Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Entrepreneurial Locations

The Milken Institute’s annual best performing cities report released this month ranks all of the MSAs in the country based upon long and short term job growth, salary growth, GDP growth and number of high tech companies. The top five cities in the country were in order were: Fort Myers, FL; Las Vegas, NM; Phoenix, AZ; West Palm Beach, FL; and Daytona Beach, FL.

An interesting part of the study was an analysis of what makes great performing cities in the future. One of the keys to the future is entrepreneurial activity as explained by Milken, “Regional economic dynamism is epitomized by fast-growing, entrepreneurial companies. For a metro area to be successful over the long haul, it has to have capable entrepreneurs. The very foundation of the theory of clustered economics rests upon the dynamic rejuvenation capability of the cluster. Over the long-term, cities with strength in entrepreneurship will be among the Best Performing Cities—large and small.”

What is interesting in their study is that ALL of the top 25 metros in their study stretch from the southeast, across the south and up the west coast. There are none in the NE or Midwest. Florida has 6; Texas 5; and California 5 cities.

What is it going to take to convince politicians in the NE and Midwest to make their economies more entrepreneurial friendly?

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Next Great Bubble Boom

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I read Harry S. Dent, Jr.’s new book, The Next Great Bubble Boom, which carries on from his previous themes in prior books like The Roaring 2000s. Dent utilizes demographics and lagging birthrates to show how they change our economy over time

Some of his observations about what I call the agurbs® and he calls the exurbs:

“This new economy will continue to enable a growing shift toward ‘exurban living’ in high-quality smaller towns.”

“Continuing Megatrend: Consumers will continue to flee to the Exurbs. Lower-priced homes, less congestion, and more recreation are the drawing cards.”

“This trend is a broad trend like the shift from cities to suburbs, starting in the early 1900s, but accelerating for many decades into the 1970s.”

“Now the Information Revolution—being accelerated by the Internet, home PCs and entertainment devices, cellular smart phones, and broadband (wired and wireless)—will allow more people to live, do business, and communicate from exurban areas.”

Dent’s research shows the exurbs growing to 50% of the US population by 2025. While, I find this figure a bit optimistic, I think that several of the points he makes in his book about why the exurbs will grow compelling.

Stillwater’s booming downtown

One of the very positive things that struck me about Stillwater, Oklahoma was their vibrant downtown. They have obviously spent a great deal of time and effort making sure that their downtown continues as a livable draw. They have over 50 independent entrepreneurs with stores in the downtown area.

Having a strong downtown as a gathering place, like in Stillwater, is becoming more important as people search for a sense of place in where they live. It is not something that you can get at a Wal-Mart or strip mall. It is often a unique place like a downtown. Stillwater is such a place, where a unique sense of place exists.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Company Town on CNN

Last night I watched a one hour special on CNN about a “company town.” They featured Canton and North Canton, Ohio long time homes to Hoover (vacuums) and Timken (ball bearings). Both started in the early 1990s and closed their manufacturing operations there in early 2000s.

They showed the anguish of long term veterans of the company losing their jobs and their turmoil of deciding what new jobs and careers to pursue. They also featured a professor from Harvard who talked about the plight of these people. She thought that it was very unfair that these workers had a pact, or deal with the company and then one day it suddenly ended. She thought that there wasn’t any hope for the ex-workers nor their children, unless they left home for greener pastures.

The show’s only positive voice was the mayor of Canton, who was made to look like an out of touch cheerleader. CNN’s portrayal was that she was enthusiastic, but didn’t have a clue.

Losing a long time pillar of the community like Hoover or Timken is devastating. The hardship of losing long term jobs is overwhelming. But communities like Canton, North Canton, and others generally pick up the pieces and move on. I’ve seen it in many company towns like N. Adams, MA; Mooresville, NC; and recently in Ponca City, OK. At the end of the day they moved onto new businesses and endeavors, becoming better agurbs® as a result.

It is a shame that a news organization like CNN would have you believe that these towns are doomed and feature analysts who bemoan changes, have an entitlement mentality and don’t see the can-do spirit of these communities. They see recent downturns as trends that can’t be turned around. They miss completely the true spirit of small town America.

Forward Stillwater!

I was briefly in Stillwater, Oklahoma last week giving a talk to their new economic development organization Forward Stillwater. This very forward looking economic development organization raised $2.5 million this year to increase the economic opportunities not only in Stillwater, but on a regional basis out 50 miles. They are on the cutting edge of economic development.

