Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Warsaw bills itself as the “Orthopedic Capital of the World” and with three of the top five international orthopedic firms headquartered here, it’s easy to understand why no one disputes its claim. These three (Zimmer, DePuy and Biomet) collectively produce over $10 billion in sales, hold 65% of the worldwide knee replacement market and 60% of the worldwide hip replacement market, and employ over 7,000 people in Kosciusko County.
This unique cluster started when Revra DePuy married the local sheriff’s daughter, taking her back to MI. When she grew homesick for Warsaw, he moved his young family to the town. There he invented the fiber splint to set a fracture, quickly replacing the wooden barrel staves that had been used up to then.
Later, the national sales manager for DePuy’s company suggested to Revra’s widow that the company add aluminum splints to the product line. When she refused, J. O. Zimmer left the company and started Zimmer Holdings, now the largest employer in the county with 2,800 employees.
Later a Zimmer employee, Dane Miller, left that company to set up Biomet along with local investors.
Recently, when Zimmer announced plans to invest another $19 million to expand its foundry operations, adding another 100 local jobs, Richard Stair, VP of Global Operations and Logistics told Inside Indiana Business, “Warsaw really is a jewel in the state of Indiana. It’s impressive that in the city of Warsaw several of the largest orthopedic companies in the world are selling devices globally to help people live a better quality of life.”
It started in Warsaw. It continues to grow in Warsaw. Do you have any potential clusters that you could exploit to create a cluster like Warsaw has done?
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
If you are one of those towns, pay attention to my blog of yesterday and this one today. Bill Cook was born and raised in Canton, IL, and went onto great fame and fortune, starting his own medical equipment company. But, he did all of that in Bloomington, IN, where he went to college.
Mark Rothert, head of the Spoon River Partnership for Economic Development in Canton, wrote to Cook a year ago. Here is what the letter said:
Dear Mr. Cook:
My name is Mark Rothert and although we have never met we share a common bond of growing up in Canton, Illinois. I read an article about you in the Dec./Jan. 2007 issue of "Bloom Magazine" and thought I would write.
Canton has probably changed since you grew up here, but it was a great community then and still is today with much potential. However, Canton does face some major challenges. They include the former International Harvester Brownfield site, deteriorating housing, fewer employment opportunities, and a declining downtown.
I am the director of the Spoon River Partnership for Economic Development, a local 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit economic development organization for the Canton area, tasked with bringing new development, jobs, investment and business to the area, including revitalizing the downtown and the former IH site. I understand you played an integral role in the revitalization of Bloomington's downtown. I would be interested to come to Bloomington and meet with you to learn more about your past projects, talk about what we hope to achieve in Canton, and gauge your interest to help.
Basketball and music aside, I know you also deeply care about community, preservation, and producing results out of ideas. Your philanthropy in the Bloomington area to provide for the community, preserve historical sites and create results is truly admirable. It reminds me of what the Orendorffs and Ingersolls did in Canton so many years ago. Canton was once a booming town but has taken many hits over the past 30 years as I am sure you are aware. However with the support of successful Canton natives, we can become as proud of our city's future as we are of its past.
Thank you for your time and consideration of my request.
Cordially yours,Mark A. RothertExecutive DirectorSpoon River Partnership for Economic Development
Two weeks later, Mark Rothert received the following letter back:
Thank you for your letter. As you know, Canton has always been a special place for me.You are more than welcome to visit Bloomington and discuss the problems I see in Canton. We can tour Bloomington and have a look at what has happened in the last 25 years to this city. Mrs. Aimee Hawkins-Mungle has my itinerary and she can set up a day we can be together.
William A. CookChief Executive OfficerCook Group Incorporated
From that letter and subsequent visits Cook has begun a major reinvestment into his hometown. Do you have any Bill Cooks that used to live in your hometown?
Write to them today!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Now, he’s back home in Canton, IL, where he was born and raised (graduated Canton Senior High School, 1949), doing something similar. But, first let me tell you a bit about the Cooks.
