Best States Ranking

Seems like good timing when you move to Seattle, and then not long after the U.S. News & World Report releases their “Best States Ranking” with the state of Washington at the top of the list.

Education, fiscal stability and infrastructure are just a few of the categories they used to assess the strength of a particular region. After working in economic development for more than 7 years, and servicing EDs from the interactive agency side for more than 5 years, I can attest to how important these factors are to site consultants and companies. People often assume that discretionary and statutory incentives play the largest role in a company’s decision to relocate. And they wouldn’t be wrong. Job tax credits, R&D tax credits, investment tax credits, energy savings, and many other mechanisms to save companies money – that they can reinvest – are all very important.

But without the available workforce, and solid workforce training programs in place, any region is going to suffer over the long haul. Washington has that figured out, hence the reason they ranked #4 in that particular category. But what about “Natural Environment”? We all love it. We all need it. But here there is a Governor who has made it a cornerstone of his policies.

It has certainly been an awesome experience getting my little future workers out in the beauty that surrounds Seattle. Here are some recent outings.

But certainly looking forward to seeing/learning/experiencing more.

Congrats on your ranking Washington!

See Y’all

I’m off to a new chapter in life. After 7+ years of working with the state of Georgia, my family and I have moved to Seattle. Julia (my wife) took a job offer with HBO that, as the saying goes, we could not refuse. That places me in the hardly ever enviable category of what HR types call the “trailing spouse.” Fear not, lad, I say, this is not the first time, and you will figure it out.

Thanks to the team for a great send off, and for this funny poster with images including the Governor – Attorney General – publisher of Fortune magazine – Porsche test track – Chinese delegation – and a video shoot for a German investment video where I convinced a CEO to shoot a mountain biking scene with me. I especially like the “We Speak Buh-bye.” 😉

Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods

In my tenure working for Georgia, USA, I’ve collaborated with executives from many global brands to elevate the business environment here. One of the greatest joys of my job has been the opportunity to peel back the layers and look inside the inner workings of companies and their leaders. But when I learned of Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods in Blue Ridge, Georgia, it especially caught my attention.

My brother and I follow our father upstream in the Chattooga river watershed.
My youth was filled with fishing expeditions. Growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, my father took me out in the boat seemingly every weekend. We were also fortunate enough to share a mountain house, and a former fly fishing camp, in Cashiers, North Carolina with 9 other families from Charleston. It was here that my father taught me how to use a fly rod. When A River Runs Through It came out I thought the brothers in the movie held an uncanny resemblance to me and my brother (I’m the nicer one). But that movie, and Robert Redford’s voice, absolutely encapsulated the deep and intricate love one can have for rivers.

Speaking of famous people, rumor had it that President Jimmy Carter had one of Oyster’s fly rods. So I made my way up from Atlanta to the Georgia mountains to learn more.

Meeting Bill Oyster
Bill Oyster is the consummate entrepreneur. When he was 15 his father drove him to the local airport, so that he could then fly off in a plane with his pilot’s license in hand. He joined the Navy when he was old enough, but he ultimately decided that wasn’t his future. Bill jumped in to professional cycling instead where he dominated the sport until he was injured. Meanwhile, he majored in Art at the University of Georgia and fished whenever he could. He tried his hand at real estate, but there was a call for something different. His wife, Shannen, suggested that he make fly rods. Bill got his hands on some relatively underground books on the craft of making fly rods, and he taught himself the trade. Easier said than done, but of course now he is an expert at it. He also happens to be a master engraver.

Bill in his element on a stream near Blue Ridge, Georgia.

The Process
Bill sources bamboo from a small region of China that is renowned for producing the perfect tensile strength. He fires the bamboo with a blow torch, cuts it down to strips, and then planes it out to an exact triangle. These pieces are glued, compressed, cured and eventually fortified with resin. The eyes and handle are then attached in addition to any custom engraving. These rods are beautiful works of art and highly functional as well. Bill’s customers range from plumbers to presidents to members of the royal family. But he has taken this manufacturing business above and beyond.

Giving it Away
Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods not only makes a product you can buy, it also teaches you how to make it. This is unusual for a company to do something like this, but instead of cannibalizing business, it has made it blossom. Bill and Shannen hold classes every month, and attendees can work alongside them – and their expert staff – to make their own fly rod. And because their shop is a stones throw away from some world-class trout streams, you’ll have every chance to whip some water. People come from all over the world to attend, so if you are interested in doing this yourself then sign up now because there is a healthy waiting list. You may also want to join them on one of their various fishing adventures around the world.

Rock Star
Bill and Shannen’s business is so unique, and has done so well, that they were recently recognized as a Small Business Rock Star. I had the opportunity to return to Blue Ridge to produce this video celebrating their win. Of course Bill is a natural on camera as well.

