Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Volunteerism – Reason To Believe In The Durham Brand

One of several scientifically distilled values inherent in the Durham NC brand is that it is a caring community. Not that “caring” is unique to Durham but that Durham’s character and the way it cares is distinct.volunteerism

A study of volunteerism by the Corporation for National Community Service seems to bear that out.

Durham with 33.3% of its population volunteering is second to Asheville at 36.5% among the State’s major cities but also higher than the National average at 26.5% and State Average at 26.6%.

Significantly, where Durham excels even more is in volunteer hours per resident at nearly 50, with Greensboro second at 40.2%, the Nation at 34.4% and the State overall at 30.6%

Below are links and details for NC’s largest cities:

US 26.5/34.4

North Carolina 26.6/30.6

Durham 33.3/49.4 per

Asheville 36.5/33.5

Winston-Salem 28.8/30.3

Charlotte 28.2/32.4

Fayetteville 27.2

Greensboro 27/40.2

Raleigh 23/24

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

10 Attributes to Thrive In A Fast-Paced Workplace

After nearly 40 years of selecting talent for Destination Marketing Organizations, Michael Mathieu’s Corner Office Q & A a week ago in the Sunday New York Times reminded me of just how complex it can be and the attributes and predispositions that were much more important than raw talent or education or just the ability to check thinks off a list.CORNER-articleInline

He does a cool job of setting up readers with the usual, hire the best, let them do their job and then subtly distributes the caveats, some of which appear in my ten characteristics and proclivities of people who thrived around me and in the the organizations I led:

  • comfortable in a fast paced environment with a constantly moving target

  • always growing and improving, personally and organizationally

  • driven to fully utilize and adapt technology to leverage productivity

  • passionate, altruistic and always willing and able to dissent and make their voice heard

  • always asking questions and able to thrive in ambiguity and make order and find clarity out of chaos (worded very well by Mathieu)

  • comfortable processing concepts, fearless when worried about “looking dumb”

  • always thirsty for knowledge and innovation and insatiable readers

  • willing and able to confront injustice and speak up about what’s right

  • ability to get things done, in concert, and while thinking strategically

  • clear and aligned about goals and vision

A tendency I never overcame was never willingly giving up on people even when it was clear they didn't fill the bill, ultimately making it hard on myself, the organization and the people who weren’t a good fit. I had it backwards. I tended to hire fast and fire slow when the best practice is to hire slow and fire fast.

But thanks over my career to help from other team members and invaluable coaching from people like Don Clifton, founder and chair of SRI, now SRI Gallup who passed away earlier this decade and David Camner, each who at two distinct points in my career helped me become much, much better at selecting talent and team. It is one area where I grew the most in my career and still didn’t get anywhere close to where I wanted to be.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Most Business People Are Career Politicians

I always smile whenever a candidate for elected office says he/she should be elected because they’ve been in business, in the real world and not politics (very different than government.)

In my experience, many business people are a lot more like their stereotype of politicians than they admit. Each exists in a push and shove, dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest, win-at-all-cost atmosphere that fosters chest-beating and negative campaigning (it started first in business) and more than a little anecdotal rather than information based decision-making.Print

A good example is a couple of business types, I'm told, who felt they had to demonize the idea of a museum of local Durham history in order to leapfrog it with new theater. They did a good job, even though the theater could easily waited its turn and stood on its own merits including the fact that, primarily dark during the day, it would preserve office parking required by lenders.

But there is an extended half-life when something is demonized.

We now we have the theater, a good thing, but we still don’t have a museum of Durham history, another good thing and still the top cultural priority for two thirds of Durham residents as scientifically polled as well as the top priority identified by consultants in the cultural master plan.

This came to mind recently during a conversation with one of those people who are the 1 in 10 who don’t like this community and for whom it must be pure hell living where residents have twice the level of community pride that is the norm for other communities.

Also retired as the owner of a business, he wasted no time on pleasantries and began trashing the idea of a museum of Durham history. He was formerly in a business where customers didn't talk back and he didn’t anticipate that I wasn’t afraid to stand up to him and I had a lot of information at my fingertips.

His rationale was initially that the local museum in Raleigh which he had heard second hand wasn’t successful, dismissing that the supporters for a local museum here in Durham have studied many others of this type and had professionals do the same. But even before he knew that, I dare say his opinions had hardened to basalt while cocooned from any information he didn’t want to hear.

This was also obviously someone who doesn’t grasp that no matter how proximate, communities have very distinct personalities and character (or lack of) and just because something does or doesn’t work in one, doesn’t mean it is right or wrong for the other.

I’m familiar enough with Raleigh to hazard an informed opinion that a lack of support for a local museum of history there may simply rest on two reasons, unique to that community. One, the fact that the General Assembly appropriated tax dollars collected statewide to build and operate a huge history museum there, which may have sucked the oxygen out of the local effort there and two, Raleigh’s far more inclined to “big game hunting” and as such vulnerable to the hubris of appearing “major league.”

Of course, lack of support for a local history museum there may also be a reflection of that community’s relatively low self-esteem among its residents according to several scientific polls. Or similarly, its consistently low image among North Carolinians over several polls when compared to the five largest cities, facts often masked by the hubris of its real estate community (also a hotbed for slander about Durham.)

But this guy’s real reason seemed to me that he doesn’t like paying taxes for anything. He’s the type who probably rails against local government about everything from paving streets to replacing sewer and water pipe to public health to just about anything it takes to sustain a community and, yup, foster an environment crucial for businesses like the one he had.

He was momentarily stunned but not silenced by the fact that visitors as a source of economic development for Durham annually generates $40 million annually for local government and if marketing resources weren’t diverted, could be $60 million each year. more than enough to cover cultural facilities and operation.

But again, his business, when he worked, wasn’t regulated, collected no taxes on services and enjoyed constricted supply and built in demand. So one can’t be surprised that he doesn’t understand what makes a community tic.

You see, there are many business people who haven’t been in the “real world” either.

But there are many compelling reasons, beyond just entertainment, for building a museum of local Durham history, five of which readily come to mind:

  • Tax Revenue. It will help Durham harvest more taxable visitor spending (broadening the burden on residents) by in-filling a gap in its cultural infrastructure.

  • Story Telling . it will give children, students, newcomers and relocating executives a place to get in touch with Durham’s story. People who grasp that story are more inclined to be engaged as activists, volunteers and philanthropy.

  • Synergy. It will augment Durham’s historic sites by providing exhibition space to stir interest in those locations, making them more sustainable. It will complement rather than undermine other cultural facilities and programming.

  • Preservation. It will be a vigilant testimony to what makes the community distinct and unique and insulate its character and personality from the pressures of development and generica.

  • Future Generations. As a repository of innovations and artifact, it will inspire future generations to build on the temporal qualities that make Durham, well, Durham…creative, entrepreneurial, caring, innovative, accepting etc.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Buying A New Car Is Getting Better But…

I hate the process of buying a new car but there is hope.