They started their business, Cook Group, in 1963, in a spare bedroom of their apartment in Bloomington, IN. The company quickly became a leader in medical technologies and is still headquartered there. The Cook’s have done very well, landing on numerous lists of the wealthiest Americans.
Here is what Forbes said about Bill Cook in October in their Forbes 400 List:
Used blowtorch, soldering iron and plastic tubing to develop cardiovascular catheter. Now the world’s largest privately held medical device manufacturer. Products include stents, embolization coils, needles, vena cava filters. Sales now $1.5 billion. At work by 5 a.m.; eats in company cafeteria.
In June, Cook returned to Canton to purchase two historic downtown buildings that date from the 1880s. Already they have taken off the exterior façade, stabilized the buildings, and are beginning the meticulous restoration of buildings that Cook shopped in as a youth. When completed, the buildings will consist of retail space on the first floor and well-appointed apartments on the second.
And, then last week he was back again to announce plans to rehab an old International Harvester industrial site that has been unoccupied since the early 80s into a new manufacturing plant that will hire 100 jobs and help to bring added vitality to the adjacent downtown. The plant will produce high tech “vascular introducers” or tubes that go into blood vessels so that stents can be inserted.
Cook compared what he is doing to planting a seed, “Once it blossoms, we anticipate the roots will spread throughout the community and nourish further growth.”
And, he returned home with these projects, because, as he added, “My personality came from here.”
We need more Bill Cooks in this world!
Tomorrow: How Canton enticed Bill Cook back home.
Monday, December 15, 2008
He was telling us about Acme Electric in Grand Forks, ND, a company that he had just visited that is part of his own tool buying cooperative that supplies his Brennan Tools. His enthusiasm was so great that I decided to research. Here is what I found.
Friday, December 12, 2008
From that first delinquent, Associated Marine Institutes (AMI) has grown into 57 programs in eight states. The programs have expanded beyond just marine to include environmental programs, farming, dog training for the handicapped, horse training and even programs for girls with babies.
To date, over 80,000 students have gone through the AMI Program, with 70% of them never having any more problems with the law.
Do you have an AMI type program in your town?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Advance Illinois is a non-partisan, non-profit that is focused upon improving the educational and resulting work experience of all Illinoisans. It is chaired by former Governor Jim Edgar, the best governor we’ve had in our state in my lifetime, and Bill Daley, former Secretary of Commerce and brother of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Joe Fatheree, last year’s IL Teacher of the Year and Effingham educator who I’ve written about in the past, is one of the fourteen directors of the organization.
The consensus of our group discussion was that most of the current problems begin at the lower grade levels when parental problems often lead to long term problems.
Mike McCollum, principal of Effingham High School said it best, “They might drop out when they are 17, but they give up in the third grade.”
Debbie Owens, Assistant Superintendent added, “We’ve seen a dramatic change at home. Today less than 25% of the students live in a two-parent home with their biological parents.”
As I’ve studied the educational system over the years, I’ve become more convinced that we’ve got to reach the very youngest students, making certain that we don’t have ANY that fall through the cracks. And, with falling enrollments and the resulting squeezing of budgets, we’ve got to do more with fewer resources. I’m convinced that using more volunteers and concentrating recourses in critical education-only programs is needed.
One such program started several years ago at two of our local schools, is a mentoring program that places a volunteer with at-risk students one-on-one each week. The program has grown to over 130 mentors-mentees. I participated until my travel schedule didn’t allow me to be certain that I would be with my mentee each week, something that is critical to the success in the program. During my short tenure, I had one student whose parent committed suicide during the school year and another whose mother was in jail for prostitution and drug dealing. Talk about at-risk!