Stillwater is a thriving community of 40,000 that is blessed to be home to Oklahoma State University. OSU accounts for about 25% of the economic activity in the city and is churning out graduates that many companies are yearning for. Combining a focused economic development effort with the power of OSU is a strong mix that should continue the growth that I saw taking place in this booming agurb®.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Big Fish. Great Pond.

David Myers, head of economic development in Ponca City for the past two years, talked to me about his goals for development. “It is the people’s money and we need to use it wisely. The vast majority of our job growth is going to come from within our existing businesses. When a company looks at moving here they are going to want to talk to their peers and we want that to be a good conversation.”

“Our new campaign is: Big Fish. Great Pond. Let me give you an example of the type of person we are bringing into Ponca City. Shane Herman is a blue collar kind of guy who makes oil field spill prevention devices. He got the idea from working on the north slope of Alaska. He moved here from Yuma, Arizona last year because he wanted to work with Conoco-Phillips and be closer to the oil companies. We helped him get a purchase order from Conoco-Phillips that will allow him to grow his company from 5 to 10 employees. We are going to help him continue to grow. I call it growing your own.”

Myers also related this approach to economic gardening as opposed to “buffalo hunting”, or going after the huge projects. My own experience is that too many communities spend WAY too much time “buffalo hunting” for projects rather than growing their own small companies. Ponca City is on the right track and I love their slogan, “Big Fish. Great Pond.”

Friday, November 26, 2004

Mourning to Turning—Turning Losses into a New Future

When Conoco merged with Phillips in 2002, over 250 officers and executives from Conoco moved to Houston, the new companies headquarters. The town of 25,000 also lost 600 or 700 indirect jobs as a result, both as a result of the multiplier impact in reverse and Conoco-Phillips moving to one source contractors. In all 1200 people let town, creating a huge, negative impact on a town this size.

Stan Kisler said, “We were in a mourning stage for about a year. But a couple of events helped to pull the town together. One was a mission/soup kitchen in the bad part of town that was burnt down by an arsonist. In 90 days we rebuilt it with everyone working together. The second was when we did a $1.2 million campaign to rebuild the Northern Oklahoma Youth Shelter. Dave May, who weighed about 270 or 280 pounds decided to do a fundraiser with people donating $1 to $2/pound for him to lose weight. We challenged each other. Dave was all over town, riding a bike, doing other things to lose weight. Everyone took ownership in this new shelter as a result. When you start to help other people, you start to feel better about yourself.”

Today, Ponca City is putting those lost jobs, a lost shelter and lost pounds behind it. They are working together and preparing for a better future…a future built upon a more diversified job base, building upon existing clusters in tool bits and machining, growing their existing local companies, even as they recruit in new businesses.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Lessons from a Legend

E. W. Marland failed eight times before he finally discovered oil near Ponca City, Oklahoma in the 20s, eventually controlling 10% of all of the world’s oil. He founded Conoco Oil, which was headquartered in Ponca City and was a “kept town” by Conoco, which totally dominated the town of 25,000.

Twenty years ago 5,000 people in the town worked for Conoco, but today it is down to only 1,600. More importantly, as Stan Kisler, an ex Conoco VP, today a city commissioner and head of their economic development efforts said, “Conoco provided the genetic material for the town.” Having a one-horse town is a big plus as long as the horse is healthy.

Today Ponca City has an impressive revitalization of their economy taking place. They’ve passed a ½ cent sales tax for economic development, put together an entrepreneurial board (no bankers or Conoco-Phillips execs), and did a nationwide search for their ED Director. As Stan told me about their ED group, “We work like a skunk works rather than a bureaucracy. We’re having the most fun that you will ever have with your clothes on.”

Just as Conoco’s founder failed many times, picking himself off the ground, before moving onto to greatness, Ponca City is rebounding from the shrinking of Conoco. They’ve got a great plan, motivated locals and a lesson of what is possible if you don’t give up.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Leveraging Your Resources—Even If It’s A Sand Trap

The Eyre Highway is an 868 mile road thru the Outback’s Nullarbor Plain. It is generally considered one of the most desolate areas in Australia. They’ve got sand, lots of sand! What could you do with all of that sand?

In a classic case of turning lemons into lemonade, the 18 towns and gas stations along the road are going to build a golf course out of all of that sand. And not just a normal golf course, but one that will be 868 miles long!