The local dealership through which the process had been easy and seamless the last 10 years or so had unfortunately swapped out Jeep for another brand.htbnc_overview Then the local dealership that picked Jeep up must have gotten slammed when Chrysler hit a rough patch in this downturn.

So the Jeep dealership was picked up by yet another local dealer but nothing from the database of the original dealer was accessible so it was like starting all over again.

The easy part was using the site to identify exactly what I wanted in every detail and then select dealers both here and in surrounding communities from which I requested proposals emailed back to me.

Then I ran into the old school process. The local dealership (I always buy local if I can help it) seemed very disorganized…and while I received several calls to check on status, I never could get the details emailed to me as promised.

I did hear back right away via email from a young sales person at the dealership in Burlington (Durham is between Burlington and Raleigh.) He was not only first to respond in email but he keep nearly the entire process “new school.”

The others I had selected in a radius from Durham eventually returned my email but then just used it to try to persuade me me to come in and discuss my request and I could tell go back through the old school process. No way!

I didn’t want to drive all the way over just to sit down and get taken back right through the usual . They had the information on what I wanted, they had access to what I’ve bought in the past. I didn’t need to waste the time until they confirmed they had the vehicle I had selected and provided interest rates and payment options for both purchase and/or lease.

So I kept working with young Christian at Nichols in Burlington. He was great. I could tell he was relatively new but he was comfortable in email. It took him a week of calls to other dealers to run down the vehicle I wanted. He also used email to provide finance details and even gave me a link to fill our the credit application online.

Now I could tell Christian was having to work through a few old schoolers at Nichols but even they stayed in email, where I could keep up to date and respond from my phone.

When I did go over to pick it up, I got an hour of the “old school” shuffle and wait so common to buying a new car. But still it was great progress and by the next trade in, I wouldn’t be surprised to find a whole new generation of very tech savvy sales people and hopefully a transformed process.

Otherwise, I’ll just try to buy it online directly from the factory and have it delivered to my driveway. And if dealers don’t figure that out and streamline this process, they will soon be nothing more than parts and service shops.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

NCCU Stands For Sense of Place

Sometimes retaining a community’s unique sense of place rests on the extraordinarily actions of an individual like Charlie Nelms, who made a special effort to preserve the tiny, picturesque Holy Cross Catholic Church.Former Holy Cross Catholic Church at NCCU

I have fond memories of the little, stone building from more than two decades ago when during my first year in Durham I travelled NC 55 to Downtown.

As it turned into Alston Avenue, framing the east side of the North Carolina Central University (NCCU) campus, I drove past the church each day, often seeing what looked like people out grilling in the parking lot as a fundraiser.

Charlie is chancellor of NCCU and took time from overseeing the school’s centennial celebration of its founding to cut through red tape and save the little church as it awaited demotion to make room for construction of an important new facility for training nurses.


More than picturesque, until it moved to a larger, new building, the little church was one of the first for Catholic African Americans in the state and the parking lot had served as overflow parking for the University’s celebrated Law School.

Thanks to Charlie, Holy Cross was moved two months ago to the other side of campus and placed near the main entrance to the campus to be adaptively reused as a unique meeting space, fittingly between a soon-to-be created Centennial Gardens for reflection and special events and the restored home of the founder, Dr. James E. Shepard.

NCCU is a pivotal part of Durham’s unique sense of place. The action by Chancellor Nelms pales in comparison to his lifetime of achievements but this one small act is how a community hits forward without saying goodbye to yesterday.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New School Focus “Feet On the Street,” and “Butts In Seats” Supplants Narrower Old School “Heads In Beds!”

First, congratulations to both management and elected bodies for local Durham city and county governments for the courage, responsibility and leadership demonstrated by raising the property tax rates.

Of course, it isn’t that simple for organizations like the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB,) self funded by a State authorized levy on the rate charged the 16% of visitor stays here overnight.Durham Visitor Volume-Spending

When the economy constricts, DCVB is among the first to feel it, curtailing its mission to pump visitor revenues through the local business climate resulting in $40 million annually to fund local governments and lightening the burden on residents.

Fortunately, DCVB’s long term mission and strategies aren’t self-servingly hamstrung by the catchy but always extremely narrow and old-school view of “heads in beds” that would focus on only 2% of Durham’s 3,000+ visitor related entities and a much smaller yield.

At times like this, when so much is beyond the influence of a destination marketing organization, two long term DCVB strategies are mitigating the near term downturn as well.

One, DCVB is a destination marketing leader in addressing all visitor stays, day trip and overnight with a focus on what’s best overall for the destination over any particular component. So for DCVB and other contemporary DMO’s, it’s not just “heads in beds” but the higher yield “feet on the street” and “butts in seats.”

Two, DCVB isn’t preoccupied with only the 10% of travelers attending conventions and meetings, a segment where Durham already over-performs. More than a decade ago DCVB shifted to hold that share while diversifying more into leisure travel where there is far more potential to increase market share and yield.

It is a delicate balancing act, especially when hobbled by the downturn.

But as evidence the strategies are working, while national visitation fell another 4.3% in ‘09, Durham’s visitation increased 4.4%. While nationwide leisure travel fell 1.9%, leisure travel to Durham increased 9.2% overall. Business travel which includes conventions was down nationwide 5.4% and in Durham 6.2% both because it draws a greater proportion of travel by air, a segment hit harder and because overnights shifted to day trips.

Both daytrip and overnight stays fell overall more than 4% nationwide but in Durham while overnight fell off too, day trip stays increased overall by 6.5% giving a much needed lifeline to the 3,000 + visitor related businesses here.

While day trip stays, nationwide, fell 11% for business and 2% for leisure, day trip stays in Durham fell just half as much for business, some due to overnight business travelers making day trips here instead, while leisure day trip stays in Durham increased nearly 12% .

Overnight stays nationwide fell nearly 12% for business but only about 2% for leisure. Similarly, overnight stays in Durham fell 12.7% for business and 2.7% for leisure but not disproportionate for communities similarly drawing a larger share of travel via air compared to nearby destinations and others nationwide.

Day trip stays of less than 50 miles is a category Durham is a leader in measuring and pursuing along with a handful of other destinations that shifted a few years ago to mining this critical but neglected part of the day trip market. Eventually, national measurements will catch up to this trend made possible by contemporary methodologies to exclude those traveling for school or work.

Last year Durham was up 8.6% in drawing day trip stays from within 50 miles but the real story is that day trip from this radius for business fell 9.1% while day trip stays for leisure increased 15.3%.

These patterns are never due to anecdotal changes, e.g. one group or event or facility but instead, broad changes like more universal shifts in overall destination appeal, and broader downturns, upturns and shifts in consumer behavior.

But for those wedded to finding an anecdotal reason, if you took for instance, all of the visitors who attended DPAC events, a new facility, and assumed they visited just for the shows, which isn’t the case or they were all leisure stays which isn’t the case, or they all came here for the first time, which isn’t the case, or that they all came from 50 miles or less, which isn’t the case, then under this hypothesis, they would represent:

  • 5% of day trip leisure stays of 50 miles or less and about 1/3rd of the overall increase in day trip leisure stays from 50 miles or less, leaving 2/3rds of the overall increase under this hypothesis, drawn for other purposes and activities.