The program costs the school district about $30,000 with over $150,000 donated in time, material and cash from the community. Yet, the school district is looking at cancelling the program in 2009/2010 because of funding problems. It seems like a very short sighted savings but a very long term cost.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
The idea for City Winery is that it is a place that you can go to get assistance in making your own wine. The restaurant/winery ships in grapes from all over the country and then assists you in producing your own special vintage.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Votes were collected in donations for the favorite candidate throughout the month of November with a total of over $3,000 raised in the effort.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Several towns have developed their own currency, something that was common in the Wild West of yesteryear and made a comeback during the Great Depression, as a way to encourage local purchases. It is perfectly legal to do, as long as you don’t make it look like the real thing and you do the project as a not for profit organization.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
In my travels around the USA this year, I’ve been amazed at the number of times that I’ve spotted oil rigs along the road drilling for oil and gas, something that I’ve not seen as much of in past years. Was it a coincidence, or were there more rigs operating in the country? Here’s what I found out.
Baker Hughes does a weekly count of the number of oil rigs operating in the USA. It hit an all-time low in 1999 when oil dipped below $20/barrel (Do you remember those days of $1 gasoline?). In July, when oil peaked at $146/barrel, the rig count had quadrupled to over 2,000, the first time that it had shot across that threshold since 1985. Now that oil is falling in price, so is the rig count, which was down to 1,941 in the latest report.
The peak for rigs was in 1981 when they very briefly topped 4,500 rigs operating. The fall-off in drilling in the 80s was caused by falling oil prices and the high cost of credit. The joke in oil towns back then was, “Open a bank account and get a free oil rig.”
The other side of the supply-demand equation is that we are driving much less this year than in 2007. The U. S. Department of Transportation reports that we drove 78 billion fewer miles in the first 10 months of this year when compared to the previous one, about 5% less.
It’s supply-demand at work! And, the cure for high prices, is just that, high prices.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
I was with one such newspaper publisher in Carbondale, IL, where I was taking part in their innovative quarterly Southern Illinois Community Leader’s Breakfast, which brings together communities from throughout the broad expanse of southern Illinois. Dennis DeRossett set the breakfasts up four years ago and they’ve grown into a Who’s Who of Southern IL.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
HUH!!! Is this world crazy or what?
The theme song for the classic TV Show “Green Acres” started bouncing around in my head as she was talking….
Green acres is the place to be
Farm Livin’ is the life for me
Land spreadin’ out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan…just give me that countryside
I hope that your dog doesn’t mind finding its own way around the neighborhood, out here in the agurbs®!
Monday, December 01, 2008
Brady Adams, president of the $300 million bank, has spoken out against the bailout of banks saying, “We don’t have people coming to us and saying we got them into trouble. We kept them out of trouble.”
Evergreen made loans to people that it thought would pay them back, the typical risk/return calculation that bankers have been making for centuries. It didn’t get involved in the euphoria of Wall Street securitization of loans like many other banks in OR and other places, not making exotic negative amortization mortgages with no money down that today can’t be repaid. Instead, Brady made loans that, “required people to put real equity into a home purchase and to have the amount of income to pay it off”.
Today, Evergreen, which owns no foreclosed properties, has only foreclosed on one home in the past 10 years and has only four delinquent loans out of 2,000 on its books. Its capital continues to grow, it is making money and its liquidity is good because its borrowers are making their loan payments like clockwork.
Brady and Evergreen are not an anomaly. I see it in virtually every small town I visit in America today. Rural American banks are,5 for the most part, doing just fine today just like they’ve been doing for the past decades.
Friday, November 28, 2008
So, when I woke up at 4:30 this morning, I slipped on my clothes and drove into Effingham. I had expected to see several cars on the Kohl’s parking lot but not full! And, so full cars had overflowed onto the grass in all directions! Sunrise was still 2 hours away.
The line to check out snaked from the front to the back of the store, with at least 200 people in line. Theresa Schackmann and her daughters Erin & Nichole who were close to the cash registers had been in line for over 30 minutes and my cousin Janie Schultz was at the back, holding a place for her daughter-in-law Michelle who was still out finding bargains. It was “old home week” in the checkout line as I met a host of friends who I hadn’t seen in awhile.
