Category Archives: Professional

INTERVIEW WITH FORMER GOVERNOR GARY LOCKE

The following post is from an interview I conducted for Greater Seattle Partners with Gary Locke – former governor of Washington, U.S. ambassador to China, and Secretary of Commerce – before he takes the helm at Bellevue College.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with former Governor Gary Locke to learn what he has been up to and his thoughts on the greater Seattle region as we approach economic recovery from Covid-19.

After his historic achievement becoming the first Chinese American to be elected governor in United States history, and the first Asian American governor on the mainland, he went on to rank Washington as one of America’s four best managed states over the course of his two terms. He oversaw the gain of 280,000 private sector jobs and more than doubled the state’s exports to China.

Mr. Locke continued to demonstrate his innovative leadership capabilities serving first, as U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 2009-2011, and then as U.S. Ambassador to China from 2011-2014. He has also been a senior advisor and consultant for the Davis Wright Tremaine (DWT) law firm where he consults with DWT’s domestic and international clients in several areas including trade, regulatory, and investment issues from local to international levels.

Higher Education

Not resting on his laurels, starting June 15th Mr. Locke will become the interim president at Bellevue College. His immediate priorities are paraphrased and quoted below:

  1. Campus Culture: Bring healing and calm to the campus, which has recently been torn apart after the defacement of the art installation that marks the anniversary of the Japanese internment camps in World War II. A recent Seattle Times article reported that “more than a fifth of the college’s 29,120 students and 1,508 employees are Asian and Pacific Islander, according to college demographic data.”
  2. Educational Experience: How do you provide personalized, enriching and meaningful instruction in a Covid-19 environment with so much being done online? You can’t teach welding or brain surgery over the Internet.
  3. Budget: With the looming state budget cuts because of the drop in revenues due to this economic freefall, how do you pay for instruction on campus at a time when more students will be signing up for courses?

“Our higher education system has to be a part of the economic recovery strategy.”

Interesting Foresight

Mr. Locke’s second priority is especially interesting given his history. In 1998, the New York Times published an article about 850 professors at the University of Washington who had signed an open letter to Gov. Gary Locke because they were worried about the enthusiasm he had shown for instruction via CD-ROMs and the Internet. What is incredible about the timing is that the group Locke tasked to envision the future of education was called the “2020 Commission.” Locke never said that the internet should completely replace the importance of in-person education, but the mere idea of it playing a central role in the learning experience hit a nerve. It was a misunderstanding. In a recent interview with Geekwire, Locke confirmed his views – then and now – by saying:

“I’ve always been a major proponent of that personal interaction between the faculty and the students,” he said. “Clearly, using technology can make it easier for both faculty and students. But there’s still no substitute for that human interaction.”

More from our conversation:

How do we engage the world as we emerge from Covid-19?

I think you are going to see a move to diversify supply chains. Goods will be produced more locally so you are not dependent on the supply chains and politics of other governments. And these goods will range from medical supplies to computer chips and semiconductors, to key components that are used for high tech, military and space applications. Is the state of Washington uniquely positioned in that restructuring of the economy? I think so. We need to build off many of our strengths in high tech, life sciences, aerospace and food processing. We also have low costs for energy.

You have so much to be proud of in regards to your work with Asia and China specifically. What do we still need to do going forward?

We need to showcase the fact that this Washington has always been outward looking and outward leaning. We are a relatively young state filled with an incredible diversity of people and different cultures. It has really become a part of the fabric of the Pacific Northwest. For example, so much of the art and architecture of the Puget Sound area is influenced by Asia.

“We need to let people know that we are a very welcoming state, and that we have an incredible diversity of people and cultures from around the world, and we view that as our strength.”

What steps do we need to take to grow our exports and improve our trade relationships given recent challenges? What are some new opportunities for us?

So much of what we make and produce is highly valued and in great demand around the world. We just need to help our local companies more with exporting. 60% of the US companies that do export only do so to one country, typically Canada and Mexico. We should be helping them export to two or three additional companies. We need to focus more on partnerships and collaborations with the U.S. Commerce Department and their Gold Key Service program – to state efforts like the Department of Trade and Economic Development who hosts trade missions – to regional efforts to work with existing companies to help them find new international customers.

Economic development is a very competitive sport with other regions offering low costs for doing business, incentives and strong university systems. And these areas will probably up their game even more to recover quickly from Covid-19. What do we need to be doing?

First, we need to focus on our existing companies and shore up our base. For a lot of these companies, after an economic downturn, they don’t typically return to their same job levels. How do we ensure that the workers who are affected by all of this are still able to have a future? We need to put much more effort into training and retraining and upgrading of skills – so that these companies can be competitive and nimble – and that workers have a future either with these companies or others.

Historically, Washington has not utilized incentives like other regions. Does that need to change to address economic recovery?

I think we can be more focused and surgical with tax credits when it comes to job training, retraining, and, perhaps, on retention of existing companies. A McKinsey report said that by the year 2030, 5-10% of the world’s workforce will be displaced by AI and robotics. Do we really want to wait until 2030 to address this? We need to start thinking now about tax incentives and public/private partnerships for job training. Perhaps we need to rethink employment insurance as well. Should we use it like a flexible saving account for job training?

What is your Greater Seattle message to the world?

We are a pretty easy going. Pretty humble community. A lot of pride, but we like a bit of obscurity. We like to tell people it rains a lot because we don’t want too many people moving into the area. We like our local traditions, festivals and community gatherings. We are kind of quirky. But there is a big spirit of community involvement and people pitching in and caring for each other. We are actually a pretty cosmopolitan city with a small town attitude.

We are always open to new ideas. The incredible diversity from around the world, and that constant infusion of new ideas, cultures and perspectives, is what really makes our region so dynamic and exciting.

