Sunday, May 30, 2010

Economic Value Added During Wicked Compared to Previous 12 Months

As Durham’s Destination Marketing Organization, DCVB regularly documents overall value added to the local economy.  But given the right inputs, DCVB also partners to drill down to compute accurate assessments of the economic impact for individual, local, cultural or sports events and facilities using the highly accurate Implan methodology.

Beyond the value of the metrics, this deepens this DMO’s relevance to stakeholders including the community overall by leveraging skill sets beyond internal uses.wicked_chart_big

For instance, working with the partnership managing DPAC – The Durham Performing Arts Center, several weeks ago DCVB crunched the estimated impact of the just completed run of the Broadway musical, Wicked inclusive of what was spent to attend the performance and other related expenditures in Durham overall.

And then for another request, DCVB recently ran an analysis of the impact of all attendees at various performances from March last year through this last April (which also included a portion of Wicked.)

Attendees to Wicked’s extensive run of back to back performances in Durham at the DPAC generated an estimated net value added to the community of $6.3 million from gross visitor spending of $7.1 million.  Attendees to see this production also generated a return on investment in revenues to local government and tax payers of $300,000.  The facility is owned by the City of Durham, NC and operated by a partnership between Nederlander and PFM.

Back to back shows over an extended run of a very large scale production though isn’t at all typical but it sure is impressive.  You’ll often see much computations that are much higher in other cities but typically they fail to use information from actual local visitor expenditure studies and/or fail to distinguish spending by day trip attendees vs. overnight or deduct leakage or even include resident spending, all definite no-no’s.

Attendance at the variety of events sprinkled over the 12 months from March of last year through this past April (including a portion of Wicked) generated $18.4 million in value added to the Durham economy from gross visitor spending of $20.1 million and another $5.7 million induced or indirectly generated by that spending.  The value added is net leakage for spending that leaves the community immediately or goes outside for supplies etc.

Attendee spending over that time also generated more than $1 million in revenues for local government including more than $500,000 from a fee charged per seat, half of which fund future upkeep or up fit of the facility when needed.

A note of caution – please don’t just pick up Durham’s numbers and apply them to events or facilities in other communities regardless of how close by or distant they may be.  Any analysis needs to be carefully calibrated using inputs specific to each county including research on visitor spending etc.  Similarly for something like the world touring premier of Billy Elliot in Durham, the impact will need to be calibrated for instance to include rental of performance space over many weeks.

It also isn’t wise to try to apply the numbers from Wicked to other musicals.  It was a significantly much larger production and it had much longer run here.  Theaters are typically dark many nights of the year so a sold-out musical of this scale over that many days is unusual.  For example, Wicked with attendance near 90,000 was nearly a third as much as the attendance at events over all of the prior 12 months of performances.

Also, as always with good economic impact analysis, these numbers do not include spending from attendees who are residents of Durham.  Economists know that resident spending is not value added to an economy because they would have been spending on other things, if not that same day.

By the way, two good ways for anyone to readily tell if they are being snowed by a report on economic impact is to ask two questions, does it include resident spending?…and/or is it net or gross?  Either should sound an alarm.

Friday, May 28, 2010

So What Is The Big Apple Anyway?

I’ve seen this movie up close so releases like the one below are all the more embarrassing when they are issued by a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO.) After all, DMO’s sign a code of ethics not to be misleading about another destination.

NYC & Co.[NYC CVB] Welcomes 2014 Super Bowl ... NYC & Company is celebrating the 2014 Super Bowl coming to the Big Apple. It will be hosted at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. NFL owners decided May 25 to award the nation’s largest city with the powerhouse event, estimated to have a local impact in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

I’m sure there will be more than enough overflow impact on NYC.  But East Rutherford isn’t in the Big Apple, no matter how “big” the Big Apple thinks it is.  It isn’t even in the same state.  The release would have been fine had:ae5ccc78c490f408cb0e6a706700d1ce

  • NYC’s DMO congratulated East Rutherford, NJ on hosting the Super Bowl.


  • It would have been great had the release offered NYC’s assistance to East Rutherford or


  • Merely, welcomed the event to the “Tri-State Area” which is a media term for NYC, parts of NY State, Connecticut and New Jersey covered by the same radio and TV stations.

You almost expect television stations exempt themselves from trivial facts like place.  But DMO’s, the official marketing agencies for “places” should stay with the facts and Instead, NYC over-reached.  And over-reaching is never becoming, especially by a city that has so much.

It wouldn’t hurt NYC or the Stadium or the NFL to be accurate about location and let just a little sunlight shine on little East Rutherford.  After all, a little mutual respect and consideration for a neighbor would have also come back to benefit the “Big Apple” in many more ways than the Super Bowl will.

Place isn’t just about jurisdictional boundaries as people dismissive of towns and cities and even states or countries often say. But it also isn’t about what you’re “near” and it certainly isn’t about television or radio coverage areas or other arbitrary lumps of counties, cities and towns.

Place is about culture, character and yes assets of a particular point on the map, regardless if it is just a truck stop.  It is about its history, its founders, its quirkiness, its views, its air and sky, its weather, its flora and fauna, its everything as differentiated from the next point on the map.

Place is about the good things and the troubling things. It is about distinctness.  If this was negative news, NYC would look down on East Rutherford, NJ as well, New Jersey, often characterizing that diverse and often stunning state in the pejorative.

So with this huge, spectacular event, it is time for NYC to back off and give credit, recognition and acknowledgement to the real place the Super Bowl will really be held in 2014.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Putting A $ Value On Local Green Infrastructure

For those who won’t or can’t afford time to read and that unfortunately includes many of the people on which we rely in both business and government, let me very briefly sum up the 16 page valuation of Char/Meck’s rapidly declining tree canopy.

Actually I take that back, this tiny summation is for those of you who will try to at least skim read these 372 words and need to stick the information it in front of some people who should.3614989898_7e2caa26d6_o

It is only appropriate as Durham volunteers including 100 Durham visitors took time this week to clean up one of our preserves in the Ellerbe Creek Watershed.

“ page 8 - The six year period [2002-2008] shows that tree canopy continued to decline in both the City and County. Charlotte lost 3,231 acres of trees, a 2% decline and Mecklenburg County lost 9,475 acres of trees, a 3% decline over this six year period.

If no action is taken to reverse this trend, and the rate of landcover change continues, projections to 2015 show that Mecklenburg County will lose an additional 20,500 acres of tree canopy and Charlotte will lose an additional 7,000 acres of tree canopy.”

But below (chart shown below midway down, page 10) is what an increase of just 5% in tree canopy can mean.  In terms of removing air pollution, storing and securing carbon and reducing storm water runoff, an increase of 5% in tree canopy would represent $470 million.


Don’t worry, the study isn’t about curbing development but about making development smarter and putting a value on future costs as well as benefit.  It does have a proposal for a “tree fee” that only makes good sense.  If a development chooses to take out trees but not replace them, it can pay a fee to have new ones planted elsewhere.  The study also gives values that can be used to net out one-sided feasibility studies about zoning changes etc.