Aerospace

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jay Neely of Gulfstream Aerospace to discuss their operations in Georgia. The following video is a result of that conversation.

Gulfstream is a native Georgia company whose headquarters have been located in Savannah since 1967. Today, more than 12,000 Georgians design, develop, manufacture, market, service and support the world’s most technologically advanced business-jet aircraft.

Aerospace products are Georgia’s No. 1 export ($8.3B) and the state’s second largest manufacturing industry generating a $64B economic impact.

Real Success Timeline

Timelines are not new. But how you use them can always be improved.

In the world of multi-channel marketing, no single mode of communication is 100% effective. That stands as true today as it did when I first started saying it over 10 years ago. Some want a video. Others, well, a case study. Got to have a brochure. Is that page optimized for SEO? Somebody get out a press release. You get the drift. I started to think about all of these supportive, yet disparate, pieces of content, and how they could be more aligned.

Then there is the matter of time. How evergreen is one piece of content or collateral?

In the world of economic development, a project may not be deemed successful for a year, maybe 3, or even more. Companies can create meaningful impacts in jobs and investment over decades. And many times it is not just because of one factor but because they were supported by multiple entities. Maybe they used an existing industry team for an expansion. Maybe they used an international trade team to grow their exports. Maybe they used an innovation lab to incubate a new product or solution. Maybe the company used workforce training to generate the type of talent they need. Maybe it was all of these?

Enter the Real Success Timeline.

Features:

  • After a few seconds the timeline is designed to move. This is a great feature in terms of generating interest, moving users across time, but also for tradeshows where it wil move and feature different content items.
  • Of course it is built to be responsive to desktop, mobile and tablets, with each having slightly different layouts and functionality.
  • There are multiple ways to navigate the timeline either by filters, interactive dots, arrows, as well as secondary arrows below.
  • The larger pulsating dots indicate that this particular moment in time is more significant in terms of, for example, growth over time, or just more of a comprehensive story. But you can do simpler stories as well.
  • After build-out of the timeline began, I started to run in to situations where a significant item happened, but then another significant item that was directly related happened later. How do you leverage something in the past to point to the future? The Timeline also includes a field to indicate the update.
  • Each story has its own unique url so that it can be promoteed individually via social media, paid media or earned media.
  • There is complete control over the timeline through a Drupal 8 content management system so non-technical staff can add, remove and edit stories.
  • Could have gone back to any time in the past but chose a round number of 2010. The reason for this was to be able to populate the timeline with enough stories for a successful launch. All of these stories are written in-house, so I needed a timeframe that was manageable. That’s not to say we won’t look back further as we grow it.
  • And that is the last point I’d like to make. The timeline is completely scalable, and a great asset that can continue to evolve.

So there you go. My most recent web project. You can find it at Success.Georgia.org.

Internet of Things

If you saw my Connect post in March then you know I recently launched a new internet of things video that focuses on cybersecurity, fintech, health IT, and telecommunications. In addition, I recently interviewed Facebook’s Global Data Center Site Selection Director on why they chose their most recent location for a new data center.

Whatever you think of Mark Zuckerberg’s recent testimony to the Congress and Senate (insert Orrin Hatch meme here), it is pretty cool to see a company investing so heavily in renewable energy. Not only that, Facebook is evolving local utilities’ practices of energy creation with their economic weight.

If you are also aware of my monthly ad placement in Delta Sky, then you won’t be surprised to see the below ad in your seat pocket for the month of May.

Connect

My goal is always to practice what I call “real marketing.” In other words, leveraging the perspectives of your end customers or stakeholders to tell future prospects why their lives will be better using you, your products and/or solutions. Therefore, I have invested considerable dollars and time in to pursuing thought leadership in videos, case studies, articles, whitepapers, profiles, etc.

Most of the videos I produce are from the perspective of real executives speaking to the facts. But in the case of this most recent video, which highlights the strengths of Georgia’s cybersecurity, fintech, health IT and general information technology sectors, I needed to take a more commercial approach. Why? Well, part of the reason is due to how fast technology companies change. The other is because cyber and fintech companies are reluctant to share too much information. I wanted this video to be as evergreen as possible.

So instead I leveraged my 15+ years of experience in software development and interactive marketing to convey these strengths with real statistics, a tight script, and some visually stunning graphics. Much of the imagery runs contrary to one another in the natural world, and yet, they metaphorically relate in this context. The bonus is that it works really well on a really big flat screen at tradeshows even with no sound.

I call this one Connect. Check it out:

Korean Investment Video

This is the 3rd in a series of foreign investment videos I have produced for the state of Georgia. I would have preferred to conduct actual interviews in Korean with the executives, but I was not able to get any of them to do so. Obviously a cultural nuance. They only want to be perceived as working, and speaking on behalf of the company is very uncomfortable. Therefore, I went the script route with a professional narrator.