Each town has agreed to use their road grading equipment to create sand fairways and “greens” made of oiled sand—real grass is impossible to maintain in such an arid climate. Golfers will play one hole per gas station and then drive on to the next hole, as much as 62 miles down the road.

The locals hope to get people to stop at their towns, showcasing some local attraction, after they’ve played a hole of golf. One town features whale watching, another ancient fossil beds.

“It’s never going to be St. Andrews, but it’s an awesome idea for promoting our area and should be a lot of fun,” said Alf Caputo head of the local tourism association. It’s another example of towns working together to try to better their lot. I wonder how many Fosters were consumed coming up with this “out of the box” idea?

Monday, November 22, 2004

Hasta la Vista, Baby!

I was in Ponca City, Oklahoma last week touring the town. I’ll have several reports on them this week. They do a very interesting weekly economic development newsletter. This week’s edition had an article entitled: Tell Arnold, They Won’t Be Back.

They cited my work on Americans looking for quality of life places to live and raise a family. They reviewed an AP article that one in four Californians were considering moving from the state. The culprit? Only 19% can afford the $465,000 median home price.

A demographer at a conference I was keynoting several months ago mentioned that California runs the risk of becoming the America’s Appalachia in the 21st Century. The reason? Today they have the lowest high school graduation rate in the entire country. High costs and a weak educational system could be a deadly combination that even Arnold can’ fix

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Cultivating Serial Entrepreneurs

Agurbs® that learn how to cultivate entrepreneurs and especially serial entrepreneurs who continually are starting companies are going to take their communities to a completely higher level in this new century. I met one of these captivating serial entrepreneurs in Winfield, Kansas.

Todd Gentry graduated in Electrical Engineering from Kansas State in 1992 and wanted to work in the aircraft industry in Wichita. He moved to Winfield because his grandparents lived there and it was close enough to Wichita to be able to drive to job interviews. He ended up getting a job as an engineer with a local firm and stayed in Winfield. In 1995 he and a friend started a part time business with their meager savings and a $20,000 loan from his grandfather to provide internet service to the town. They sold it for several million dollars in the late 90s.

In 2001 he started Inno-Labs, a product development firm to take new ideas to market. He’s designed heated and cooled sports seats that he is selling to Wal-Mart, Cabelas, Costco, Bass Pro, Budweiser, and others. He’s also producing a product to keep animals out of rooftop plumbing vents that are sold thru Menards, Home Depot, and other home improvement stores.

Todd is a young man on the move, one that many towns would love to have starting new businesses. Today, Winfield is home and as he told me, “I have had the opportunity to work in or at least visit nearly every major MSA in the US. I love to travel, I love the social, cultural, and culinary and entertainment opportunities of the larger cities. I also dearly love coming home.”

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Brain Drain Cost or Brain Bank Return

At the Connecting the Dots Conference at Southwestern College in Winfield, KS we discussed growing your own businesses with local entrepreneurs as an explicit strategy. A group from Wichita showed the cost of losing our young people in rural America to large cities. Their figure was that it cost $300,000 to raise a child into an adult. They showed Wichita losing about 20% of its young people or 1,700 people each year. That is a net loss of $510 million!

What is the lifetime value of keeping those young people in your community? In Winfield, Kansas the average wage is $26,631. For a 40 year career that is over $1 million for each young person.

Think of all of the young people who leave rural towns like Winfield! Just think of the Brain Bank of talent that grew up in your town and isn’t living there today. Look at the return on investment that could be earned by recruiting them back home.

Community Foundations—Legacies Forever

I gave a talk at the Legacy of Thanksgiving dinner for Legacy, A Regional Community Foundation, established in 1996 in Crowley County, KS. This fourth annual event recognizes the many people who have contributed over $1 million to the foundation for the benefit of generations of citizens.

Legacy has some innovative programs to assist those less fortunate like providing dental care for young children, special programs for young people decided upon by a panel of high schoolers, and other donor specified projects. This is a great example of how people in rural areas are showing their generous nature and positively altering their towns forever.

The motto of Legacy is an old Chinese proverb, “A wise man plants trees under which he will never sit.” Another saying that I like is: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Clusters—Can be a Springboard

I got a great tour of Cowley County, KS (Winfield and Ark City) this week. This is a county that has had a strong industrial base but has had to rebound from losses of over 2,000 jobs with plant closings of Crayola, a refinery and a packing plant. However, I was impressed with how this rural county has picked itself up and increased their economic development efforts in a countywide effort.