That’s what I mean by it’s difficult to attribute changes over a time span to just a particular convention, event or facility or other anecdotal occurrence. Changes destination wide are almost always about broader indicators of collective destination appeal and consumer behavior, e.g. marketing strategy as well as activities like shopping, dining, sports events, conventions, festivals, theaters, historic sites, nature areas, museums etc.

Durham and DCVB and particularly thousands of small businesses and local governments must be grateful and relieved that the community drew 6.31 million visitors in ‘09, a very complex and difficult environment in which to do so.

This includes not only more than a million overnight stays but 5.2 million visitor day stays, 4.8 million from surrounding communities and rural areas, the highest market share of any community.

Durham also drew a healthy business to leisure ratio of 29%/71% and an overnight to daytrip ratio (50 miles or more) of 46%/54% and an overnight business to leisure ratio of 32%/68%.

And for overnight stays and related businesses, in 2010, Durham is beginning to regain the 90,000 visitors lost over the last 2 years.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Solution To Falls Lake Is Simple – “Follow The Money”

In a few days, some interesting opinions will be passed down regarding Falls Lake and it could cost Durham NC $1.5 billion. That’s right, nearly as much as BP just set aside in reserve to pay claims all along the Gulf Coast from the oil spill.Durham Map

It isn’t fair for Durham to be nailed with the cost of cleaning the lake up (see image to left-lake up and right.) Ostensibly the lake was created between 1978 into the early years of the ‘80’s by the US Army Corp of Engineers for flood control but that’s only a part of its function.

While primarily carved out of Durham County, the lake, thought by many to be too shallow, was actually a gift at US taxpayer expense to Raleigh NC and Wake County.

You see, that downstream county and its primary city, Raleigh, now the second largest in North Carolina wouldn’t have developed to anywhere near the extent they have without the gift of the lake from the Federal Government.

For Wake County and its 13 cities and towns, including Raleigh and the metro area it co-anchors with Cary NC, the lake has been a huge boon for economic development, resulting in huge amounts of local tax revenue that would not have otherwise been gleaned. Raleigh has grown 150% and Wake County 212% since its creation.

A tax base by the way that Wake County/Raleigh real estate brokers and agents have only been all to happy to use over the years as a selling point to undermine Durham as a choice for economic development and relocation.

While Durham County (and the City here by the same name that anchors the Durham metro area) is only 1/3rd the land area of Wake County and Raleigh, it has not only sacrificed a huge amount of developable land when the dam was built creating the lake but any possibility of significant use of that third of the county for economic development and growth.

So for one, I’m very pleased Durham officials are being very firm. Durham has already sacrificed so Wake and Raleigh could grow. The land there wouldn’t perk so without this water supply, both would have been significantly constricted. Now it is time for local governments there to pay the cost of that development and clean up the lake.

While apparently run-off upstream is a small part of the problem, to me this is simply “follow the money.” Both the lake and the solution benefits Wake and Raleigh and they with their infinitely larger tax base should now pay the piper. By the way, when I moved to Durham, this community was already in the process of setting higher standards for the lake than the downstream communities actually using its water.

And as a Corps spokesman wrote to me last weekend, (in that person's unscientific opinion and rationale for why no mention of Durham appears on the Corps' website for the lake) most people think its in Raleigh.

Don’t get me wrong, Durham isn’t entirely without benefit. The lake resulted in the preservation of scenic Durham countryside and byways here and a huge state recreations area (although it is often misidentified as being elsewhere because its office gets its mail in another county. What?).

And Durham has never been into “big” like Wake and Raleigh, having always put more value into steady growth and preservation of its diversity of population and housing and a unique sense of place.

But the lake wasn’t built to accommodate Durham which non-the-less has already paid a huge price in lost opportunity due to its construction. So the places like Wake County, Raleigh and its other dozen cities and towns that inherited the overwhelming share of the benefits should shoulder the cost using the very means they gained as a result of the lake’s creation as a water source.

It is time for primary beneficiaries to take responsibility for the costs as well as the benefit. As for those tempted at times like this to roll out the “R” word as in regional, to guilt Durham into rolling over…lets first discuss an equal, retroactive split of all appraised valuation due to creation of the lake because to be truly regional, both benefits and costs must be shared…

Other sources of interest:

Durham Herald-Sun Editorial

Bull City Rising Blog

NCDENR Background

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Long Way To Saxapahaw!

The ride on Sunday turned out to be more like 150 miles than the 100 miles anticipated. Bob Pickard led the way and the caboose on a cool three wheeler with three of us staggered between.

The ride cut north on country “two-laners” from Durham through Orange and Person counties to Hyco Lake, then south and west through Caswell and Alamance counties to Mebane and south. The highlight for me was seeing Saxapahaw, NC in what locals call UCLA for Upper Chatham, Lower Alamance Counties.saxsign

In North Carolinian, you say the first part Saxa very quickly then put the emphasis on “paw” as in paaawww with the “h” silent.”

Saxapahaw is probably 25 miles due west from my house if I stay on country roads and avoid Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The old mill on the Haw river there has been renovated like those in Durham to apartments, lofts and townhomes etc. The owners have also restored “mill houses” around the mill.

Although either the owners or the the webmaster must have a ‘tude about Durham, the website readily notes proximity to Research Triangle Park in SE Durham and Chapel Hill while managing to never mention Durham by name.

This is typically an intentional slight perpetuated by Raleigh/Wake County real estate agents and developers. Too bad for this little town that they weren’t inoculated from that crap…Durham is the readiest source of a quarter of a million visitors for Saxapahaw business, festivals and farmers market… and by the way Durham is also one of the most highly ranked communities in the nation and the state.

The Haw runs to Jordon Lake, named for Senator B. Everett Jordan, a massive reservoir that starts in South Durham and submerges a vast chunk of Chatham County. Senator Jordan lived in Saxapahaw, owned the mill and his family bought it back after it closed and voila!

The centerpiece for me though and the reason it is a great ride just to have breakfast is the Saxapahaw General Store or as they liken it on t-shirts there, just your “local Five Star gas station.”

It includes a gourmet grill, general store and kind of a miniature of Durham’s Wellspring, now Whole Foods market.

Beautiful day, great ride, highlighted by a cool little place with a great sense of place.

Here is an article in Our State Magazine with more on Saxapahaw posted on the mill site.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I Am A Town

If you’re not a reader, but still want to know what “sense of place” is, maybe Mary Chapin Carpenter’s I Am A Town will do it.

It was first brought to my attention by Ellen Dagenhart, a long time friend and one of those real estate professionals who really “get” the importance sense of place plays in relocation decisions.

And today I’m reminded of it as another friend has Maura Gast brought to my attention the oversight of a great version, and one of my favorites, of the song Smile by Lyle Lovett that should have been included in yesterday’s blog about my Mom. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Mom Comes To Mind During Father’s Day

I was so fortunate when my Dad passed away suddenly on his way home from breakfast just a few weeks after 9/11. Stranded in the Pacific Northwest by that attack, I had just been able to spend some memorable and sensitive time with him.