Who knows, it may help lenders put a value on yard and street trees that too often get mowed down by owners of existing homes with no thought of what it may be doing to the community or the planet.

Yup, I’m a tree-hugger but its not just about aesthetics.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The “M” Word – Never Simple – Sometimes Not A Savings

I arrived in Anchorage AK in 1978, just a couple of years after the City of Anchorage and the Borough (County) of Greater Anchorage had merged into the Municipality of Anchorage. I thought at the time that it must be common but I guess that even today, there are only 40 or so instances in the nation. The Mayor of the Municipality of Anchorage now is the son of George Sullivan who was Mayor during and after the merger.Capture George, a good friend and former board member, just passed away last Fall.

Two things have brought to mind the merger of of the City of Durham and County of Durham, NC in recent days, although it has been thoroughly discussed and rejected a couple of times since I’ve lived here and by voters twice prior to that.

First, at a budget presentation, the County Manager Mike Ruffin apparently raised the issue of merging law enforcement and fire protection as noted here by Jim Wise in his blog Bull’s Eye. Then an article by Judy Kean in USA Today about cities and counties thinking about overall merger with a mayor of one just merged claiming a 22% savings in personnel. All I can say is they must have had some huge management offices which Durham doesn’t.

You would think though that Durham as essentially a single city-county would be a natural for merger ( very tiny slivers of Chapel Hill and Raleigh, each in other counties, were just accommodations by Durham to enable some spill over developments to have integral services).

Ruffin’s proposal isn’t to be confused with what the City briefly experimented, years ago, when it merged police and fire departments before separating them again. I think he must be talking just about merging the County Sheriff with City police and fire.

The savings Ruffin projects as significant must be related to just collapsing the Sheriff’s office back to just handling its traditional responsibilities for warrants, public safety in the counts and schools and oversight of the detention center and fingerprinting. Of course, the City would have to expand police coverage to cover 14,000 or so households so I’d have to know more about how he sees significant savings overall. This would certainly be a much smoother division of effort.

I am assuming, as it is in the merged Charlotte/Mecklenburg, there would still be a county sherriff in Durham if the City and County here merged. Alaska is one of three states without Sheriffs so I suspect that was never an issue with merger in Anchorage. In the Anchorage merger though, they preserved, at least initially, many of the little fire districts and crossroad identities, e.g. Bahama, Rougemont etc.

The City and County here already operate departments several combined services such as Planning, Inspections, GIS etc. While they each handle land-centric economic developmet separately, they handle visitor centric economic and cultural development jointly, though DCVB is an “authority” established by State legislation as a provision to granting the City and County permission to levy a special tax on the rate paid by overnight visitors 20%) with a portion invested back to self fund community marketing.

Cities and Counties are not replicas of course. The City here handles hard services like protection, streets, traffic, fire and parks, which is more typically a function of counties elsewhere. The County here oversees or funds public schools, public health, tax collections, elections and social services etc. and of course the Sheriff's office. Counties are official sub-divisions of the State while cities are incorporations.

So in Durham, there is already a pretty good division of effort and they have very different cultures, one centralized and the other not. Merger here would integrate some management and consolidate the elected governance bodies but not a lot else that I’ve been able to tell.

But I can see how merger sounds good politically. Those advocating smaller government would like that it collapses one into two even if the one is essentially the same size as the two combined. And fans of centralization would also like having just one entity so ostensibly approvals by elected officials would be simpler. One downside to merger is that it often legitimizes "full-time" elected officials but increasingly since the 1980's they've been operating like that anyway, just without pay.

Merger is never the slam dunk issue some make it out to be.

Paving On Shoreham Brings Back Memories

Yesterday crews entirely re-paved my part of Shoreham St.  Seeing the machines and smelling the smells brought back lots of memories.

I never had ambitions to be a cross walk guard in grade school but a good job for a high school kid back then was being a flagman for paving crews.

They were always repaving portions of the two highways my family frequently traveled, especially from 5,000 foot elevation of volcanic caldera under Fremont County, Idaho, up the “Ashton Hill” to nearly 8,000 feet over Targhee Pass on the way to the West entrance of Yellowstone or the more than 8,000 foot Teton pass heading to Jackson Hole.

The machines were wider and had more stations of course than the one you see in the video at my driveway above.  But the process was the same, a stream of trucks running ahead of the paver to dump hot asphalt into the machine.  They were followed by another job I envied back then, driving the big rollers to smooth and compress the pavement.

I guess I come by it honest, in 1915, once the grain had been harvested and livestock had been auctioned and before he began breaking colts during the winter, my Grandfather Mel Bowman and a friend each took four-horse wagons and hauled cement up the passes and into Wyoming for the construction of the Jackson Dam just east of Moran.  Four days over, two days back for $80.

The smells of pavement yesterday brought back good memories of the smells of forest and sage and the quiet, lonely periods when a flagman for a paving crew can only hear the wind and the birds.

Nearly 21% of Sustainable Finalists Are Visitor Related

Speaks well for the hospitality sector that among the five categories and 24 finalists for The North American Sustainable Enterprise of the Year Awards,  there are five entities (3 based in Durham, North Carolina) that are visitor-relatedNASE-2010-logo-web-187x300.

The Durham finalists (two in one category) are the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB,) the community’s official marketing agency and spearhead for visitor-centric economic and cultural development along with King’s Daughters Inn and Dos Perros Restaurant.

Congratulations to all of the finalists and to Green Plus on an outstanding triple-bottom-line certification program that is rapidly spreading across the nation.




Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Durham Convention Chews Into Beaver Preserve!

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters based in Vermont is holding its national sales meeting this week in Durham, North Carolina.gmcrLogo

Long a leader in the relatively new movement of triple bottom line, social responsibility, 100 of those attending the GMCR meeting will take time out tomorrow to join with others to venture out to the Beaver Marsh Preserve on Ellerbe Creek tomorrow to help restore the site’s natural habitat, create more public access to the preserve, and protect Durham waterways. beaver-marsh-preserve

Along a creek in one of Durham’s most developed areas, the Beaver Marsh is 32 acres of undeveloped land that includes a spring fed freshwater pond set in a 25-acre wetland area and seven acres of upland forest. The wetland provides a beautiful oasis of green in an otherwise highly urban area. The site has diverse native plants, over 75 species of migratory and resident birds, ten species each of dragon and damsel flies, five species of frogs and a large active beaver lodge.

Participants which will also include members of the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association and Keep Durham Beautiful volunteers and students from Durham’s Hillside New Tech High School, a really cool magnet within Hillside High School.  Not only will participants clean up the preserve but they will help construct a kiosk with a student designed roof that reduces storm water runoff, absorbs heat, and cools attic temps.logo

The Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) can provide planners of the 4000 + meetings held in Durham each year, a menu of choices to help their 136,000 attendees express social responsibility in a community known for a caring character.