A local company, Gott, developed a thriving business in plastic products which they sold to Rubbermaid. Rubbermaid still produces products like coolers, trash cans, etc. in Winfield, with a workforce of over 750 employees. Other companies, Winfield Consumer Products, K Square and Galaxy Tool, are also producing plastic goods. They’ve have sprung up from ex-Gott employees, hiring another 400 people.

Clusters like this one in the plastics industry can be the springboard for increased economic activity in many towns. If you haven’t done a survey of potential clusters in your region, you should do so.

Friday, November 19, 2004

A Picturesque Steamboat Town

I toured Warsaw, MO yesterday with Randy Pogue, Warsaw’s city planner. Sitting on the banks of the Osage River, it was the final stop for steamboats from St. Louis. When the steamboat era passed, Warsaw slowly slid backwards.

Today, Warsaw is a bustling community of 2,000 with one of the nicest downtowns I have seen. In the past five years they have redone it into the steamboat era of the past. Already, 50 small retail stores have sprouted up and there is a wonderful vitality in the downtown area.

Warsaw sits at the site of the Truman Dam and is at the headwaters of The Lake of the Ozarks, 90 miles north of the dam at Osage Beach. It has the best of both worlds, the natural beauty of a Corps of Engineers lake (Truman) and the commercial potential of The Lake of the Ozarks.

The town is one of the fastest growing in Missouri, attracting both retirees and entrepreneurs who are looking for special quality of life features in a town. Warsaw is working on building a resort on the peninsula overlooking the dam, a golf course expansion, rebuilding of a 100 year old suspension bridge, an outdoor amphitheater, and a walking trail to link it all together.

Keep your eye on Warsaw. It’s a small town on the move.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

What’s Luck got to do with it?

Thomas Edison once said, “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Another famous quote is, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” But, sometimes it is just luck. Blind luck!

Yesterday, I viewed (stayed in actually) where blind luck helped a town. After 9/11 the Hilton Corporation decided that they wanted to reach out to country as a whole, following upon President Bush’s model of “Acts of Service.”

They appeared on the Rosie O’Donnell Show, having Rosie throw a dart at a map of the U. S. It landed upon Clinton, MO. Last night I stayed in a brand new Hampton Inn that resulted from that dart toss.

While a single motel won’t completely alter a community, this new motel is a big step up from the handful of other motels in Clinton. Hopefully, it will lead to other great developments for a wonderful town.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Getting Out of Their Silos

I had a great tour and gave a talk in Clinton, MO yesterday. Clinton is a town of 9,000 in west central Missouri on the shores of Lake Truman. Clinton’s mayor for 10 years, Gus Wetzel, and their head of economic development, Christy Maggi, spent several hours showing me their community. Mayor Wetzel, also an engaging surgeon, proves that mayors can come from any profession. His father, also a surgeon, was a past mayor of Clinton.

Clinton’s downtown, an original Main Street Town from the mid 80s, is quite impressive for a town its size. Clinton was also an All American City in 2000. The city has built a great new industrial park and is in the process of expanding their airport to help take them into the new century.

I was very impressed with the Benson Convention Center and adjacent City Community Center. This joint project was done with the city and county working together. An aquatic center is in the works on site. I’ve found that too often cities and counties remain in their “silos”, not working together to accomplish projects and help to take their communities to a higher level if they cooperated more. Clinton is a great example of what can happen.

The one downside I saw in the town was when we drove by their schools. I counted 13 trailers that are being used for classrooms. You have to question the long term commitment of citizens that aren’t willing to invest in their kids. Clinton is trying to pass a referendum to solve this overcrowding. I’ll be watching to see how they do.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Seeding Small Towns

Thanks to all of you who are sending me emails. I’m really enjoying communicating with so many people who are passionate about small towns in general, and their town in particular. I’m learning a lot.

This week I got an interesting email from Debora Dragseth, a professor at Dickinson State University in ND. She’s got a very interesting idea about how to repopulate dwindling towns, “There is another community that I read about that brings in little kids via an aggressive program of adoption. I think it was a town in Texas as well……that's a concept that I would like to explore the economic impact of in small communities. There are 1/2 million foster kids in the U.S. right now and 1/3 of them will never go home and they will never be adopted. Imagine the impact on a town of, say 5,000, if 5-10 new little kids were brought in and the community helped pay the costs ($3-5,000 in many cases--lawyers, agency fees, etc.) The diversity impact would be stunning as well.”