When I was asked to select a song for the funeral that would tell his story I was lucky again. Vince Gill’s Go Rest High On That Mountain came immediately to mind.00013_p_aaeuyfyqe0569_z

Not many people understood my Dad but even people who never knew him sense this song tells his story…a perfect blend of country and spiritual and lyrics like “You weren’t afraid to face the Devil, You were no stranger to the rain…go to heaven just a shoutin,” are indeed my Dad.

My Mom is 82 now and, in her stiff upper lip way, planning ahead for her own passing. She’s always been very musical and gave me my eclectic tastes in music. The Christian hymn Oh My Father would be a natural, one of her favorites.

But I’ve been thinking that Smile composed by comedian Charlie Chaplin might be perfect. It was composed as soundtrack for one of his movies and later John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added the very simple but poignant lyrics.01660_p_aaeuyfyqe1445_b

Some of my earliest and most indelible memories of my Mom are with this song. If sad or upset or even angry, Mom, then in her very early 20’s, would comfort me by pulling me up on the piano stool as she sang and played this song as though it were just for me.

She didn’t view it as depressive like many did. She saw the song, later made even more popular by Nat King Cole in 1954 when I was 6 years old, as inspirational. She had the sheet music much earlier I suppose.

Of course it has been widely covered by Judy Garland and Diana Ross even recently by Michael Jackson and the cast of Glee but a version by Michael Bolton captures in the beginning that simple piano in my Mom’s version .

The song reflects my Mom. She sees the song, not as a sad song but as one of strength, hope, faith and endurance. It isn’t always easy to detect her true feeling as I’ve been told is true of me.

But she approaches every challenge, such as coming of age during the Great Depression, marrying at 16 as Dad was shipped off to Europe and the war, divorcing once I was grown, losing her eyesight 20 years ago, every setback, as a reason to “just smile”… I hope she’s with us a good long time still but when she leaves this earth, I’ll suggest that this song tells her story. Until then, here’s to you Mom on Father’s Day…

Smile, though your heart is aching,
Smile, even though it's breaking.
When there are clouds in the sky-
You'll get by.
If you smile through your pain and sorrow,
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through
For you.
Light up your face with gladness,
Hide every trace of sadness.
Although a tear may be ever so near,
That's the time you must keep on trying,
Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile,
If you just smile.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Steward of Civic Engagement

Illustrating the relevance of a community’s destination marketing organization is an ongoing process. What Karl Albrecht International (KAI) initiated was just a beginning in the 2008 futures study for Destination Marketing Association International.New Role

Almost immediately, with Karl’s blessing, the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau, where I worked at the time, continued to innovate the illustration. But although, I had written widely about the added role of DMO’s as stewards of place-based assets, I failed to connect it to the illustration.

But now I see that DCVB CEO Shelly Green has remedied that oversight as she and her staff continue to improve the organization.

Tourism’s stewardship role was first inspired to DCVB’s attention during a keynote address by Dr. Scott Russell Sanders at the first Civic Tourism Conference in Prescott, AZ. I took it one step further.

Because a DMO is the spearhead of tourism, no entity is more responsible or more suited or more relevant to steward these invaluable assets. Because DMO’s steward the assets that make a community unique, if you agree with Dr. Sanders’ assessment below, they also help steward a community’s civic engagement.

“One cannot feel delight or pride in a place, a sense of belonging to a place, or a concern for the well-being of a place, if “there is no there there.” So it’s not surprising that the erosion of our towns and cities has coincided with a retreat by Americans from civic life. The two trends reinforce one another. Our communities turn into jumbles
because not enough people are looking after them, and ever fewer people are willing to look after places that have lost their souls.

But it is easy to be inspired over and over by Sanders’ words when you live in and love a place like Durham, where there is a “there” here and the level of passion for the community is nearly double the levels shown for others in scientific surveys.

If you care about the community where you happen to live even if you’re not a reader or you live and work among people who aren’t readers…read, re-read and share this writer's speech. If I had to name just one, it would be easily the most compelling of my nearly 40 year career in community marketing.

And if this essay resonates, it is only one of several equally poignant writings in his book A Conservationist Manifesto. Its only 256 pages but then again, I’m preaching to the choir…as a friend said a few years ago, “people don’t read anymore” and in my experience, she’s all too correct…at least the people who should, don’t read anymore.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "They're not in any mood to hand over even more power in the form of a new national energy tax to a government that, so far, hasn't lived up to their expectations in its response to this crisis."

Oh yeah!…not to hypocritical…this quote in USA Today just gave me a Jon Stewart moment…

Say nothing while one administration is for years too cozy with “Big Oil,” while doing everything possible to hamstring government as “too big”…then take cheap shots when it can’t suddenly overcome those cuts to be “big enough” to do the job.

As Garrison Keillor once wrote about a similar statement, “like a small man with bad toupee who thinks he is Tom Cruise and makes you want to say “just stop it.”

Definitely grist for a Jon Stewart moment.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Times Call for “Bold, Persistent Experimentation!”

To adapt a phrase from The Graduate, I just want to say one word to you.  Innovation.

It is essentially the key difference between our current gridlock and the solutions that delivered the country from the Great Depression.  My view was shaped by a recent reading of a great book (essentially a series of entertaining and interconnected biographies of major and minor participants on all sides) published last year entitled  Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America by Adam Cohen. 100

Getting out of the Great Depression wasn’t nearly as “tidy” or “master planned” as some histories depict and the similarities with today, bailouts and all, are uncanny.

In campaigning to replace another “party of “no” that had refused to intervene or admit it’s role in bringing on that depression, President Roosevelt campaigned on the promise of “bold, persistent experimentation.”

As Cohen continues to note in his preface, FDR spoke that it was only “common sense”…”to take a method and try; If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all try something.”

But if conservative columnist David Brooks is correct and I agree with him, the people who should read this book, wont’ because:

“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.”

In my years as CEO of several Destination Marketing Organizations and as someone steeped politically in the tradition of western progressive independents, I was always amused at meetings when outspoken Republicans (and lobbyists) would always assume everyone in attendance was “naturally,” a Republican and conservative at that.

Recently a friend did just that in a meeting in the mountains when he vehemently dismissed innovations like the VAT or value added tax, a modern version of the sales tax used in 100 countries or so.

But not all conservations have knee jerkitis.  Another great book, published just as this current recession began and summarized at this link is 100 Million Unnecessary Returns: A Simple, Fair, and Competitive Tax Plan for the United States by Yale, now Columbia Tax Law Professor Michael J. Graetz who also served the US Treasury.

To me Graetz is a conservative but he makes a great case for dramatic innovation of the current tax code including a VAT as a crucial step in bringing down the deficit.  He also wants to exempt more than 100 million households from the income tax and dramatically lower other tax rates.

The genius of the VAT is that it closes up all of those loop holes and gaps in traditional sales taxes and it requires a part to be shouldered by producers and wholesalers of goods, not just consumers.