And don’t forget the Preserve’s Beaver Lodge 1504 will hold its annual Beaver Queen Pageant on June 5th.

Maps Are Another Way DMO’s Are Relevant

One of the ways a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) is very relevant to a community is as the gatekeeper and renderer of its official maps, often the initial face of any community to visitors and newcomers including executives surveying sites for expansion or relocation.

Durham’s highly accredited DMO, the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB,) partners to produce the community’s official street map and it has just launched a new “lighter” version called The Official Durham Overview & Visitor Map. New Map I say partners because DCVB not only databases part of the City-County GIS map but it then designs and distributes official user friendly versions for print and the web.

The link above and under the image to the right is just to give you an overview of the newest version of the map.  It isn’t the printer friendly version.

The new “overview and map” doesn’t replace the detailed street map produced for the community by DCVB but it is a slimmed down version that is more practical to distribute complimentary through hundreds of outlets the Bureau stocks on a bi-weekly basis including the airport, train station, hotels, corporate reception desks etc.

One side is an overview map of the entire county and an inset for Research Triangle Park, a county district four miles from Downtown and encompassed on three sides by the City.  The other side is a closer up view of the central part of Durham including more street detail and the three campuses of Durham University, Downtown and its districts and North Carolina Central University.  The community’s visitor features, dining and shopping districts, lodging properties, theaters and sports arenas and community facilities etc are all coded to the map.

There are other community services related to maps that are typically provided to a community by its DMO, e.g. DCVB in the case of Durham, such as:


  • Pushing maps out to update online as well as print mapping services for guides, wall maps etc and to GPS providers.


  • Producing print and online versions for visitors, newcomers, residents and other messenger organizations.


  • Pushing updated versions out in response whenever inaccurate or outdated maps are spotted by DCVB staff or reported by hundreds of members of the grass-roots Durham Image Watch.


  • Safeguarding the community and advertisers from inaccurate maps, often produced with very limited or inaccurate content in grossly insufficient quantities either as fund-raisers or solely for profit but not in the community’s best interest.

Durham businesses that are approached to advertise on maps can call DCVB or the DMO in other communities to find out if the requests are legitimate and if they will get enough distribution to make justify the cost and serve the community’s interests.

This all part of a Destination Marketing Organization’s responsibility to its community and its internal and external stakeholders.

Fullsteam - A Perfect Example of Place-Based Leveraging!

I deliberately waited to blog about a very soon-to-open addition to what I term the
Foster-Geer Sts DistrictFullsteam Brewery is a block or so up Riggsbee.  It has been fun over the last couple of years since Sean Wilson first briefed me on  the project to see him doggedly stay true to the plan to be in this area of town.near-final

Fullsteam won’t be Durham’s first brewery but it is pioneering Southern-style beer, the first to showcase local farmed goods, heirloom grains, and Southern botanicals in what it terms its plow to pint series such as a hickory-smoked porter and sweet potato ale.

So the brewery which includes a tavern is in the type of brick building so much a part of Durham’s sense of place and in a rapidly emerging new district on the north edge of Downtown and it will feature beers with the taste of this part of the country.  And it ties into Durham’s explosive national epicurean reputation.

That’s what’s meant by leveraging place based assets and unique sense of place.  Visitors including the 80% of newcomers who come first as a visitor, want to experience what’s distinct and at the core of the character of any destination.

And they can do that in Durham because with an exception here or there, Durham continues to place the highest value on the things that make it distinct.

Sean Wilson and his partners get it and they have hung in there and stayed true to their vision, right down to the location.  Here is a cool slide show of the brewery’s progress with a good sense of the building.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Emergence of the Foster-Greer Streets District – Blending Existing and Small Project, Stand Alone Adaptive Reuse

When many of you look to Durham, North Carolina for inspiration about preserving sense of place, it may be easy to overlook the very small adaptive reuse projects here with the spotlight often absorbed by mega projects of that nature centered on old historic tobacco and textile factory buildings such as Brightleaf, West Village, Measurement Inc, Golden Belt, Venable and American Tobacco.

But equally important if not even more emblematic to sustaining a community’s unique sense of place is what’s happening on the far northern edge of Downtown, around the intersection of Foster and Geer Streets. kingsweb

It seems even more challenging than the big master planned projects to seel both infilling and adaptive reuse of free standing structures dovetailing with those with viable existing uses and still make it all make sense in terms of place.

The equal of his award winning Trinity Heights project with Duke University, New Urbanism developer Bob Chapman (one of just 25 who signed the original charter) is to me a catalyst and inspiration for the area around Foster and Geer.

The area sits between the corners of two thriving historic neighborhoods, Trinity Park and Old North Durham one side and on the other, the Central Park District anchored by the Farmer’s Market.  Bob has converted the Trotter Building, his headquarters and a cool meeting and function space, along with two small, cottage style gas stations.  One a beautiful restoration of a former Texaco/Sinclair Station  and the current restoration of an old “Pure Oil” cottage-style that went out of business in the ‘70s as Fletcher’s Gulf.

Of course, Bob has company like the folks bringing back the 1940’s era King’s Sandwich Shop across the street from his gas stations and George Davis’s  Stone Bros. & Byrd, a throw-back combination garden center and country store dating back to the 1914 farmer’s supply store which had built adjacent to King’s in the 1960’s.  The intersection is also just over the centerfield fence of the Historic Durham Athletic Park made famous in the movie classic, Bull Durham.

It makes sense for Stone Brothers to be near the County Extension Office, a county educational partnership with the State’s two land-grant colleges, NCSU and NC A&T and the US Department of Agriculture just around the corner.  Around the opposite corner from Stone Bros & Byrd, another old warehouse has been transformed into Trinity Lofts.

There’s also ManBites Dog Theater and theater company and the Central Park School for Children of which Chapman is facilities director.  His Trotter building, which had been home to the precursor of Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC and the famous North Carolina Fund is not only his office, it is home the innovative SeeSaw Studio as well as unique meeting and function space.

Preserving a sense of place requires both large and small scale projects and Durham is fortunate to have a good mix of both and the developers like Bob Chapman to pull them off.

Weekender By Rail

I took the train from Durham NC to Charlotte NC and back for a quick overnight this past weekend to meet up with friends who live there, one of whom is celebrating the success of his second liver transplant (at Duke University in Durham.) 

I vividly recall mental snapshots from my first trip on a train, Ashton ID to Driggs ID along the Grand Tetons (Teton Valley Line,) as a first or second grade field trip.  Growing up at the base of those incredible peaks, they weren’t the draw though, it was the train trip  In fact, I don’t recall any other field trips. The line has been abandoned for some time now.

I’ve taken a few other train trips during my lifetime, as novelties though vs. transportation, e.g. Spokane WA to Whitefish  MT to ski what everyone still calls Big Mountain (cool dome cars,) Seattle WA to Vancouver BC and the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad both to sightsee and Boston MA to Stamford CT to view two states my ancestors settled before doing the same in the Intermountain West.