By now my curiosity was piqued so it was over to Wal-Mart. After driving the parking lot for 15 minutes, unable to find a parking spot, I opted for a grassy lot across the road. Absolute bedlam, were the two words that came to my mind as I tried to navigate my way in the store. I gave up trying to get to the electronics department, and judging from the dozens of abandoned shopping carts in the aisles, so had a number of other people. It was difficult enough to get through the aisles just walking!
Menards hadn’t opened yet but the line outside the store of over 100 people obviously wasn’t letting that stand in their way. Stocking hats and camouflage hunting jackets were the fashion choice of those shoppers waiting for the “door busting” bargains.
If you aren’t a “true shopper” and consider Black Friday a day to catch up on projects like I do, take a few minutes to experience the incredible buying power of the American consumer. It is alive and well in Effingham!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Laurel, MS, (population 18,393) was started as a lumber town in 1882 and became known as the Yellow Pine Capital of the World by the 1920s. Numerous sawmills dominated the industrial base of the community and the piles of sawdust grew into small mountains in the town. One of those sawmill owners wrote to Thomas Edison asking for his assistance in finding a use for those piles. Edison sent a young assistant, William H. Mason, to try to find some use for this sawdust.
Mason set up a small laboratory and began experimenting with the product, but was unable to find any solution. Fortunately, he didn’t give up and he discovered Masonite by accident when the stove in his laboratory exploded when he was at lunch. When he returned he found that the pile of sawdust next to the stove had been transformed by the heat. He soon found that by heating the sawdust and then blasting it with steam, he could form them into boards that had a high bending and tensile strength. And, unlike other similar products which used formaldehyde and glues, Masonite, which used only natural products, was also an environmentally friendly “green” product. Although I’m not sure that being “green” was considered a huge plus in 1924.
Mason set up manufacturing operations in the town, eventually hiring over 6,000. The company, now owned by an LBO outfit, still has operations in Laurel.
Do you have any “piles of sawdust” in your town that a young William Mason might be working on?
Monday, November 24, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
The math on that number of students is staggering. According to the MS Department of Education, the lost lifetime earnings for one year’s worth of dropouts is $4 billion; MS would save more than $121 million in health care costs/class; and an additional $117 million annually in Medicaid savings.
I’m seeing a few communities that are starting to more fully understand the long term impact of the increasing numbers of dropouts, setting up ‘dropout swat teams’ that are both mentoring and intervening to prevent dropouts in their schools. They’ve found that if they can get a dropout back into school within days of dropping out, they have a much better chance of keeping them in school.
Colin Powell’s foundation, America’s Promise Alliance, has taken on dropouts as a major initiative. Earlier this month they developed a 90 page guidebook on what you can do to prevent dropouts in your hometown. You can download this guidebook here.
Are you making plans to prevent your dropout rate from increasing and improving your schools like Jones County, MS? Your economic future depends upon it.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
This eight county summit grew out of the strategic planning process for Jones County, the largest of the eight counties in southeastern MS. According to that plan, “Challenges with education was the biggest obstacle standing in the way of positive economic development in our area.”
When looking at the data for the State of MS, you can see the challenge. The state ranks as the lowest in % of adults over 25 with a high school diploma (72.9%); third lowest in bachelor’s degree or more for adults over 25 (16.9%); and highest in poverty at 21.0%. Dr. Bounds pointed out the direct correlation between high poverty rates and high school dropout rates adding, “And, there are states that are making determinations on how many prisons they are going to need to build by looking at reading scores in the third grade. It all ties back to education.”
The goals of the summit were fairly simple:
1. Celebrate our many accomplishments in education.
2. Learn why it is essential that ‘together’ we build on those successes NOW!
3. Leave with a sense of purpose and a mission to join together with a goal to helping make our schools second to none.
I related to the summit our own experiences in doing site selection projects for new manufacturing plants in rural America. The educational system and attainment are critical factors that we look at in our many searches. A trend we are seeing is that many new factories require that everyone in the plant have at least a two year, associates degree, and in some cases, a four year degree. Education is becoming the big differentiator and the competition is not just with neighboring towns and states, but rather with countries like China, Korea and others.