Hopefully anyone wallowing in anger in those “information cocoons” will at least read what he has to say.

My fear though is that we weren’t humbled, at least sufficiently, by this recession to break out of our polarized, just say no, gridlock and work with President Obama to pursue the type of innovation that transformed America’s emergence from the Great Depression.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Okay, I Give In!

One of the troublesome things about the 24/7 news coverage is that individual editors, reporters and outlets don’t have a clue what a compressive effect they are having on this recovery.

Trying I guess to appear “objective” for the most part they try to hound each piece of good news with a “well but" and people eager to accommodate for 15 seconds of fame.double-dip

What they don’t get and so-called financial outlets like Marketplace may be the worst, is that this is all about confidence and they are trampling all over confidence by mongering fear.

So I give in, lets have a double dip recession and get it over with…or with they suddenly just shift to “triple dip.”

24/7 news is one thing very different today than in past recessions including the big one in the ‘30’s.  And it definitely from what I hear each day isn’t a good thing.

So maybe we need a requirement that any reporter, editor or news outlet have their own personal and organizational financial future indexed to what they do to “our” collective financial confidence.

Chilling you say?  To me it is still free press…but with the caveat, they be the first to feel pain of their collective harping.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I’ve Loved Jeeps Since I was 4 Years Old!

With the exception of a 1957 Chevy, I think my cars have always been Jeeps (now called Wranglers) or Porsche’s, both for a lot of the same reasons, e.g. they let you feel the road etc.danmeier2

Trading out my Jeep Wrangler for another this week, brought back memories of my first, a red 1952 CJ3A, just like the one in the image that has been restored.

I was 4 years old when my Dad, a vet, brought it home to the ranch.  I was 16 when I totaled it coming home from my job at Salvage Variety one school night.

I still remember the song that was playing on the radio, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling recorded by the Righteous Brothers.

But my first accident in that same Jeep was when I was 5 or 6.  Coming home one winter night in a blizzard with my Dad, the sides of the country road, barely one lane wide with towering banks of snow on each side, thrown by the county snow plow.

As we turned the corner to go the last quarter mile to the ranch house, we clipped one of the banks and flipped upside down.  My Dad pushed me to the floor board as we flipped and we both got out and walked home to a very upset Mom.

But I also remember racing to town sitting next to my Dad holding his left hand outside the window, gushing blood, with his knuckles ripped open from an accident with a saw.

We also used that Jeep to rush one of our neighbors to town after he was hit while on horseback by his elderly parents when the sun got in their eyes going up the hill just past the gate to our ranch.  Both he and his horse died.

I remember going to “work” in that Jeep with my Grandfather during the summers before I came of age.  He had homesteaded the horse and cattle ranch (we also farmed feed) before having heart trouble and turning it over to my Dad while he was still in High School.  So he/we  could only do certain tasks like digging post holes, mending fence, shoeing horses and such.

I remember streaking dust from the back of that Jeep’s visor onto my face so I could look like I had “really” worked when I got home.  I also remember afternoon rides to town with a stop on “doctor’s orders” at Ott’s Place (a tavern, billiard parlor and poker joint) where my Grandpa would have a beer and I would sit up by the front window reading the calendar with the birthdates marked for everyone in and around the town of Ashton.

I learned to drive in that same Jeep the same year my Grandfather died and my parents and grandparents gave it to me when I got old enough to get my license.  My Grandmother, re-painted it by “hand” although still red, making it a real conversation piece at school:)  Not sure it was a chick-magnet then as my daughter Emily called Jeep Wranglers as she was starting to date in another era.

My Dad blamed himself for my accident.  The Jeep didn’t have side mirrors or seat belts, of course, and as I changed lanes to let someone merge that night, while I was looking over my shoulder, another car stopped dead in the road in the lane I moved to and I never even got a chance to hit the breaks.

No one in the car I hit from behind was hurt but I remember the back window popped out intact and laid teetering on the trunk.  I had time to grip the steering wheel which helped project me head first through the windshield and then back but kept it from crushing my chest.

I don’t remember if I was helped, I just remember next sitting against a tree with warm liquid running down my face.  I had just missed the top frame of the windshield but the glass has scalped me from a cut across both eyelids up my forehead.

He didn’t recognize me at first but the EMT working on me in the ambulance was my scout master Dean.  He called my parents who drove by the mangled Jeep on the way to the hospital.  Dr. Knight did a great job sewing me up with only the scar showing now when I close my eyelids and of course a crease across the top of my nose.

My Dad, who nothing ever seemed to bother, passed out and fell into a bunch of stuff in the corner as he came into the room where I waited between x-rays and being sewed up.  I don’t know if it was the sight of me, all the rushing to get there or seeing the Catholic Priest who was praying over me.

I recovered just fine although a completely red eye was a conversation piece at school and I managed to do the same thing to the other eye prior to the start of football practice when a pack horse spooked and ran over me on a summer trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana.

I always wonder if Dr. Walsh at Duke Eye Center can tell when she does my annual exam.  By the way, the judge didn’t buy my Dad trying to take responsibility for my accident and my license was suspended for six months.

The Jeep wasn’t salvageable and the six months gave me time to save up for the ‘57 Chevy.  But interspersed with several Porsche’s (they used to be affordable, e.g. 356, 912, 911S, Boxster) I’ve had 6  more Jeep Wranglers but nothing as memorable as that red 1952 CJ3A.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

7 Board Member Types To Avoid!

I was very lucky as a CEO. Overall the 35 board of directors under which I served were excellent. But that experience and serving on more than 100 boards myself have identified 7 styles or types to avoid or confront and replace.sabotage


Creepers can’t tell the difference between management and board governance, waste time second guessing, refuse to abide by job descriptions and try to dilute or hijack the organization’s mission and purpose.

Mad Hatters

Mad Hatters come into board meetings with the hats or responsibilities they have elsewhere. They forget or refuse to put their board member hat on as they enter the room. They typically hijack board meetings or agendas for unrelated or top-of-mind issues or controversies.


Ad-libbers refuse to read, especially preparation or background materials. They insist on being spoon-fed the information during meetings, often raise questions or proposals without any context and waste value time to deal with issues or worse taking discussions completely off topic or in a circle.


Water-carriers bring outside/hidden agendas into the board room. They are predisposed to cabals and conspiracies, disrespective of the organization’s mission and purpose and welfare. They give cover to dissidents trying to end-run decisions or refusing face to face discussion with management or the board as a whole.


Reinventors cycle the board back through old, unrelated or resolved issues over and over and over, often because they haven’t been reading prep or background materials and as a result eating up valuable time, hijacking agendas, disrespecting decisions and diverting energy, often with hopes of wearing others down.


Myopes are myopic or near-sighted, tactical and “little picture.” They can’t see the big picture or beyond that day’s adrenaline rush. They distract boards from a primary duty to be far-sighted and strategic.


Selfers go on boards hoping to represent or fulfill self-interests. They constantly try to guide or divert proposals or decisions to their own benefit or the benefit of other organizations and typically lack a moral or ethical compass.