This time, the trip was for “transportation.”  Here’s my take:

  • At slightly less than three hours, it is within 15 minutes give or take of what the trip would take by air (counting terminal time) or car.


  • Making arrangements was very simple online.  Printing boarding passes via bar code at the station was instantaneous and far easier than those kiosks the airlines use.  The cost was about $21 one way, $29 the other (business class,)  so about the cost of a tank of gas and much less than air.


  • Terminal in Durham is a spectacular and well done adaptive reuse of a beautiful brick, turn of the century (1800’s) tobacco warehouse.  Terminals along the way were interesting with the exception of  Charlotte which is the ‘70’s bus station style.


  • Everything  was on time, the stops extremely quick and efficient and the scenery was the big surprise.  The vast majority, beautiful North Carolina piedmont forests and countryside.


  • Where there were buildings or homes they were all very well kept (one messy back lot for a business in Burlington and one or two boarded up homes in Kannapolis.


  • Only one place where I saw illegal dumping.    Overall very free of litter compared to roadsides, few if any billboards.


  • I got a feel for small places for which I had only seen road signs before e.g., Mebane, Elon including the University holding graduation, UNC-Greensboro etc.


  • The cars were clean and modern like airplane cabins.  Reading lights.  Much more leg room, foot stools, reclining seats, tray tables, isles seemed wider, clean airline style restrooms but roomier.


  • Free self serve coffee on the way down with some vending machines.  Snack bar and dining car on the way back.  Cart service and free New York Times newspaper in business class as well as early boarding.

So, same amount of time, no hassles, no lines, plenty of time to read or just sightsee and daydream.  Parking at the terminal so quick in and out for departure and arrival back in Durham.

Departure and arrival times were convenience, both in the morning.  The State Department of Transportation is adding a mid-day train next week (June 5th.)  NCDOT subsidizes the service, as they do of course for the roadways, State-owned but private North Carolina Railroad Company owns and maintains the tracks and Amtrak operates the trains.

My days of driving that portion of I-85 may be over forever.

Friday, May 21, 2010

So Far Concerns About DPAC’s Impact Appear Unjustified

Several people have asked if I’m surprised at the success of DPAC, the new Durham Performing Arts Center.  I’m not at all.  I never had any doubts Durham’s 13th or so theater would be successful.

Nor am I surprised at the proportion of visitors attending events in the new theater.  It is about the same proportion Durham draws for other performing arts, sports events, dining, shopping etc.

The question was always about whether that success might be at the expense of Durham’s other theaters.  It is much too early to see a trend but I’ve examined overall Durham attendance through 1/3rd of this year compared to the same period a year ago.applause

Overall, through 1/3rd of the year so far, performing arts attendance in Durham is up 6.2% over last year.  Without including DPAC in either year, overall performing arts attendance in Durham would still be up 5.5% through the first third of the year.

This is good news so far.  While much too early yet to know for sure, it doesn’t look like the new theater has siphoned business from other theaters or maybe they’ve just been able to scramble to make adjustments.

DCVB (Durham’s community marketing agency) has also certainly made a valiant effort even under the constraints of the downturn to bump up awareness among visitors of all performing arts venues in Durham while showcasing the newest one.

Of course, I’m dealing with overall attendance and the new theater may have had impact on a particular theater or two.  I hope any concerns though continue to turn out unjustified.

While anecdotal, it appears that Raleigh, another city in the region, electing to close down a touring Broadway series may have been in response to the success of of a series in the new Durham theater.  That may or may not mean DPAC has siphoned business from other communities in the region.

I don’t really have access to nor do I know that the other communities track overall community-wide attendance.  The decision in Raleigh, where that particular series was publically subsidized, may be for other reasons, for all I know.

One irony is that I’ve personally overheard or heard second hand about a few self proclaimed “regionalists” gloating.  I’m sure that would be a turn off to any true regionalist, as it is to me.

The challenge for communities in any “region” but particularly in a polycentric region like the “Triangle” is to sustain and evolve cultural assets while adding value rather than being redundant or predatory.

I have to remind communities in Wake County (it is permitted a state-authorized prepared food tax for these purposes that is denied to every other community in the state save Charlotte) whenever they are tempted to “go shopping for culture” rather than growing their own, by attempting to lure Durham institutions to relocate.

Statistics Is The New Grammar

The title of this blog is from an essay by Clive Thompson and it couldn’t be more true than for the officials elected or appointed to govern.  Often what we see as gridlock in public circles is really the difference between people who can process data and those who can’t.

I’m not sure who first expressed the idiom that literacy is crucial to public life.  If you can’t write, you can’t think but as Thompson explains that is now true of statistical literacy.300px-Long_tail_svg 

Understanding and interpreting data is crucial to solutions for global warming, healthcare, the economy, air pollution, homelessness, mass transit etc.  We see so much gridlock among politicians because they get hung up on principle they can’t see solutions.

Maybe that’s why President Obama so often catches people locked into both sides off guard, because he focuses on pragmatic solutions.

Malcolm Gladwell does a great job of explaining this in his essay “Million Dollar Murray,” about the “power law and the J curve” and perplexing solutions to homelessness, air pollution and police misconduct:

“We can either be true to our principles or we can fix the problems.  We cannot do both.”

He helped me understand why it seems we always go for universal, very costly solutions to things like airport security when he writes, “we believe that the distribution of social benefits should not be arbitrary. We don't give only to some poor mothers, or to a random handful of disabled veterans. We give to everyone who meets a formal criterion, and the moral credibility of government assistance derives, in part, from this universality.”

Okay, that’s principle ingrained in each of us, right, left and in the middle, but it is extremely expensive and it prevents us from truly resolving some issues.

Read the essay and see what you think.  Often true solutions to these problems are perplexing as Gladwell writes because while “from an economic perspective they make sense, from a moral perspective they don’t seem fair.”

And as my friend and former Mayor of Durham, NC, Nick Tennyson used to tell me when I’d get hung up on principle…."there’s only room for one person at a time to “stand” on principle.”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Insatiable Curiosity

Don’t know what it is about The New Yorker.  I’ve never been able to get into the magazine but it has nurtured two of my all time favorite non-fiction authors, John McPhee and Malcolm Gladwell author of the anthology I’m just finished entitled, What The Dog Saw .mcpheephotocrop

I first read McPhee’s Coming Into The Country as I headed north to Anchorage, Alaska in 1978 as CEO of the Destination Marketing Organization there.  I was there nearly a decade and not a day went by that my reading of that book wasn’t useful in understanding the people, places and events of that very unique and diverse state.

Over more than 30 years, I’ve read nearly all of McPhee’s 28 books and he paved the way for Gladwell who broke out in the past decade with The Tipping Point.

They have in common an insatiable appetite for bringing understanding, not by covering powerful or famous people but telling the stories behind the stories of what Gladwell describes as “the minor geniuses…the people in the middle who do the actual work in the world.”  biopic

Both authors have an uncanny way of distilling information and research about topics into great stories as riveting as any fiction thriller.  I can hardly wait now to dig into McPhee’s, The Silk Parachute, a new series of essays.

