later today.image001

The purpose is simply to serve as a conversation and thought-starter to spawn closer collaborations and partnerships at at the community-level between cultural-heritage organizations, facilities, events and presenters and the community’s official community destination marketing organization, most often called a convention and visitors bureau.

Due to the recession, the Task Force conducted meetings by conference call and exchanged information and feedback via a listserv and a blog between calls.  I was very impressed with the the group’s ability to make pointed observations, stay focused and reach consensus even without face to face meetings.

I appreciate the opportunity past DMAI Chairman Maura Gast and current Chairman Dan Fenton gave me to chair the Joint Task Force and to finish off this phase from retirement.  I appreciate Randy Cohen at AFTA for helping to recruit their representatives and for his insight into the importance of non-mainstream cultural-heritage to a communities unique sense of place.

And special thanks to my former assistant Minerva Council and the team at DCVB for helping with the technical details of creating and proofing the document and to Karen Gonzales at DMAI for facilitating meetings.  I also want to thank my long-time friend E’Vonne Coleman Cook for advising the Task Force.

E’Vonne works for DCVB now but after a stint as an executive for the National Endowment for the Arts, she directed the Durham Arts Council for most of a decade before a stint at Duke University.  She helped DCVB initiate a very productive two way relationship with cultural-heritage stakeholders in Durham.

My appreciation as well to Shelly Green, the current CEO at DCVB for permitting them to be involved and for proofing.

Cultural-Heritage entities are crucial stakeholders for destination marketing organizations and in turn DMO’s and they are primary stakeholders in destinations with culture at the center of their visitor product and sense of place.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Durham Doesn’t Need A Lecture!

One of the key characteristics of Durham, surfaced through two years of interviews with both residents and newcomers, scores of focused groups and then confirmed with generalizable survey results from both residents and external audiences is:


But that’s one characteristic hard for many boosters to grasp when they are new to the community, particularly in the wake of achievements like the 4th national title by Duke University’s Men’s Basketball Team.

Some community boosters (and I was in the business for 40 years) initially misinterpret Durham’s unpretentiousness as a lack of pride or self worth and want to lecture the community…


In fact, Durham has a scientifically and very well documented sense of community pride, easily twice the level averaged in other communities.  But it isn’t a jump up and down town, nor does it smash windows and burn vehicles or rub it in the face of others.

But do not, ever mistake the depth of how much this community cares and quietly celebrates its excellence.  And the community wants those messengers who promote it to understand, respect and reflect this value.


Ethic of Place

I noted recently the Center for Sustainable Tourism at East Carolina University’s Department of Research and Graduate Studies.  The Center’s initiatives include one on Community Sense of Place.  It cites the quote below which I believe is right on target and not just because my original home was the Rocky Mountain West.  If anything it is even more important to places like Durham, North Carolina and the Southeast:

“We need to develop what I call an ethic of place.

  • It is premised on a sense of place, the recognition that our species thrives on the subtle, intangible, but soul-deep mix of landscape, smells, sounds, history, neighbors, and friends that constitute a place, a homeland.


  • An ethic of place respects equally the people of a region and the land, animals, vegetation, water, and air.


  • It recognizes that residents* revere their physical surroundings and that they need and deserve a stable, productive economy that is accessible to those with modest incomes.


  • An ethic of place ought to be a shared community value and ought to manifest itself in a dogged determination to treat the environment and its people as equals, to recognize both as sacred, and to insure that all members of the community not only search for, but insist upon, solutions that fulfill that ethic.”


Charles Wilkinson, PhD

Beyond The Mythic West (p. 75)
* original word was “westerners”.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Center for Sustainable Tourism and Green Plus

Up in Asheville last week, I ran into Dr. Pat Long again.  He is Director of the East Carolina University Center for Sustainable Tourism in Greenville NC and his team were meeting with NOAA and also conducting an educational presentation to Destination Marketing Association of North Carolina.Capture

Turns out Pat is also a fellow Harley enthusiast and rider and we found four of us at one table that night for dinner including Mike Butts (Triumph) with the DMO in Charlotte and Tim Lampkin (Honda) with the DMO in Asheville.