If you find yourself with one of these conditions, do yourself, the organization and the community a favor. Resign or seek therapy. If you’re on a board and see these conditions in others, confront them as a group immediately and directly.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Fairness Standoff Prevents Practical Solutions to Pollution and Traffic!

Americans are hung up on “fairness” and the most effective and efficient solutions to many problems like traffic and pollution just aren’t “fair” if by that term you mean either we all pay or no one pays.  SNAGHTML2810c39eI’m an example.

As a CEO, I always insisted that everyone including management either take a turn at “break-room” duty or in later years, make a donation to United Way for the privilege of a pass.

I wanted to demonstrate that no one in the organization is above any task but similar to how we think about pollution, it was predicated on the thinking that everyone contributed to messing up the break-room equally.

We all truck down to have our car inspected each year just so the system is “fair” but the problem of polluting cars involves a tiny fraction of vehicles that we’ve known for years would be better revealed by random, mobile testing.

But owners of those vehicles are disproportionately people who are economically disadvantaged and targeting them would seem well, unfair even though that can be overcome by .  So to appear “fair” we stick with a huge, unwieldy and inefficient process.

But the burden on the disadvantaged could be offset, as Malcolm Gladwell wrote in the New Yorker from an interview with Donald Stedman an expert at Denver University, “A half-dozen vans could test thirty thousand cars a day.”

“For the same twenty-five million dollars that Denver's motorists now spend on on-site testing, Stedman estimates, the city could identify and fix twenty-five thousand truly dirty vehicles every year, and within a few years cut automobile emissions in the Denver metropolitan area by somewhere between thirty-five and forty per cent…and stop just managing its smog problem and start ending it.”

But as Gladwell also notes, that solution could rub people on the right wrong because it would unfairly give special treatment to people who don’t deserve it and people on the left would see it as efficiency over fairness.

So we’ll just stay stuck in making everyone jump through hoops just to be “fair.”

Similarly, I recently read in Wired magazine about a rigorous analysis of traffic problems in the Manhattan borough of NYC by Charles Komanoff (click on infographic above.)  Based on the data, Komonoff computes that a change in transportation policies would solve the traffic problems and:

  • $1.3 billion in motorist tolls per year—all of which would be spent on improving public transit—and
  • save $2.5 billion in time costs by reducing delays.
  • add $190 million from decreased mortality as a result of making streets more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly,
  • generate $83 million in collision damage reduction, and
  • $34 million in lower CO2 emissions.

But we’d all rather dither away in traffic than pay a fee to travel on a public road or admit that we don’t all contribute equally to the problem….


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Collaboration Justly Receives Platinum Recognition!

As the Herald-Sun’s 52 weeks of full-page tributes to Durham comes to an end, it is only fitting that last night in blind, independent judging, it garnered the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau a “Platinum” Destination Marketing Award.

The campaign, which would have cost $240,000 was the idea of publisher Rick Bean to celebrate Durham distinct personality and character as distilled in the “overarching” brand, Durham-Where Great Things Happen! herald_ads

He predicated the idea on DCVB’s 300+ Great Things About Durham, an extremely popular document created 10 years ago for DCVB’s then 10th anniversary and regularly updated and freshened as both a flyer and a link that can be embedded on the website of any messenger, individual, business or organization site.

DCVB for its part, worked all year to freshen and expand what is now more like 500+ researching and creating the compilations and writing the copy for all 52 ads.  At the bottom of each page, Rick generously added the logos of two other Durham messengers, Downtown Durham Inc. and the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce which supported the idea as co-sponsors.

Kudos to Rick for an idea that perfectly demonstrated how an “overarching” community brand can dovetail with individual organizational brands and to the paper’s commitment overall to community.

And congratulation to the staff and management of DCVB, Durham’s official marketing agency and the facilitator of the the community’s extremely successful overarching brand distilled a few years ago to help make all Durham messengers more consistent and compelling way of articulating the community’s personality and values.

DCVB is also no stranger to recognition for best practices, initiatives and innovations.  This also brings to 12, the number of Platinum awards, more than 60 Destination Marketing Awards overall and more than 120 in the past 15 years.

Arguably more than any other DMO’s and definitely more than any other its size.

It really is no wonder Durham’s Destination Marketing Organization was not only the first in the State and some two dozen of more than 100 now to be fully accredited to the highest standards and best practices of community marketing and DCVB is still one of only two DMO’s to earn 11 exemplary citations in the process.

Mapping Processes Expedites Discussion, Gives Meaning!

I’ve always been intrigued with processes and how to convey them and improve them.  People make Destination Marketing happen.  It is very labor intensive but teamwork and execution require attention to process.

And mapping a process graphically can be particularly powerful when you’re dealing with a lot of people from different organizations.  I witnessed this in the early ‘90’s during a stint as chairman of the Durham Workforce Development Board.

We adapted a process map at the state level to Durham documenting all of the programs and agencies related to a person’s workforce potential and status from birth to death.How Our Laws Are Made

The graphic gave all members focus and a common understanding, expedited discussion and really helped new members of that board.

Here is my current favorite, an infographic of How Our Laws Are MadeClick either the link or the graphic to enlarge and kudos to the creators noted at the bottom of the graphic.





Monday, June 07, 2010

Idaho Wasn’t Always Reactionary

My Dad, a very conservative Republican used to repeat the saying that “God took California in one hand and Florida in the other and shook all of the nuts and berries into Idaho (actual author unknown.)”

I think he and I had very different ideas of who the “nuts” were and are, especially after the Goldwater nomination and he turned further right and I went just left of center, making any visit home or holiday dinner a “real” occasion. Idahoans used to be great debaters though and my Dad would switch sides if you ever began to agree with him.

I had progressivism in my blood though, from another Great-grandfather, Ralph (Smith) Messersmith, and I grew up during a time when Idaho elected Democrats and progressives at that. frank_church

Idaho, Utah and Colorado were always much more politically diverse than they are today. 

One of the US Senators representing Idaho during  my formative years was Frank Church, a progressive Democrat and he was preceded by Senator William Borah, a progressive Republican (yes, there used to be actual progressives in the Republican Party, e.g. President Theodore Roosevelt.)

Church, who served Idaho in the US Senate from when I was 8 years old until I was 26) championed an end to the Vietnam War, creation of Wilderness Areas and issues like Hospice Care.  Borah had been influential in creation of the Department of Labor and a champion of child abuse prevention etc.

Borah became Senator just as my Grandfather and Great-grandfather Bowman homesteaded in the Yellowstone-Teton region of Idaho and he served over the same span of Church’s life that Church did of mine.  So no one then thought it odd or un-Idaho-like when I became a progressive.

But today Idaho seems a victim of The Big Sort the title of a book documenting…how America as it becomes more diverse than ever is creating places (including my adopted state of North Carolina where my adopted hometown Durham is an exception)… crowded with people who live, think and vote alike, a sort of “way of life” segregation where our country has become so polarized and ideologically inbred (paraphrased from the link.)