One of the pleasures of retirement?….Time to read again.  I mean really read and feed an insatiable curiosity that hasn’t waned a bit with age.

In the past two decades in particular a combination of the Internet and the pace of destination marketing had turned me into a skimmer, always looking for specific information.  It is good to get back to reading, really reading, just for the joy of reading and learning in general.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quantifying the Value of Tree Canopy To Communities

It isn’t just its rural countryside, beaches and mountains that give North Carolina a special sense of place.  One of the first remarks people visiting or moving to a place like Durham NC make is about the how green and tree covered it is and I’m sure the same it true of many of the State’s other cities and towns.

One city and county, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County has taken a very smart approach.  It commissioned a study by American Forests, a non-profit founded in 1875 of the tree canopy in that county, how much has been lost with recommendations on what should be done to preserve what’s left along with quantification of its

Thanks to Pat Carstensen the study is making the rounds on Durham listservs and well it should.

While Charlotte and its surrounding county still have 50% tree canopy, the study documents that county lost 33% of that canopy and 3% of its open space in the 13 years ending in 2008.  Charlotte alone lost half of its tree canopy and 5% of its open space during the period.

The study documents cost in dollars to that city and county (pollution, storm run-off etc) along with the value of adding to the tree canopy which if ever implemented can provide an extremely valuable input to zoning and development decisions.

Kudos to American Forests and communities that are having studies like this performed….for information on analysis American Forests has done for other communities, log on to .  In fact, the State of North Carolina should consider a study like this to balance economic development decisions.

Too often cities, counties and states go after development-centric economic development armed with only the potential economic upside.  There is always a cost to economic development and studies like this help inform those decisions as well as equip participants to take proactive steps to preserve and grow this valuable asset.

We can never forget that place-based assets, natural, cultural and built are key to why residents love communities and pivotal to why they draw visitor centric economic development.

Wouldn’t It Be Ironic?

As North Carolina continues to search for an economic substitute for small, family tobacco growers, reports continue to surface from various research projects that show promising new adaptive uses for the plant.

Popular Science is one of my three favorite magazines dating from when I could first read (the other two are National Geographic and Sports Illustrated.)  Recently POPSCI has featured two reports on research showing tobacco might be used to manufacture solar panels and now this month about it being use to produce flu vaccines.

Wouldn’t be ironic now that my adopted hometown of Durham NC has long since transformed to a worldwide center for biotech, phama research and bio-manufacturing and historic tobacco buildings have been turned into thriving spaces for offices, restaurants, stores….to one day see the adaptive reuse of the plant that started it all as a tool to save lives and green the planet!

It is also an irony that may preserve North Carolina’s sense of place by making the rural countryside and family farms sustainable.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Creativity Rated Top Leadership Quality

A one-on-one IBM survey involving interviews with 1,500 private and public sector CEOs in 60 countries has revealed creativity as the top leadership quality and even higher in North America.Capture

Fortunately for the USA, creative leaders are also 81% more likely to innovation as crucial. 

Unfortunately, humility and fairness ranked last far behind a focus on sustainability.  But at least integrity ranked second.

An excellent summary is blogged today by Austin Carr.

Importance of Asking The Question Behind The Question

Off and on during a recent trip, I tuned in for as long as I could stand it to vitriolic radio talk show hosts just to see what type of information cocoons so many Americans.  If that is all I ever heard or could hear, I’d be smoking hot angry as well.  Whew!  I can’t really see any way for the highly fragmented 24/7 news media of today to hold itself accountable when consumers are so insulated.

Wonder if these guys will be held accountable if they drive us into a double dip, just to get “their” side elected?

But as good as these guys are at demonizing government and galvanizing apparent anger, when Americans are asked to rate individual government services, a striking majority, across all party lines find them popular. (see chart below or go to page 3 of the summary linked here)

It is also reassuring to see that National Parks are as popular as Defense.  Now if they could be funded as well?  But of course that would be “big” government, oh my!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Message In A Bottle

I didn’t always feel this way about musicals…ambivalent.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always appreciated much of the music, including Opera arias.  And I was even in Glee Club briefly when some friends and I suddenly realized the Beatles “Till There Was You,” was from The Music Man.

But somewhere along the way, I kept my appreciation for the music lost patience for musicals themselves.

Then, over this past weekend I went to see a young friend perform at a production at Riverside High School.

It was incredible. As I understand, it was created by the students in the three choirs there, including the award winning Sirens.

I mean they selected the songs, created the choreography, wrote the script, built the sets…smallchorus10v4


But the level of talent, passion, engagement and commitment was truly impressive.  And I was very impressed with my young friend who I first met shortly after her birth.  She comes by it honest.  Each of her parents graduated in music from the University of Miami.  But she is not only a wonderful blend of their talents, she expresses them in a way all her own and with the poise of a successful recording artist.

I also continue to be very impressed with Durham Public Schools and very optimistic  about the generations of Americans coming up.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Durham Full Frame Named to World’s Top 50!

Right up there with Cannes, congratulations to Durham NC’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival for being named by indieWire to the Top Fifty Festivals In the World.  Just one of the reasons this week to believe Durham is indeed Where Great Things Happen!


State of Durham’s Image Report

For the majority of readers, who don’t live in Durham, this is the current example of the annual report benchmarking the State of Durham’s Image.  It is produced by the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau, which as the community’s official marketing agency is of course also the guardian and defender as well as promoter of its image, identity and brand.

The report focuses on perception as the foundation of image and the results of scientific survey updates conduced by DCVB and its partner organizations.  There are other reports that focus on strategies and related benchmarks including DCVB’s marketing but also legions of effort across every aspect of the community, dedicated to Durham continuing and never ending improvement.Capture

This report is provided to the community as information but but also to empower residents who may hear some crazy anecdotal stuff around the water cooler (remember 3 out of 5 people working in Durham are non-residents) and prefer to use generalizable information in addition to their own personal experiences to provide balance.

The report is also grist  to inform and coalesce action among the 20 member organizations of the the Durham Public Information & Communications Council, another best practice innovation (see a chart of the organizations in the report.)

It took a few years after DCVB first began scientifically unwrapping perceptions of Durham in 1993 for community leaders and other organizations to get their heads around the issue of image and there is still some confusion about about what it is and isn’t as well as sources and solutions.

But it is definitely now a top of mind concern.

Everyone likes good stories and there are legions of anecdotal stories behind each of the generalizable findings in the report.  But coalescing action and deploying resources is much more efficient and effective if it is based on more than opinions and anecdotes.

And the information is not only useful to those willing to do the heavy lifting.  It is also useful to those more disposed to either bricks and mortar or even to those prone as they say to a more Pollyanna or Kumbayah.