The Center is a proponent of the same “triple bottom line” approach used by the Green Plus certification at the Center for Sustainable Development, a joint program with Duke University in Durham and based at the University of of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  DCVB when I worked there because the first DMO in the nation to earn that certification.

Since North Carolina doesn’t have a certification program for tourism businesses, it seems the most efficient way to go about none is to work with Green Plus to add modules if necessary.  Hopefully Pat and Chris Carmody at Green Plus can get together on that along with DMANC and the NCDTSFD.

Hispanics Drive Half of Food-Restaurant Growth

Immigration is obviously also good for business.  Hispanics over the last several years have become the most important economic driver for restaurant, food and beverage sectors.latinum-hispanic-food-growth-apr-2010

Not just by a little.  They drove fully half of revenues in those areas while mainstream segments cut back.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


How soon we forget that we’re all immigrants to this land, including many Native Americans if the theory’s on the land bridge from Asia are correct.

So how is it such a significant number of us have absolutely no empathy, let alone historical perspective about immigration.  It isn’t just now that we’re populous.  People began trying to slam the door shut, shortly after the first settlers landed.

Most of my family on both sides came here in the early 1600’s.  Some came in the antebellum period, after Independence but before the great War Between the States.dance2

Nearly all faced little or no restrictions and I’m grateful, both for them and for all of my ancestors since.  I believe they’ve all contributed in ways large and small to making this nation great, and some laid down their lives.

It gives me shivers as it did during a quick trip to Asheville for meetings last week to hear some very good people, arrogantly proclaim a hardened opposition to immigration.  I don’t know their ancestry but I dare say, their forefathers probably wouldn’t have made it into this country if the current day opinions had prevailed.

I also don’t think most have that perspective.  It is either a knee jerk or ideological, not logical for them.

Personally I think it is impractical if not immoral to try to restrict all immigration.  By doing so we fail to focus on what should be some very good but highly selective restrictions, e.g. terrorists and other criminal minds etc.

Immigrants, both through the front door and the back door have made this country what it is…Great.  So let’s get off the high and mighty soap box and view them as though they were our ancestors…and put our energy into restrictions that make sense.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Marketing to Women

This analysis is particularly relevant to visitor centric community marketing where women are more often the decision makers.

The analysis just a nice job of laying out the differences in marketing to men and women but also various generations of women.


When Will Airlines Grasp That The Airport Isn’t The Destination?

You’d expect that by at least say, 15 years ago, airlines would have figured this one out…but their websites and those of resellers, are still organized as though passengers actually fly to get to airports.  We all know and they should too that people fly to places, almost always cities and towns or their environs.  Airports are just “a portal” along the way.Capture

By now, you’d expect the searchable databases behind airline booking engines to be populated with the names of every town and city of say, 5,000 or 10,000 people.  It is very easy to buy lists and airports should be able to help tag those in their “catchment” areas or easier yet, just load distances, so any and all airports come up in say a 100 mile radius.

That way, say you’re traveling to Olympia, WA, that state’s capital, you’d type in Olympia or Lacey or Tumwater for that matter and up would come a list of airports through which you could get to your destination.

This way you wouldn’t need to have prior knowledge that the airport many airlines refer to as “Seattle,” some 60 miles north from Olympia, really isn’t in Seattle at all but midway between there and Tacoma and much closer to Olympia.

The database could also bring up the airport near Portland, OR as an option and only 40 miles further away  from Olympia than Seattle is and on most days and times of day, the traffic is easier from Portland to Olympia than it is from Seattle, making the additional distance very worthwhile.

Instead, the airline booking engines almost always still require that you already know the airport through which you’d travel or that would be most convenient.  Maybe you do and maybe you don’t but most other websites now don’t require you to go to that trouble or have prior knowledge.

It is getting better for places like Durham which is the core of a metro area and co-owns its own airport.   In many cases now, instead of having to know that Raleigh, a separate city and metro area altogether is the first name of the airport co-owned with Durham, you can now type in Durham and up will pop RDU Airport.

Until recently you had to know to look under the “R’s” in an alpha ordered list to find Durham which any school kid knows should be in the “D’s.”