Linked here is an explanation of how my birth state of Idaho was hijacked and became better know for Ruby Ridge and the Arians.  I think even my Dad, who passed away weeks following 9/11 was disappointed by the transformation.

6 Myths About Unauthorized Immigrants And Why We’ll Soon Be Begging For Them!

I don’t have a problem with the Arizona legislation after reading it, I do have a problem with the hypocrisy behind it and the timing and of course the hyperbole.

Myth #1 – Illegal Immigration is Unenforced

Actually, the number of deportations mimics the rate of illegal immigration, see page 2 of the link.

Myth #2 – Illegal Migration Continues Unabated

Actually, it began to dramatically decrease 6 years ago and the decrease has accelerated during the recession.

Myth #3 – Unauthorized Immigrants Aren’t Being Stopped

Actually 1 in 10 Hispanics report being stopped and asked about status (page 3 of the link above) so the Arizona law is redundant.

Myth #4 – The proportion of foreign-born people living in the US who are Mexican is unprecedented.

Actually, it is very similar to the percentage as Irish and German immigrants represented in this country in the late 1800’s and much smaller than those from the Great Migration of the 1600’s.  That’s what I mean by hypocritical.

Myth #5– It is imperative we have to do something about unauthorized Mexican migration.

Actually, the problem is resolving itself because of demographics and the people hot about it today will be the ones economist Gordon Hanson at USC surmises will be begging for migrants from Mexico to take care of them in their retirement homes.

Myth #6- Universal strategies like fences work.

Actually, they fail and they cost a fortune.  Analysis of strategies that best address crime, pollution, security, homelessness etc. show that the problems like unauthorized immigrations may be best addressed in power-law solutions.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

When Journalists Use Journalists As Sources

I’m not really a fan of journalists on radio and television interviewing other journalists as sources or even for commentary.  It’s okay sometimes and I suspect it is done to save a buck or two when official sources are overwhelmed responding to other outlets.

But the exchange on the radio program Marketplace Friday has been on my mind all weekend.  It is a good example of why journalists using journalists as sources isn’t such a good practice.bp-logo

Show anchor Kai Ryssdal invited two journalists in to discuss if BP is going to go down the tubes paying for this clean up and restoration.  Good question but the answers were glib and inappropriate.

Heidi Moore, a financial journalist (former WJS) who writes for The Big Money (a Slate web publication) stated things like “It(BP) can survive, unfortunately…given the scale of what they have perpetrated on the American environment.”  ….devastated a huge section of the American economy…”  

Megan McArdle, a business and economics editor for The Atlantic stated “whether you think that’s a sad thing or great thing (downfall of BP) depends on how much BP stock you own.”

Now I know it must have been tempting for these two folks to be flip (and they made some good points, listen for yourself in the link above) but Kai is often glib enough.  For writers and editors on things financial, these folks demonstrated at best, a lack of understanding about how market confidence impacts literally “everyone” and at worst, a crass lack of empathy for the millions of people related to BP, who are impacted above and beyond just several hundred thousand “stock-holder” and their families.

BP going bust (even just losing stock value) will of course:

  • undermine its ability to pay for the clean up and restoration…and
  • it would impact employees and
  • their retirement funds,
  • union retirement funds and
  • people who own or work for refiners, jobbers and 23,000 retail outlets including convenience stores
  • and all of these people’s spouses and children.

And that’s just the beginning….it will impact thousands of vendors etc.

We can be frustrated, but no one, including these two journalists and their publications would escape harm from the downfall of BP.   So just to spite it for the harm caused (and the responsibility isn’t just BP’s) we’re prepared to “shoot off our other foot.

Whenever we pull out a finger to point blame, we all need to be just a little less self righteous.  Because in this world, we’re all connected by just degrees of separation to any tragedy…

Friday, June 04, 2010

First In – Apparently First Out

Durham’s tourism sector is the “canary”  for any economic challenges befalling the community, particularly because Durham has been successful drawing a significantly  higher proportion of air travelers than other destinations, including those served by the airport Durham co-owns (miners used to take a canary along as an early warning for gas build up in mines.)

Realizing this, during the last decade, DCVB was one of the first Destination Marketing Organizations in the country to secure custom third-party research reports documenting not only monthly indicators but preliminary weekly and daily indicators to aid forecasting but to also measure the impact of various initiatives.

Durham’s tourism sector (foodservice, lodging, retail, transportation, entertainment etc. including DCVB were first to sense the current downturn back in 2007 and had to dramatically cut back as much as 30% when it hit full force in late 2008.  Other sectors like schools and government that rely in part on $40 million annually in tourism generated tax revenue are feeling a delayed reaction.


Now some of the first, tangible, sustained results of the recovery can be seen in Durham’s tourism sector.  It has been percolating inconsistently for months but now it is sustained.

Keep in mind that in tourism, the “bodies” come first and as they increase the revenues amplify, slowly at first and tax revenues are based on revenues and rates not just an increase in traffic.

Based on audited reports through the first third of the calendar year, the number of commercial guest rooms (20% of Durham’s visitors and a bellwether) “sold” is up nearly 8% and that increased demand is beginning to slowly have an impact on revenues as rates recover, off now just 1.6% for the same period.  That improvement in demand or rooms sold in Durham is better than the national and state-wide figures, better than similar sized metro areas in the state.

Now the really good news.

While May and May year-to-date YTD data is still being audited, there is further good news from preliminary daily and weekly unaudited reports, showing the last week of May (clear of graduations) was up 42% for the week and 18% for the month.  And reflecting the increased visitor traffic, revenue was up 37% for the week and 11% for the month.  The traditional days for business travel are up as much as 100% on one day while traditional leisure travel days were up more than a third.

These are definite signs of a revival even if based on the lows of last year and because Durham is typically bellwether, it means other communities including those nearby will also begin to rehydrate more quickly even though they draw visitors more by highway and from different origins for different purposes.

Every additional dollar that flows from visitors back into DCVB community marketing spearheads generation of 16 more in local tax revenues here.  That pure and simple is the reason smart communities promote tourism and like Durham have key indicators in place to measure performance.

Destination marketing is at its essence, an engine to pump revenues through the private sector and into the public and ultimately non-profit sectors.

But the “elephant in the room” in Durham continues to be the nearly $20 million in visitor generated tax revenue for local governments that is “left on the table” because dollars intended or marketing are diverted to other uses.

The additional $20 million sure would come in handy right now as local governments and schools struggle to close gaps in funding and there are signs that officials will revisit the formula in the near future.

No doubt the other uses are worthwhile but they could be even better and more broadly funded if the dollars were leveraged through stronger community marketing first.  Yields Durham can reap by merely more closely conforming to State House Finance guidelines for use of the special “room occupancy and tourism development tax” levied here on visitors using commercial guest rooms.

But before you’re too quick to ask why Durham doesn’t get it, at least we’re not among the places where officials irrationally “cut tourism” during times like this and that is thanks to the way the NC General Assembly and particularly the House Finance Committee that structures provisions for granting local option taxes on tourism.