Very interesting idea! What do you think?

Friday, November 12, 2004

Can Do Blue Earth

Yesterday afternoon I flew into Blue Earth, MN for a tour, dinner and talk. This is a town that has very aggressively and successfully recruited a number of late 20s and early 30s aged young people back to this town of 3500. Blue Earth is a town that is confidently preparing for the future. It is a town on the move.

There are a number of locally owned businesses in the banking, telecom, manufacturing and retailing sector that are investing in the community and it shows. Their downtown is the best that I’ve seen in a community of this size. It would be the envy of many towns three times its size.

High paying jobs are still of concern, as they are in many towns, but with the spirit that I saw displayed by the 200 people at my talk last night I think that you will be hearing more about Blue Earth. The name of the town, by the way, comes from blue clay that the Indians found on this spot many, many years ago.

Galesburg Repositioning

I was in Galesburg, IL yesterday talking to about 180 people as part of their Leadership Greater Galesburg. Galesburg has been in the news recently with plant closings at Maytag and Butler. At one time these manufacturing operations hired over 3,000 people in a town of 33,000. In talking with local citizens and leaders it is obvious that the town feels a great deal of hurt and betrayal. Some even want to sue Maytag for repayment of past incentives given to the appliance manufacturer.

In a way Galesburg is going thru a grieving time for their loss, but already the seeds of a resurgence are being planted in this agurb®. A new 350 acre logistics park is being developed, workers are being retrained, and the empty buildings are being aggressively marketed.

Keep your eye on Galesburg. With what I saw yesterday I’m convinced that they will turn the lemons of their job losses into lemonade.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Red vs. Blue Agurbs®

Analyzing the data on this past election from our 397 agurbs® showed some significant differences from the national data. President Bush won 338 agurbs®, John Kerry 58 and Waldo County, Maine had a tie. In these agurbs 6,858,488 votes were cast with President Bush winning 61% of the vote compared to 51% on a national basis.

The largest differences in votes were in Madison, ID where President Bush won 92% of the vote and Taos, NM where John Kerry won 74% of the vote. Colorado and New Mexico each had 7 agurbs that voted for Kerry, the most of any state.

If the agurbs® determined the electoral vote Bush would have won in a landslide with 40 states, Kerry 5 (ME, NH, VT, NM and CA), and 5 states which didn’t have any agurbs®.

During the campaign one of the candidates consistently talked of two Americas. Perhaps there are two Americas: The Agurbs® and the big cities.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Maryland Small Town Interest

Yesterday I gave a talk at the Maryland/DC NAIOP Chapter. It was a great group with lots of interest in the area. Several of the members talked of their work with small towns, relating both the joys and challenges of their efforts.

I had one member who conveyed to me his strong interest to go out to a very small town in Virginia and use some of the information in my book to help with development efforts in that community. I’m gratified when I see this type of interest sparked in small towns.

David Brooks, columnist for the New York Times, wrote a column in yesterday’s paper about the decentralization of America. Here is what he is observing of these locations, “I didn’t adequately describe the oxymoronic attraction these places have for millions of people. On the other hand, people move to exurbs because they want some order in their lives. They leave places with arduous commutes, backbreaking mortgages, broken families and stressed social structures and they head for towns with ample living space, intact families, child-friendly public culture and intensely enforced social equality. That’s bourgeois….They are Mayberrys with BlackBerrys.”

I continue to be intrigued by the interest in small towns, even when I’m in large areas like Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Boston, etc. There really is a growing interest in the agurbs®.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Retaining our Risk-Takers

I’ve had some great email conversations with Debora Dranseth of Dickinson State University in North Dakota where I will be doing a series of talks in several agurbs® next April.

She recently wrote an editorial for a western North Dakota magazine about the young people who are leaving the state, comparing them to their ancestors who settled the state in the 1800s. She relates how our country was built by people who took risks and were willing to give up everything they had to move across the country in their covered wagons.

Today studies in ND show that ½ of the young people graduating from high school or college plan to leave the state. Dranseth says, “I believe that the graduates who exit the state are not necessarily the “best and the brightest” but the risk takers; those who are willing to take on the uncertainties of leaving the state where their families have lived, perhaps for generations, and venture out into the unfamiliar.”

“Successful entrepreneurs are creative, resourceful risk-takers. Thus, it is critical for the future of North Dakota that our communities, our law makers, and our educational institutions work together to find ways to retain these young risk-takers and foster in them the entrepreneurial spirit and vision that will help our state thrive.”