Smart people work on airline websites and they’ve probably been trying to get management to move into this Internet age for sometime.  But there are possibly a lot of higher ups in airline management who are either very slow to change or so self-absorbed, they actually beleive the airport is our final destination.

As lovely as they can now be, in this day and age, few if any passergers exist who are eager to spend more time at the airport.  You get there when you must for takeoff and on landing, you grab your bags and get on the road as quickly as you can….to where?…Youre actual destination.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

5 Things Durham Must Do To Retain Its Optimal Serendipity

One of the things that attracted me to Durham is also what has given it such a positive “brain-gain,” meaning a lot of people who come here for college at Duke, North Carolina Central or nearby UNC-Chapel Hill, choose to stay here and put down roots.

It appears that going back generations, Durham embraced “optimal serendipity” to use a reference coined by economist and CEO Joe Cortright at Portland, Oregon’s Impresa.

Cortright describes serendipity as places that “throw people together in unusual, unexpected ways and combinations. These combinations produce the vitality of a place, and are central to the process of innovation…”serendipity-new

Durham does this and only where someone tries to “slick” us up too much has it lost site of this important aspect. Here you find, even among historic neighborhoods, a blend of ethnicities, classes and lifestyles.

Dr. Richard Florida explains that “…places are valued for authenticity and uniqueness. Authenticity comes from several aspects of a community---historic buildings, established neighborhoods, a unique music scene, or specific cultural attributes.

He continues that this “… comes from the mix---from urban grit alongside renovated buildings, from the commingling of young and old, long-time neighborhood characters and yuppies, fashion models and "bag ladies." An authentic place also offers unique and original experiences…”

Part of Durham’s intrinsic appeal is also that it is “accepting” or in Dr. Florida’s terms, “Creative-minded people enjoy a mix of influences. They want to hear different kinds of music and try different kinds of food. They want to meet and socialize with people unlike themselves, trade views and spar over issues.”

If you know Durham, you know these are some both some of the reasons residents are so tenaciously proud of this community but also why it is so often put down by communities that does have these attributes.

Based on reading these and other experts, here are 5 critical things for Durham to focus on:

  • Run from people who try to make us over to be so-called “major league” or promote building things you can find anywhere and everywhere. While well-meaning they don’t have a bone in their body that grasps authenticity or uniqueness.

  • Keep places like the Ninth Street, Brightleaf and Rockwood districts gritty and optimally serendipity. Spawn others with their own serendipity and make sure even adaptive re-use projects are kept “real” and a bit rough around the edges. Beware of master planners who don’t know where to stop.

  • Focus on “participatory” recreation when it comes to cultural facilities, arts, festivals, music scene, biking and hiking trails and open spaces. For visitors and residents alike, even those who don’t partake, these aspects are ultra appealing. Beware of “big and expensive.”

  • Do whatever it takes to begin manufacturing indigenous creative class and innovation workers. The arms race to draw them will run dry and the communities that grow these people from school age on will thrive.

  • Shift incentives from corporations to start-ups, from recruitment to retention, from same-o to innovation and especially social innovation. Distance Durham from other places that are intolerant no matter the proximity. They are toxic to what makes Durham unique.


Duke May Have 4 But Durham Has 5 National Basketball Championships or Make That 10!

It may be Duke’s 4th national championship but Durham is also home to another university that has won a national championship for men’s basketball.

North Carolina Central University, just turned Division I but it won the Division II national championship in 1989.  So that’s five for Durham.3769918

And the win last night by a Duke team that earned “greatness” is also the 10th national championship in all for the Durham NC Metro Area which includes rival University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kind of puts Coach Wooden’s 10 in 12 years at UCLA into perspective.

Congratulations to Coach K, his assistants and the student-athletes and the administration at Duke for not only setting a standard for winning but for academics. And now that baseball season starts, we’re reminded that the Durham Bulls have also brought national championship fame to this community.

In fact, I have fond memories of running into Thomas Hill from the team that had just won it all in 1991 outside the Historic Durham Athletic Park.  They were looking for Durham Bull’s tickets and I was happy to offer them mine as a way of saying thanks.

Durham truly is “Where Great Things Happen!”