Congratulations to DCVB’s CEO Shelly Green and her staff for a great report and continuing to set the standard nationwide.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

“No One Forgives Anyone for Anything Anymore”

I’ve been reading a great book recommended by my Daughter Emily entitled The Forgiving Self – The Road from Resentment to Connection by Dr. Robert Karen.

It has brought to mind repeatedly two Newsweek columns last month and made them seem even more insightful.

One in the April 26th issue by Jacob Weisberg is entitled “Endangered Species – Responsible Republicans Are Nearly Extinct.” And as someone who was Republican in my youth but since my early 20’s, one of those pesky Independents, albeit progressive, I couldn’t agree more.QA-simpson-FE05-vl-vertical

It came on the heels of a very brief interview in the same magazine two weeks prior by Weston Kosova with Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who served in the United States Senate as a Republican from 1979 to 1997 and is now co-chairing a bipartisan commission for President Obama.

Senator Simpson speaks with a refreshing no-non-sense clarity reminiscent of folks in my home state of Idaho. He nails one of the problems infecting the entire country with the quote I used for the title of this blog.

Mr. Simpson’s words made me very nostalgic for a time when we had more reason and patience and forgiveness among our Nation’s most prominent “role models.” But he also was dead on when he pointed out that what we see in Congress is reflective of what we see everywhere now, not just on Fox News.

His comments also gave me reason to be even more concerned about what columnist David Brooks wrote in the New York Times. Though a decade younger, Mr. Brooks started out liberal and became conservative at about the same age I changed going in the opposite direction.

He wrote, “Many people live in information cocoons in which they talk only to members of their own party and read blogs of their own sect…They come away with perceptions fundamentally at odds with reality.”

It isn’t just his opinion. Remember the ‘09 Pew research I quoted in a blog many months ago that showed Democrats and Independents using a broad range of sources for information but Republicans overwhelmingly in only an outlet or two.

Hal Crowther writing in the Independent last week summed it up “…it’s critical information they’ll never receive. Thanks to the fragmentation and polarization of of the media, Americans can now avoid any facts or opinions that might surprise or displease them.”

Republican Bob Bennett lamented in an interview on NPR last night that most of the robotic Tea Party types (4% of the general public) who swamped the Utah caucuses and pushed him off the Republican ticket, wouldn’t even meet with him to discuss the issues…

Ugh – maybe it isn’t just “responsible” that is becoming extinct.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

10 Points to Help a Boss or Board Member Who Doesn’t Grasp the Importance of Research!

It is puzzling why so many execs at community destination marketing organizations (DMO’s) still practice “ready, FIRE, aim” marketing. While the average proportion of marketing resources deployed as research (across all types of organizations and industries) is between 11% and 12%, the average among DMO’s for Durham’s competitive set nationwide is still a shocking 2% to 5%.

I admit I was fortunate. I got my head around research soon after I first became a CEO of a DMO in my mid-20’s and rapidly developed a knack for how to leverage the results. Any credit I’m given for leading destinations that rapidly eclipsed more established and well funded competitor-communities belongs in good part to utilization of research not just as a part of the marketing blend but as the foundation for other elements.research

But I certainly wasn’t out on any limb. The percentage deployed at my DMO’s was still just at or near the average across all types of organizations and industries. What made it unusual and ultimately a destination marketing best practice was that so many DMO’s hadn’t (many obviously still haven’t) caught on to what is a standard practice.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t hear my share of comments over the years like “why do we need research, lets just place some ads” or “the only research we need is to follow the leader (copy cat marketing)” or “you don’t need research or marketing, all you need are good sales people” “the only research you need is my opinion son” and many other comments equally absurd.

It is an exec’s job though to persistently face up to this ignorance about research and you’ll quickly find that board members who have made comments similar to these, very quickly turn on others who do and make the explanations for you.

If your supervisor is stuck in the mud, that may be more complex but the rationales are the same.

Top of mind, here are 10 quick pointers that can help you explain the need for research but beware, as an exec, it is also your responsibility to learn how to imaginatively deploy it. And be prepared to explain these things, over and over and over, until they stick:

  • Research is what helps you know and understand your strengths and weaknesses compared to your competition.

  • Research is what helps zero in on your selling proposition, e.g. what makes your community distinct.

  • Research which includes benchmarking and measurement is what tells you where to place ads, what the messages should be and when they are successful.

  • Research is what helps identify quality sales prospects. Yup, even direct sales relies on research.

  • Research is what helps you distill your community’s brand or distinct personality and character.

  • Research is what identifies and updates the metrics so critical to knowing what’s working and what isn’t about your marketing as well as conversion rates and visitor satisfaction.

  • Research is what distinguishes facts from opinions and insulates decisions from the push and shove of external or internal politics.

  • Research is how you identify higher ROI market segments, including those that are underserved or emerging and what blend of marketing strategies will be most effective and efficient.

  • Research is what helps your community and private sector developers know what and when new developments are needed and avoid over building or unintended consequences like cannibalization of other assets.

  • Finally, research is what proves your return on investment both to the local business climate and to local government in terms of sales and property taxes.

You can continue to do destination marketing without research but it is oh so much more costly. Investing the standard 12% on research as a foundation can quickly accelerate the effectiveness of every element of your marketing plan.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What About The Official Record?

Successful hyperlocal news blogger Kevin Davis, author of Bull City Rising, raised an excellent point during a presentation to the Durham Rotary Club yesterday.  How will libraries and other repositories of the official record adjust to blogs?BCR

That is particularly pertinent to the blog Endangered DurhamAdaptive reuse development executive Gary Kueber has spent a fortune in personal time gathering and posting hundreds and hundreds of historical images and background information that are invaluable to preserving Durham’s unique sense of place.Endangered Durham

For many of you not from Durham, these folks are both friends and two of my favorite bloggers, local and otherwise.

Beware of Assumptions – They Cost A Fortune!

You’ll know where to focus next based on the results of benchmarking your community’s image with internal stakeholders or residents.  But never, ever skip this step.  Typically, if you have a CVB or destination marketing organization in place, as the community’s marketing agency, it may be in the best position to field and understand the research.

If you make assumptions about community self-image rather than scientifically benchmarking it, because you, your governing board or boosters and politicians don’t think there is a problem at home, you’ll set yourself up to waste a lot of time, effort and resources.consistency-precision-300x256

Just as you’ll also waste those resources and a lot of time if you happen to have internal stakeholders who are either down on their community or believe the negativity is due to low self image or self esteem about your community.

You’ll need to be able to rule that in or out before launching strategies to address it.  These hopefully well-meaning people are often looking for a “parade” to lead and can’t be bothered with gathering information first.

If we hadn’t been able to document, for instance, from the beginning that Durham had high levels of self image and community pride among residents, we would have been misled by segments of the community and more than a few people from nearby communities who preached (some still do) that Durham’s problem was a poor self image and self esteem.  That’s why you see well meaning but mis0-guided t-shirts from time to time with the slogan, “Durham Love Yourself.”