Study after study of communities and entire states that suspended tourism marketing show how wise our House Finance Committee is to to stipulate tourism marketing as a part of granting authority to collect a special tax on tourism.  But the motive is not altruistic.  State government reaps as much or more tax revenue than local government in return from every dollar invested in local destination community marketing.

It is just that many administrators and elected officials fall victim to the pressures of dividing up the pie that they seem to totally forget the forces that “grow” the pie.  This zero sum thinking fruitlessly pits uses against one another.

Destination marketing, self funded by revenues from the visitors themselves is all about growing the pie by drawing in outside revenues….but to do that requires tourism marketing and good destination marketing organizations like DCVB…but especially when they are truly funded at the level sufficient to reap the optimal amount of revenues for the community.

Unfortunately, this well proven formula with tourism as a solution to drive revenue growth is too often buried during crisis fueled rage about “you can’t cut that,” but “you can’t raise taxes,” or more likely “you can’t raise my taxes to pay for that.”

In the meantime Destination Marketing Organizations just keep pumping as fast as they can to generate increased revenues for local and state and federal governments.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Finally News Beyond The Same Old Tired Disaster Ritual!

Okay, we all realize it’s the anniversary of the movie Jaws but it seemed only today did the news media shift from oil spill coverage that was rarely more than an incessant drumbeat of blame-game, aggressor-victim, finger pointing and whining…to finally giving people good information on the herculean response underway.jaws

Maybe it dawned on them that most consumers have either tuned out and turned off or the news media realized that people were switching for information to sites such as: and others.

Many, in particular national and local newspapers across the nation have even switched from demoralizing descriptions of the problem to finally passing along more information like the bullets below on the inspiring and herculean efforts in response.  And ultimately, they may actually pass along substantive background on what Gladwell termed “disaster rituals” in a great article about accidents like these.

Response by the Numbers to Date:

  • The administration has authorized 17,500 National Guard troops from Gulf Coast states to participate in the response to the BP oil spill.


  • More than 20,000 personnel are currently responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife and cleanup vital coastlines.


  • More than 1,900 vessels are responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts—in addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.


  • Approximately 2 million feet of containment boom and 2.1 million feet of sorbent boom have been deployed to contain the spill—and approximately 625,000 feet of containment boom and 1.8 million feet of sorbent boom are available.


  • Approximately 13.8 million gallons of an oil-water mix have been recovered.Approximately 993,000 gallons of total dispersant have been deployed—755,000 on the surface and 238,000 subsea. More than 364,000 gallons are available.

  • 125 controlled burns have been conducted, efficiently removing a total of more than 3.2 million gallons of oil from the open water in an effort to protect shoreline and wildlife.


  • 17 staging areas are in place and ready to protect sensitive shorelines, including: Dauphin Island, Ala., Orange Beach, Ala., Theodore, Ala., Panama City, Fla., Pensacola, Fla., Port St. Joe, Fla., St. Marks, Fla., Amelia, La., Cocodrie, La., Grand Isle, La., Shell Beach, La., Slidell, La., St. Mary, La.; Venice, La., Biloxi, Miss., Pascagoula, Miss., and Pass Christian, Miss.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Bob Pickard – Pure Durham

I visited the Durham Farmer’s Market Saturday and stopped next door to visit with Bob Pickard, a third generation Durham roofer who has a small manufacturing business on the side working with metals to create some incredible trailers and his operation is part of this area’s unique character.

Sandwiched in between the burgeoning Farmer’s Market and the noted restaurant Piedmont is Bull Durham Custom Trailers.  I’d seen the little shop before but last year I dropped by, met Bob and saw some of his incredible motorcycle trailers.  He’s now also manufacturing a cool Mini-Me Grill for folks who go to cook-offs or just want their grill mobile, very mobile.shop2

Bob is Durham through and through.  Unpretentious, generous with his time, always inviting me on motorcycle rides.  In most towns a district like Central Park would rapidly become purged of its roots, a bit, you know, foo foo!  But if Durham is Durham, we’ll always make sure to retain the area’s optimal serendipity.

Bull Durham Custom Trailers is also across from the George Watts Hill Pavillion of Liberty Arts, home to an incredible non-profit bronze foundry and Vega Metals, blacksmiths producing some incredible art and indoor and outdoor furniture.

And further up the street, past some studios carved out of the side of what was Durham’s last remaining tobacco auction warehouse (so as you can see farmers have been coming to this area long before the Farmer’s Market) is the Scrap Exchange.

Keep going up Foster and you’ll run into the Geer-Foster area I blogged recently or cut over a block to see the progress on Full Steam Brewery.

The area is eclectic in a way that the entire community of Durham is eclectic and accepting and unpretentious.  It is places like this that give Durham such an enduring and unique sense of place.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Memorial Day Was Every Day When I Was A Kid

My Mom’s parents always called it “Decoration Day” but no matter when we visited, we almost always went to visit gravesites and pay respects. On the ranch though, for me growing up, it was a daily occurrence.

Just up the hill from our house, barn, out-buildings, branding chute and corral was “Ora” cemetery at the crest of a hill before the road dropped down into pastures. The tiny cemetery had been carved out of the ranch by my ancestors and by the time I was born it was maintained by Fremont County, fenced with a gate at roadside.01664_s_aaeuyfyqe0320_z

It was populated with Bowman’s, High’s, Moon’s, Cotterell’s and Hunts, all names still carried by kids I came to know in school. Prominent was the headstone for Hyrum Edward Bowman, who with my Grandfather Mel homesteaded with horses, cattle, wheat and oats there 100 years ago.

I’d visit there almost every day but especially right after the American Legion put a flag on my “Uncle” Edward’s grave for Memorial Day. He wasn’t my uncle, he was my Dad’s best friend and cousin growing up and he was killed when the B-26 in which he was a tail-gunner was shot down over Italy.

I never knew him of course, but the end of that war was only 8 years distant when I began jumping over the fence to that little graveyard and we checked in with his wife Frankie for years after that. After so many days had passed, my Dad would let me bring that little American flag inside each year.

Edward’s remains had been located after the war in an orchard in Italy where the owner had carefully buried each member of the crew and put crosses up to honor them. Edward was brought back to Idaho to be close to family.

His first name is my middle name. As my first memory of a fallen soldier, he symbolizes for me the many other members of my family who have served:

  • Chamois (Shumway) in the Narragansett (King Phillip’s) War, the first major war involving people who settled here in the 1600’s,

  • McCrory who served with Washington in the Revolutionary War,

  • Neeley, who died in a prisoner of war camp in Canada during the War of 1812,

  • Shelton, during Mexican-American War

  • Messersmith, American Civil War - West

  • Bowman (my Father) in WWII and

  • Bowman, in Korea (Edward’s Brother)

  • White in Vietnam.

I must also give tribute to another of my Father’s very close boy hood friends, who as our rural mail carrier took time to visit with me nearly every day in those early years, J. Lorin Pence, who served in WWII (during which he was also a POW) and Korea and who passed away just this past February.