Monday, April 05, 2010

Coach K As A Person and A Coach – He’s all He Appears to Be!

As I waited in line at Waffle House in Asheboro during a quick motorcycle trip on Friday, a guy a few years older than me and retired from Sara Lee, asked if I’d like to share a booth.  He had kindly watched my helmet while I washed up.

I had barely sat down when the subject turned to basketball.  He was a UNC-Chapel Hill fan and I a Duke fan.  He immediately volunteered that he just doesn’t like the Duke coach.  He also explained that he doesn’t know Coach K but he didn’t volunteer the reason for his dislike.mike_krzyzewski_-_basketball_coach

Could be it is because Coach K is articulate, that he has expertise and experience beyond coaching, that he wins, graduates student athletes and has a great family.

Now, I know Coach K personally, I live in Durham, I’m a Duke fan so this opinion is hardly objective.  But as I wait the last few minutes before National Championship game, I have to express this.

Coach K is all he seems to be.  But what you may not know is how approachable, how almost shy and how very “real” and down to earth he is.  He is always surrounded by people and he has little privacy.  But he always has time for people and if he knows you, he never misses an opportunity to call to you across the room.

He is incredibly intense, very dedicated to his family, professionally ver flexible and innovative and yes, a great person.

Even if he didn’t have three national championships, even if he doesn’t win his fourth tonight, he is perfect for Duke, perfect for Durham and a credit to college basketball…

And I’m proud and privileged to know him and to be his friend.

Metrics Does It Again

After reading the “Metrics” column in the Sunday New York Times Business Section, I’m beginning to think it is worth the Sunday subscription alone.Capture

Repeatedly, “Metrics” turns very complicated issues and statistics into visuals that are not only much easier to grasp but they provide essential perspective and benchmarks for improvement.

Click on the image to see it in full and read Hanna Fairfield’s report below it.

Incredible stuff!  This is so much better than reading a lot of anecdotal debate and comment and impossible for news outlets on TV or Radio to do in snippets.

NCAA David & Goliath Story Rings Hollow

Usually this story resonates but I’m not sure the public is buying it this time even with the overused hype. 

  • Butler finished 11th in the polls, just 8 spots below Duke.2010-final-four-logo
  • Both schools have less than 7,000 undergraduates.
  • Both rank highly as Universities, Butler 2nd in the Midwest among universities with master’s degrees and Duke 10th among national universities.
  • Butler runs nearly $30,000 a year, Duke a little over $38,000.
  • Both have good men’s basketball graduation rates with Butler at 92% and Duke at 89%.
  • Butler is located in a much larger city with Indy nearing 800,000 and playing at home and Durham, the home of Duke is closing on 260,000 for the single city-county.
  • Both are located in big basketball states and both play in storied arenas. Both win with defense and rebounding and close teamwork.
  • Neither of these specific teams has played before for the championship.

Seems like a pretty fair contest and one either team can win.  What’s wrong with that as a storyline.  Are we really so shallow as sports fans that we need to be manipulated to watch the national championship game.  And if we are, isn’t their something more original?

As for me though, don’t get me wrong. It’s Go Duke! (by the way, tied for the most favorite NCAA men’s basketball program nationwide according to a Harris Poll in march, both of which are located in the Durham NC MSA!)

In A Time When Communities Need More Revenue… It Is Time To Dramatically Lower The Room And Car Rental Taxes!

Tourism is major economic development for communities but the prevalent taxes levied on these consumers are archaic, inequitable and low yield.

You read correctly. If cities and counties want to get some serious revenue from tourism, it is time to dramatically reduce the ubiquitous tax rates levied on individual customers during check out on the rates paid for guest rooms in commercial lodging establishments and on car rentals.dead-end-sign

Extremely small proportions of travelers overall utilize commercial lodging or car rentals so double digit tax rates on just these two areas collect far, far less than a 1% or less tax shouldered by every type of visitor and equitably across all visitor expenditures would generate much, much, more revenue and it would be much more equitable as well.

First the replacement tax would need to reach travelers as they pay for gasoline or transportation, dining, shopping and entertainment admissions etc.