We were fortunate because Durham scientifically scored high marks right from the beginning for community pride and community image among residents so DCVB could move to measurement of the community’s image among external audiences, working out in concentric circles to surrounding counties, then the state as a whole, then across the nation with result broken down regionally.

And “bingo,” the public opinion surveys helped us identify and zero in on the largest source of negativity about Durham, external audiences in communities surrounding Durham, e.g. 50 mile radius.

Secondary research also helped us uncover why some people mistakenly assumed Durham had an internal self image or self esteem problem.  At the time, half of the people working in Durham were non-residents.  The figure is now 3 in 5.  So people who walked like a Durhamite, talked like a Durhamite….were in fact, non-residents working here and coming to work each day contaminated with negative word of mouth at home.

So, whatever you do, don’t make assumptions about what residents think of your community….nail that down first.

Always start by gathering scientific information – it will cost a little up front but it will save tons in wasted time, effort and resources.

Monday, May 10, 2010

5 Excuses People Give For Not Using Research!

I probably should have addressed these before launching into the last two blogs on how to benchmark community image.  Here are some reasons I’ve heard most often over the years and the realities behind them.anec

1. I was hired for my knowledge, opinions, intuition and instincts!  Once in a position of authority or decision making, many people fall into the trap of believing these attributes are how and why they got there.  Informing their “opinions” or “knowledge,” let alone intuition is viewed as a sign of weakness.  They also get testy if asked to “explain” their opinions or viewpoints.


2. It’s enough to survey what my friends think and say! People who use this excuse are most likely afraid and a bit incestuous.  They fear that research findings will reveal that they and their friends might be clueless or heaven forbid, wrong.  They value popularity over improvement.


3. I don’t know what to do with research after the results are back! People who use this excuse are typically “list checkers” or lazy.  They aren’t likely to be inquisitive by nature or to ask “why” very much.  Progress to them is what happens as you rush down the list.


4. I’m afraid research will complicate things!  People who use this excuse are usually afraid of change and fear new information will require them to think beyond their comfort zone or make adjustments.  They are also a bit lazy and see themselves more as caretakers than change agents.  They lack a bias for growth and improvement so the status quo becomes their goal.


5. I have members of my governing board who don’t understand or believe  research is important!  People who use the four excuses above can also be appointed to boards of directors.  No surprise then, when they have little patience for the organization to be information-driven.  It also isn’t likely they listen much, or read preparation materials.  Of course, that would be too much like doing research.

Of course, research can also become an excuse when someone uses it to cloak  indecisiveness or fear of making a mistake or becomes enamored with the information at the expense of deploying it.  But those with the we excuses for not using research greatly outnumber those who misuse it.

If you or your DMO doesn’t have resources to “conduct” research, there still is no excuse for them not to buy into coop research or to seek and use secondary research from those who do.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Where To Start – Benchmarking Community Image

The very first place to start when measuring or initially benchmarking the image of your community is with internal stakeholders, the people who live in your city or county. This will require teaming with experts.

Don’t be so sure your community has a strong self image or sense of pride. You can see some averages in the chart comparing Durham results with a Gallup project. Some of the most “boosterish” communities I know have a relatively low sense of pride among residents as a whole. Actually, seemingly cocky, pretentious and overreaching communities are often disguising an inherent insecurity or lack of pride among residents.

  • Try to find team with experts, preferably based outside your community for both objectivity and credibility purposes. It is best if they have expertise in “diffusion” studies in short, studying the way information moves through a population. One of these experts has helped DCVB update this information annually since the early ‘90’s. That consistency is important, but the key background is going to be scientific public opinion polling.Capture

  • In Durham’s case we started with individual interviews of a good cross section of the community, then used the anecdotal responses to determine issues and then shape questions to determine the opinions of the general population.

  • Make sure the people interviewed are not just boosters or politicians etc. Include activists, neighborhood leaders, cultural/arts leaders, small and large business executives, university leaders, students, newcomers, tourism sector and businesses that have recently relocated to your community etc. Ethnic and gender balance is also important as is a good mix of front line people.

  • What’s learned from the interviews needs to be used to inform questions for scientific, random, public opinion polling to compare what the general resident population thinks about your community. Be prepared to track these same questions over many years. You’ll also want to include some demographic questions for later analysis, e.g. gender, ethnicity, time they have lived in your community etc.

  • The questions will be best as statements so they aren’t “leading.” The subjects will be asked if they strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree or are uncertain or undecided or neither agree or disagree. Each of these responses is given a number, 1-5 which is a likert scale.

  • The general statements to be measured may be something like:
    • I am proud of my community
    • I am pleased with my community as a place to live
    • I have a positive image of my community

  • Depending on what surfaces in the prior, personal interviews, you may want to probe certain areas like personal safety, student achievement, overall appearance, ratings for various parts of the tourism sector compared to other places, e.g. things to do, places to each, places to stay, places to shop etc.

You’ll also want to include questions to benchmark awareness of your organization and perceptions of the job your organization is doing. When you get the results, you’ll want to analysis ratios for each of the responses as well as some cross-tabbing (more on that in another blog.) You’ll note in the results in the chart shown above that in some cohorts there is a significant “uncertain.” Uncertain is better than negative but it reveals an ambivalence that isn’t good. Mostly you’ll want to look at ratios of positive responses to negative responses for each question.

Once you know your community’s self-image, you can decide on strategies to improve the results or as in Durham’s case, if the community’s residents as a whole have strong levels of pride and self image of the community and they are pleased, then you move on to external audiences.

But one warning. Never, ever assume you know what your residents truly think and feel about their community. All of the information in the world about what external audiences think about your community won’t matter a whit if you don’t know what internal audiences feel.

Remember, it is your internal stakeholders or residents as a whole who have to deliver most on your community’s brand.

I’ll deal in future blogs on some strategies to deploy based on the results.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

5 Guidelines To Understanding Community Image

Twenty one years ago, this month, I had accepted the job of jump-starting a community or destination marketing organization (DMO) for Durham NC and I was busy making arrangements to start on June 1st. A job I just retired from in December.

I came to the job with start up experience and having been CEO of the DMO’s in two other communities, Spokane, WA and Anchorage AK, each similar in size to Durham. But I didn’t have any special experience with community image.

Let me take that back. In Spokane, there were misperceptions of location to overcome and confusion with Seattle which is on Puget Sound in the west, while Spokane is in the far eastern part of Washington State in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.imagesCAYJOJDI

In Anchorage we had to overcome the usual issues with Alaska but also the misperception that you didn’t do Alaska without it being a two week odyssey and never in the winter.

But those are what I call passive image issues. When I came to Durham I ran head long into a very complex image issue although looking back I know that dealing with the issues in Spokane and Anchorage had given me preparation.

I’ll try to blog off and on about community image because a few of you across the country have asked me too and some close friends have intimated that this may be the one area where my experience could be most useful as a way to give back.