As always, I thoroughly enjoy getting inside these companies and see how they function. My other favorites were shooting at a very popular Korean BBQ restaurant in Atlanta called, Breakers. In addition, we had a Saturday shoot at the Korean International School where over 400 students practice their Korean almost every week. The same day we visited the Korean Fest where we captured wrestling, dancing, drumming, and my favorite – I was able to get a calligrapher on camera drawing out, “Welcome to Georgia” in Korean.

Nicaragua

I recently returned to Nicaragua to welcome 2018 and take advantage of the world-class waves, constant offshore winds, and diverse landscape and culture. Again, I was not disappointed. I would keep my mouth shut it if it were not for the fact that Nicaragua is now regularly featured on travel sites like the New York Times. Gringos are not the only ones carving it in to the next Costa Rica. Nicaraguan investors know what kind of assets they have at their disposal.

Nicaragua has in fact been exploited since the Spanish arrived in 1522. The usual pillaging and plundering, along with the circulation of small pox, did a number on the Chorotega. Nevertheless, the contributions of the Spanish are still appreciated today. Granada is a charming colonial city reflecting the Spanish-Moorish architecture of the time. They also constructed the San Pablo Fort to protect Granada from pirates in 1789, and it can still be visited via boat.

Later on in the 1800s a dubious character from Nashville, Tennessee by the name of William Walker did significant damage on his filibustering campaigns in Central America. Not only did he burn Granada to the ground, but he also poisoned the wells with dead bodies that spread Cholera and killed some 10,000 Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans. Walker eventually paid for his actions when he found himself in front of a firing squad in Honduras.

Fortunately, Granada has time and again picked itself up and rebuilt. Before the Panama canal was constructed this was the shortest distance from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Cornelius Vanderbilt would steam up the San Juan River in to Lago de Nicaragua, and then make the short transport over to San Juan del Sur area on the coast of the Pacific. This route pumped money in to Granada and helped it to recover.

A few things you must do in Granada:

  1. Visit the San Francisco Convent to see the statuaries that have been excavated from Zapatera and Ometepe. A couple of these guys are in the Smithsonian, but you can see 30 of them all together in the same room. Each one represents the leader of the time, so they all have their own personalities. This is a highly informative account of their origins.
  2. Check out Mi Museo where there are many artifacts from Pre-Columbian times. It also helped me to understand where the Chorotega came from and when.
  3. Take a boat tour out to Las Isletas. These islands are a result of a massive explosion from Mombacho. Lots of wildlife, and you get to see the San Pablo Fort.
  4. Visit Volcan Masaya at night to see lava pouring from the crater. You definitely want to get there early to avoid waiting in line, but it is worth it.
  5. Tour the coffee plantation on Mombacho and then hike out to the stunning views of Granada and Lago de Nicaragua.
  6. If you still have time then head over to Pueblo Blancos to see local artisans at work. You will save yourself some money, for the shops around Granada certainly mark their prices up.

There are a couple of reasons why Nicaragua is safer than say El Salvador, Colombia, or Honduras. After the Nicaraguan Revolution, the country created a democratic police state in that each community would have at least one dedicated police officer that everyone knew. A bad apple arises, and they deal with the issue quickly. Second, drugs from Colombia and elsewhere go up the Caribbean side, so there are no cartels in the Pacific region.

Still, I wouldn’t drive at night. But during the day I generally went wherever I wanted. In the dry season you can get a way with a 2-wheel drive vehicle. But if the price is not much different then go with 4-wheel. I did end up using it along the coast to drive a section of road that terminated on beach front. It also gave me more confidence on dirt roads with potholes and stream crossings. In short, you are not limited and instead prepared for anything.

I’d tell you more about the surf breaks, but I just can’t do it. You’ll find it somewhere else. 😉

But I will tell you that I look forward to returning soon.

“Alexa, Does Scrooge Love Atlanta?”

This is a project I worked on in conjunction with Dad’s Garage to bring a little fun and light to the competitive nature of economic development. The whole nation is competing for 50,000 jobs and the economic injection that come with Amazon’s second headquarters.

On the surface it would seem to be a relatively fun project to work on, and it was, but it was also fraught with ways to go terribly wrong. Any time you are taking jabs at your own city and state with good old sarcasm, it has the potential to go either way.

Certainly tested it on a variety of demographics and ethnicities before releasing. Fortunately, it was well-received.

The key was the redemption at the end that came from the dream sequence, and a little inspiration from Quentin Tarantino.

The launch was set to coincide with Christmas Eve, the same timeframe the original Scrooge goes through his transformation, and was coupled with a targeted Facebook spend both in the Seattle, Washington area as well as Metro Atlanta.

Happy Holidays!

Robert Payne

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