My travels around the USA have left me with a very favorable impression of MS. Our company has made multi-million dollar investments in three buildings in the state and I see their future as a very bright one, especially with the passion and enthusiasm that I saw at the summit on education.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
In my talk in Gila County, AZ I met a group that is developing homes “off the grid” in rural AZ. Yes, there are roads that go there and the sun shines all year round there. In fact, sunshine is going to be the key driver for the Climbing Rock Estates, a 204 home subdivision 25 miles south of Globe, AZ.
Randy Gross, the developer of these homes told me, “These homes will be completely solar powered with propane backup to power the swamp coolers and to power the appliances in the house.”
When I go back to Globe in two years, I’m going to go visit this new development to see what it is like to live “off the grid” in AZ.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Chris Martin is head of the South Gila County EDC. Gila is pronounced Heela, not Giila, like I mistakenly did. Unfortunately, I seem to make one mispronunciation in every talk that I do. It goes with the territory. I did check out how to pronounce Miami, AZ, a neighboring town in the county, learning that the older folks pronounce it Mi-am-a, whereas the young people pronounce it Mi-am-ee.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Both AFA and the AFA Alliance are supported by the main players in the ag sector, the input suppliers, end users, financial partners and commodity associations. They provide a forum and meeting area for young people in a dynamic and critical industry for the USA.
In my presentation to them, I talked about the great things happening in the agricultural sector with niche products, alternative energy and improving worldwide diets. However, I also talked about the Achilles Heal of ag, which is the rapidly increasing aging of farmers in this country. Only draw bridge operators are older in age than farmers. When your average age is 60+ years, you are not as likely to take as much risk and get a bit set in your ways.
That’s why I’m so excited to see young people engaged in agriculture. Groups like AFA and the Alliance are critical to helping make transitions to this newest generation.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I had been in Elko two years ago today, when I was there to help them inaugurate Frontier Telephone’s first-in-the-nation wireless broadband service in the town of Elko (population 16,708). Elko had immediately jumped at the chance to install the new technology as a way to help diversify their economy. They also were in the early stages of setting up a major rail-park as part of that diversification strategy. At that time, Elaine Barkdull Spencer, the dynamic Executive Director of the Elko County Economic Diversification Authority (ECEDA), passionately told me of her desire to diversify away from its dependence upon the notoriously cyclical mining industry.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Here’s what they said about Columbus:
Although it’s surprising to see a Midwestern burg (wish they had used the term agurb®!) in the company of Dijon and Stockholm, this “jewel in the region” boasts “world-class” mid-century modern architecture. The “charming downtown historic district” adds to the attraction, but the countryside’s “unchecked growth” makes for a “terrible gateway.”
Other towns and agurbs® that I’ve visited and are mentioned in the Traveler article are:
Ashland, OH (19); Red Wing, MN (23); Port Townsend, WA (24); Asheville, NC (33); Natchez, MS (40); Galena, IL (45); Lexington, KY (46); Sitka, AK (48); and Santa Fe, NM (75).
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
The Impact of 100 Manufacturing Jobs
* 415 more jobs
* $12,700,000 more personal income/year
* $5,000,000 more bank deposits
* 7 more retail establishments
* $7,700,000 more retail sales
* $540,000 increased tax revenue
* $2,000,000 more service receipts
Information provided by Illinois Chamber of CommerceYou can’t have enough good paying manufacturing jobs in a town. I hope that Schutt expands and continues to grow in Litchfield.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
After Jim and I chatted for a few minutes, he went out to his car and returned with three of his latest issues of Southern Illinois Sports Connection, a four-color 50 to 60 page monthly magazine that is chock full of interesting information on high school, college and community sports in the southern ¼ of IL. From his first issue in August, 2007 it looks as though the magazine has grown each month.