Monday, November 08, 2004

A Rather Unique Incubator

While I was in Conroe, TX at Entergy’s Team City Conference I toured the area. One of the facilities that caught my eye was a company called Conroe Trading. This Italian owned company is developing a business incubator focused upon Italian companies looking to develop business relationships in the U. S.

Already they have a dozen Italian companies that make things like ball valves, sealings, powder handling systems, grinding machines, water purification, etc. This effort, begun in 1997, hopes to foster more international trade.

While I’ve seen many incubators in my travels and research this is one of the most unique. Could this be a concept that other agurbs® could develop with other countries?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Family Doctor of Small Business

Last week I was at Entergy’s Team City Conference in Conroe, TX. Over 60 cities and towns from SE Texas were represented with almost 500 in attendance. There was a great deal of passion shown for economic development by the participants. Unfortunately, I left my notes at the office and won’t get a full report on the various speakers until probably Tuesday.

On the plane to the conference I read Ernesto Sirolli’s book “Ripples from the Zambezi”, one of the speakers at the conference. His approach of a “Family Doctor for Entrepreneurial Businesses” makes a lot of sense and is spreading in use. Here are some of my favorite quotes from his book:

“The last 15 years have confirmed that governments and corporations do not create jobs. Jobs are created by small individual enterprises….Individual entrepreneurs are the powerhouse of the economy.”

“Passion is what propels us during our solitary journey….For fear of living is similar to death.”

“There are about ten million companies in Japan employing fewer than 30 workers each. Of these, nearly seven million are manufacturing companies.”

“No matter how rich Russia is in terms of natural resources…in the final analysis what makes a society proper or not is the collective quality of its citizens.”

There are other great stories in the book and it is a must read for anyone thinking of using local entrepreneurs as part of their economic development strategy.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Texas Towns Booming

Yesterday afternoon I toured The Woodlands and Conroe, TX, both located in Montgomery County. These communities are about 30 miles north of Houston and are growing at rapid rates.

Conroe is an old sawmilling and transportation hub with a wonderful downtown area that is being redone with brick sidewalks, building facelifts and other improvements. Lake Conroe, built in the early 70s, is a 22,000 acre recreational mecca that enhances the town’s ability to recruit in new professionals and industries.

Greater Conroe’s Economic Development Council purchased and developed a 470 acre industrial park just outside of town 5 years ago. It is already teaming with many new companies, both domestic and international.

The Woodlands was started about 30 years ago as a planned development on 16,000 acres by the oil mogul George Mitchell. They’ve developed about 70% of the land and already have a population of over 70,000.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

There Can Be Life After Textiles

Today’s New York Times has a touching article about the end of textile quotas and the impact that it is going to have on towns like Kannapolis, NC. The town grew up in the early 1900s around the textile mills built by James William Cannon. Today they are facing economic calamity as textile mill jobs move overseas.

Losing one’s job is never fun. I’ve seen it happen too often. But there can be a life afterwards.

It’s interesting that Kannapolis has built the Dale Earnhardt Plaza to celebrate its native son. I’m sure that it brings in some tourists. Meanwhile, Mooresville, 20 miles away and also an old textile town has completely diversified themselves away from textiles. And, they’ve got Dale Earnhardt’s headquarters with 250 employees.

It takes vision and determination to change yourself like Mooresville as compared to so many towns that wring their hands and have a “woe is me” attitude.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Regional Economic Development—Wave of the Future

I was the afternoon speaker for the first annual meeting of the Southeast Missouri Economic Development Alliance (SMEDA) on Friday. This six county region which comprises the boot heel of MO is just forming a regional initiate, seeing the wisdom of pooling their resources to market their region. It will be totally funded from the private sector and has some very strong leadership and vision.

At the conference they had a very interesting panel of regional economic development directors from MO, TN and AR.

Mark Young from the Delta Center (AR) said, “Just because we play football against each other on Friday night doesn’t mean that we can’t trust each other and help each other.”

Mike Philpot of WTIA (TN) talked about “coopetition”, a new word for “we are going to have to cooperate with each other before we start to compete against each other. If an industry lands next door to us, we all win.”

I’m seeing more and more regional initiatives. Towns are quickly realizing that they get lost in the clutter of 15,000 other towns around the country and that a way to effectively leverage their recourses is to work together with their neighbors.