Let me begin with five guidelines to understanding community image (just a place to start) and then later I’ll blog in more detail about each:

  • There are two types of image, the community’s image among internal stakeholders or residents and the community’s image among external stakeholders beginning right at the community’s boundaries. It is critical to benchmark and address each one.

  • Image isn’t determined by what boosters or politicians or other messengers think it is. While their opinions and statements are important and you need a consistent message, image is about what general populations think about your community and it needs to be measured scientifically not anecdotally.

  • Image or identity is at the heart of your community’s brand just as branding is at the heart of community marketing. If you aren’t addressing both in a very substantive and consistent way, your competitors or detractors will.

  • Community image isn’t about reality nor is it just about a new suit of clothes, e.g. new buildings or stadiums etc. It isn’t just about momentary buzz or negative or positive news stories or even personal experience. Think gossip.

  • Community image has much more to do with earned media than advertising but it is not about a cover-up You begin by taking inventory of every touch point for your community’s identity no matter how basic, e.g. road signage, listings in databases, arrival greetings at airports, on trains and on motor coaches, overarching brand, images, weather reports, news datelines, hyphenated regional references, maps and GIS etc.

Thanks to those of you who have encouraged me to reveal what I learned during the incredible turn around of Durham’s image. If you’re thinking about community image you’ve made the first start.

I run into far too many DMO’s who appear either oblivious to community image or in denial about the true image of their community. But even if this isn’t as useful as you anticipate, it will be revealing for me to go back through everything my adopted hometown has taught me about this area of community marketing.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

10 Enemies of True Regionalism

When I hear someone publicly say “we have to think regionally” to me it is a duh!…as in, of course, and we also have to think neighbor to neighbor, block long, neighborhood wide, citywide, countywide, statewide, nationwide, continentally, globally… To me, it is always both/and, not either/or. images

I may have spent the last forty years in community place marketing to which regionalism typically isn’t as relevant as much as is coop marketing.  But still I’ve both earned recognition for regional initiatives as well as been guilty of misuse of the concept early on in my career, e.g. “Ski The 51st State.

Experience over the years with hundreds of proposals has helped clarify to me at least 10 self-defeating conditions (listed below in no particular order) that seem to so often undermine or spawn resistance to proposals cloaked as regional: 


  • Poaching – In true regionalism, participant communities stand on their own.  They do not misuse the term as a veiled attempt just to appear larger or to take credit for assets in other communities rather than standing on their own merits.


  • One Way Streets – True regionalism is a two way street.  The scope and benefits must be truly regional wide, not just the participation.


  • Hegemony – True regionalism must never be a veiled attempt to take control over other communities and their decisions about what is in their best interests.


  • Homogenization -  True regionalism is not one size fits all.  It is accepting and respectful of the diverse personality and character of its participant communities rather than forcing one size fits all based on size or power or news media.


  • Raiding – True regionalism must not be misused as a thinly veiled agenda by fund-raising efforts in one community to raid the corporate philanthropy of another or to just make it easier for writing checks.


  • Disrespect – True regionalism is based on mutual respect and serious participant communities reign in zero sum individuals who trash or demonize others for pecuniary gain.


  • Hyphens – True regions avoid using hyphens because hyphens lead to short handing and truncations that give disproportionate benefit to the participant community that comes before the hyphen or hyphens and relegates those that follow invisible.


  • Centrism – True regionalism does not fuse participant communities at the hip or paint one participant community or another as central or dominant.  True regionalism respects that participant communities may belong to two or more mutually exclusive regions and each is is as much about respecting differences and opting in or out as it is about synergy.


  • Oversimplification – True regionalism isn’t an excuse for news media organizations or transient corporate executives to avoid “getting involved” in/or understanding and respecting the differences and issues among or within the communities which they serve and/or exist.


  • Nomenclature – True regionalism is careful with nomenclature.  A true region isn’t a community, it is a family of communities and a region of equals regardless of whether the area is centric or or polycentric.  Terms like regional asset are reserved for one of a kind, typically an airport and even then it isn’t substituted as a a place name.

No amount of preaching or “should-ing” can overcome these enemies.  Eliminate or curb or expose them and regionalism comes very naturally. 

Monday, May 03, 2010

Another View – Durham Tourism Funds 43% of Teachers, 1/3rd of Public Safety

It is budget time in Durham and as usual the discussion is limited to what to cut vs. how to generate more revenue. I was told once by a County executive that he never worried about the revenue side because it is political. He clarified that by political he meant “raising the rates.”

So now may be a good time to put the $40 million annually that tourism generates for the two local governments in Durham (City and County) into context. But I probably first need to reiterate that tourism development is economic development.

Tax revenue generated each year by tourism just to fund local Durham City and County government (as quantified by IHS Global Insight and DKS using scientific methodology,) is enough to:Implan Chart

  • Pay the FTE costs for 700 of Durham’s 1600 public school teachers or about 43%.

  • Or, on the City side, 1/3rd of all public safety personnel, e.g. police, fire, emergency communications and emergency management.

It isn’t just sad at budget time that more than a few officials fail to “recall” the significance of visitor centric economic and cultural development spearheaded by DCVB. But that means they don’t always realize that destination marketing is also a sustainable “budget revenue” solution.

By neglecting to fully re-invest the portion of these tourism revenues, eligible under State House Guidelines, back into marketing to draw Durham’s full share of visitors, the City and County are missing out on another combined $17 million each year (the average of 5 different methodologies.)

And the $17 million yield is without spending another dime on tourism infrastructure. Just deploying the full amount eligible for DCVB marketing will fuel overall annual tourism generated tax revenues just for local government from $40 million to $57 million annually.

Durham is not only fortunate to have a fully accredited community marketing agency, the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau but its nationally recognized CEO Shelly Green is recognized by experts as a best practice at connecting these dots.

Building Social Business

Christopher Gergen, Durham native and Duke professor is going to speak at Durham Rotary today about social entrepreneurism and a movement he’s started here called Bull City Forward to leverage and deepen Durham’s significant and historical brand leadership in this area.  Yes, his father is David Gergen, also a Durham native and often on national television because he has been a special advisor to four US Presidents and he is a great author.02shelf01-articleInline

I first heard the term used in reference to social capitalists back when Fast Company magazine first began showcasing them and included Self-Help Credit Union here in Durham.  Then DCVB honored many others here in Durham’s Annual Tribute Luncheon last year.

Actually, this year’s luncheon held last week and as reviewed here by Bob Ashley in the Herald Sun, Durham’s hometown newspaper, may be part of this movement as well.

Now Muhammad Yunus, originator of the idea of microcredit has a new book reviewed by Devin Leonard in “Off The Shelf” in the New York Times yesterday.  He sees social business being a core of a new economy on a much, much broader scale.  I haven’t read the book of course but I can already see myself in agreement.

If not as a “it will,” then as a “wouldn’t it be great.”

And no, social in this context as in nearly all other contexts has anything to do with socialism as it is misunderstood, mis-references and demonized so often these days.  Otherwise why are all those traditional banks now chasing after microcredit?