It continues to inspire me, when I meet new entrepreneurs like the Jim Muir’s of the world who when are handed lemons of losing their job, take those lemons and make something better for themselves.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Mayor Ned Mitchell, of Sesser, IL (population 2,128) was telling me a bit about the history of his community, “We had five coal mines in the county and had 12 within 25 miles of Sesser. Each employed between 500 and 800 miners who got not only great wages but excellent benefits because all of them were United Mine Workers mines. They all shut down soon after the passage of the Clean Air Act.”
One of his aldermen, an ex-miner piped up, “When I went to the mines in 1964 I was taking home $24.25/shift and when I was let go in 1992 I was up to $135/shift.”
Sesser has yet to recover from that downturn with unemployment still topping 12%, but Mayor Mitchell and the town aren’t giving up. They are hoping to develop more amenities to lure more visitors from nearby Rend Lake, which has 3 million people visit each year. And, they are improving the community in many ways. Four new baseball fields, one of which is being done by the St. Louis Cardinals at a cost of over $200,000, are in the works along with a new soccer field. A new 2007 TIF district is facilitating the tearing down of old, abandoned houses, replacing them with modern ones. And an old 1914 Vaudeville Theater/Opera House and adjacent café where I did my talk, is helping to revitalize the downtown.
New scrubber technology is leading to a resurgence of Illinois coal and several of the old mines are slowly reopening, but coal is probably never going to be the economic powerhouse that it was in the past. Towns like Sesser realize that and are getting on with a new, more diversified future.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
You’ve probably heard of the Kalamazoo Promise which promises a four year college education to anyone who graduates from the local high school. The promise has created a boom in Kalamazoo, MI which had been spiraling downward prior to announcing its promise.
I learned of a similar promise in a small town of 1,000 near my hometown, but this town’s promise is not well publicized and as a result it hasn’t had the economic impact that I would like to see. The town is dormant, with a population that is aging in place.
Several years ago, a local farm family left several thousand acres of farmland and cash in trust for students of this farming town. With todays land values, that trust is today well north of $10 million. At a 5% spend ratio, the IRS formula for most trusts, the trust must spend over $500,000/year in scholarships. With only 30 students/year graduating from the local high school, the trust not only pays for undergraduate school but also for most of graduate school.
Imagine what could happen in your town with a promise like this! All it takes is one, very forward-thinking family to change a community for generations and centuries into the future.
Monday, November 03, 2008
North Star found that locals loved the Northern Lights, midnight sun, hot springs, Arctic Circle and other wonders of nature. And from those wonders of nature, those extreme conditions have created an unmatched light, energy and warmth.
What is your brand?
Friday, October 31, 2008
In 2004 The Mangum Star News was the only business operating in one entire block in our downtown district. That year a building on this block was purchased and the owner began to renovate a long neglected section of the building that faced an alley. It was his dream to make some small business spaces with an upstairs loft apartment.
With this experience Mr. Kane soon renovated the front spaces for a new coffee shop known as The Latte Da. Within the span of a year we have added Reelz, an arcade and movie theatre, Tumbleweeds, a computer service business, and the Mangum Tag Agency. With new windows, awnings, sidewalks and landscaping the block now became a great place to locate.
AdCraft Signs, a large sign business from Phoenix, purchased the remaining two buildings on the block and are creating spaces for both the sign business, an ice cream parlor, and one additional office space to be rented out.
Where are the other 2 businesses? On the next block, Mr. Kane has just purchased and renovated another building and Movieland is opening this weekend. Two blocks away, Laurel and Taylor, a beauty salon has opened for business. Cactus Jack's, an antique and photographic restoration business joins The Quilt Whisperer, an antique quilt restoration business, as two of our newest businesses. Did I say 2? There are even more. Each a small wonder.
Someone once told me that for small towns survival is not a given-you have to work for it. We believe it! And we are!
I’ve said it many times. All it takes is just one or two people with a passion in their town to really make a difference. Fortunately, Mangum has them. Do you?