The trick is how to avoid residents who pay for those services so it may not be a sales tax and instead a gross receipts tax calibrated to the proportion of revenue each type of business receives from visitors.

Yes, that is possible to determine for each community through tools like ImPlan. It would also be possible to vary rates within business type, say based on whether the car rentals are for travelers are accident insurance claims or individual travelers vs. guest rooms purchased in bulk by major corporations etc.

This could be done as “tourism” improvement districts based on a type of business vs. just geography. The rationale can be not only to self fund community marketing and promotion but to fund infrastructure and services used by all travelers.

The options are endless but one thing is for sure. Continuing to go down the road of levying taxes on a very few travelers is, well a dead end.

Of course, this change in the status quo would mean an end to the stupid comments in so many Chamber of Commerce board rooms where some types of businesses, e.g. lawyers and TV stations, are so willing to throw visitor related businesses under the bus for higher taxes because “we” don’t pay them.a

An end to the status quo would also be an end to whining by sports teams, eager to tax lodging or car rentals to pay for facilities but virtually apoplectic over admissions taxes and of course restaurant associations who say nothing when taxes are increased on hotels but threaten seppuku over taxes on prepared food while at the same time claiming a third of revenue is from visitors.


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Immigrants Have Always Fueled This Country

Thomas Friedman’s op-ed in the NYT’s makes an excellent argument for both immigration reform and job creation.  While the salvaging some major employers kept us from slipping deeper into recession, the established employers aren’t the businesses that generated great job growth over the 25 years up to 2005.friedman-ts-190

The jobs were created by new business start-ups, often fueled by what Friedman calls high I-Q risk takers like many we have here in Durham both at Duke University and North Carolina Central University.

Mr. Friedman makes a great argument for innovative changes in immigration that keep those students here after graduation.  It is also why what Durham native Christopher Gergen is doing with Bull City Forward to stimulate even greater evolution of social entrepreneurs, is right on target.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Far More People Love Duke!

I wasn’t surprised when a reporter, editor or columnist decided to superimpose his or her disfavor of Duke basketball as a generalized opinion.  I just continue to be surprised or maybe dismayed is a better word at how many others in journalism fall for it and jump on the bandwagon before they have facts.  Maybe it is deliberate, maybe not, maybe it is to milk a storyline, maybe not, maybe it is laziness, maybe not, maybe it is because news is anecdotal by nature and rarely focuses on what is generalizable, maybe not.  But to me and I’ll bet many others, is annoying and plays with people’s minds and not good journalism.

One thing is for sure, win or lose today in the Final Four, scientific, generalizable research shows the Duke men’s basketball program is the most popular in Durham, in the home areas of some of its closest rivals and tied as the most popular nationwide with a school in nearby Chapel Hill.Duke

Because the anti-Duke sentiment often tries to outshout and superimpose itself even here in Durham and in nearby communities with news media that attempt to cover Durham news,  DCVB and Dr. Mitch Javidi, twice this decade conducted scientifically public opinion polls, once when Duke won the national championship and again when UNC-Chapel Hill did (click to enlarge the chart) and each time Duke surveyed as the most popular in Durham and in surrounding counties, even in a year when a rival was winning it all.

For a naysayer, I even had to dig out the percentage of population who are UNC-Chapel Hill alumni to illustrate that even if they were all UNC fans, it would still be generalizable that Duke is a favorite.  People forget that to a lot of North Carolinians, Durham is as native to the state as state schools and in Durham and many other areas, much of the population is not native anyway.

The nationwide Harris poll, conducted early last month as March madness began in college basketball confirmed that nationwide Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill are indeed tied as most favorite.

Whatever the motive and/or maybe ignorance of the person or persons who started the “EVERYBODY HATES DUKE” diatribe of the last several weeks, it is clear even those who control the “ink,” even when they “copy-cat,” can’t superimpose their opinions.   The reason people love Duke.  In Durham it is the home team but nationwide, probably because people love winners, love excellent and frequently see the games on television.  To be sure, that would require a deeper survey.

Go Duke! – but win or lose – don’t buy all of the crap about “everybody hates Duke” even if you hate Duke.  It isn’t even close to being fact, no matter how often it is said, loud it is shouted or repeatedly reported.