What would you advise a future Governor on steps that he or she should take to position this region effectively?

Making sure the needs of citizens are addressed, and that the government is efficient, responsive and taking care of their priorities. Citizens want to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely. There will never be enough money to pay for everyone’s wish list, so it is really important for government to prioritize and do a few things well verses trying to do too many things in a mediocre fashion. But we have to ensure we have a good foundation for future success, which means investing in education. K-12, but also our higher education institutions. They are economic engines.

Mr. Locke, it was a pleasure speaking with you. Thank your for providing your perspective, and we wish you great success in your new role at Bellevue College.

IN THE SPACE RACE, GREATER SEATTLE IS A GLOBAL LEADER

The following is an article I wrote for Greater Seattle Partners.

Today, NASA and SpaceX are preparing for an historic space launch that demonstrates the power of public and private partnerships. Two Americans will board the Falcon 9, Crew Dragon commercial spacecraft and visit the International Space Station (ISS) – a feat not done with humans aboard in 9 years. What has led us to this place in time is based on a stunning amount of innovation and collaboration.

We have come a long way in 60+ years. NASA’s foresight and willingness to embrace the commercialization of space is lowering costs and allowing a much broader range of companies to develop spacecraft and satellites. The supply chains are big and complex. An enormous array of products and solutions must be developed before that rocket and capsule get wheeled out to the launch pad.

Market Segments

As listed in the Puget Sound Regional Council report on the “Washington State Space Economy,” those market segments include everything from Spacecraft & Launch Vehicles – Propulsion Systems & Fuels – Navigation & Control – Computer Hardware, Software & Robotics – and much more.

Companies Changing the Landscape

The Greater Seattle region has long been at the forefront of these market segments. Boeing began building the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) at its Kent, Wash., facility in 1969. Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Redmond-based facility produces 200-500 thrusters a year and has long supplied NASA with rocket engines for their most important missions. Other notable space companies that call our region home are:

According to our business data, there are more than 90 space-specific companies here. Connect with us if you would like more customized information.

Why Here?

Well, we of course all know this is a great place to live. But we are also #2 in the nation for aerospace engineers. In case you haven’t heard, Incredible Works Here. Investments in education and workforce training have been crucial:

  • The UW Aerospace Research Consortium (UW-ARC) supports close coordination with industry to provide for collaborative research and education opportunities, and support the commercialization of space technology developed at the university.
  • The Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Washington Seattle provides bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees as well as certificate and continuing education courses, and has been at the forefront of research in aerospace for decades.
  • Centers at Washington State University have coordinated several research projects with NASA in multiple departments, ranging from engineering and chemistry to astrobiology.
  • The Center of Excellence in Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing is located at Everett Community College in Snohomish County, and has coordinated grants for regional and statewide workforce development in areas related to manufacturing and aerospace.
  • The Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC) was created in 2008 to provide apprenticeship opportunities in aerospace and advanced manufacturing production.

More information can be found in this report.

Flying in to the Future

There is no doubt that space flight, and competing in space markets, is fraught with risk. But the Greater Seattle region has always risen to the occasion. In fact, our area is emerging as a “Global Hub for the Dawning Satellite Age.” With regional employment in the aerospace industry estimated at 88,000 jobs, and a huge tech community that also gave birth to the world’s two largest cloud computing companies (Amazon + Microsoft), Greater Seattle will continue to be at the forefront of technological advances in the space industry.

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.

We Speak Business

I was recently tasked with creating a new video for the Global Commerce team here in Georgia, USA. This is not a simple task given the diversity of industry sectors the Global Commerce division targets for recruitment and relocation. From Aerospace to FinTech to Food Processing, each industry has its own requirements for success – with one exception. They all require talent to innovate and grow. Coupled with the tried and true approach of, don’t listen to us, listen to the companies that are here, and now you have a strategic approach to keep the narrative succinct and applicable to all.

This video project took me to a myriad locations across the state of Georgia:

Stogner Hill at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport at dawn to shoot footage of planes taking off and landing.

UPS’s new SMART Hub, which is 1.2M square feet, or the size of 20 football fields. And I love the fact that every morning UPS drivers do calisthenics together before departing on their rounds.

In the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains with Bill Oyster, owner of Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods.

In the brand new Telluride on a 2-mile test track at Kia Motors Manufacturing in West Point, Georgia.

In addition, the port of Savannah – headquarters for Gulfstream – King’s Hawaiian’s food processing facility in Hall County – the data center for InComm – the new Cyber Center in Augusta – Sany in Peachtree city, which is the same location “Avengers: End Game” used for their headquarters – and the list goes on.

I also spun out three separate videos from the larger finished piece:

It was a big project and a great experience, and I am thankful to the companies and individuals who opened their doors and took their time to help me tell a great story.

Film Works

Update (May 21, 2019): I am pleased to learn this project has been awarded a Gold Telly Award.

At the end of the fiscal year I was approached by our deputy commissioner of film about producing a new film industry video – this was something I helped her produce a few years ago. The original piece was designed to illustrate the diversity of jobs and people the film industry employs, as well as the economic impact that radiates out, in some cases, from unexpected sources. Folks who are not deeply embedded in the industry do not always think about the carpenters, electricians, and people who supply contact lenses for zombies, so we wanted you to hear from them.

I thought about her request for a minute, but I ultimately suggested we do something different. The older video was still relevant and useful, so why not go an extra step and leverage the creative talent we have here in Georgia through a more thematic, possibly animated piece, that is whimsical and fun? And instead of locking up all our hard work in to one video file, let’s expand it out into a complementary web experience. She agreed!

You’ve probably seen the peach logo at the end of your favorite movies and T.V. shows, but another way film production companies can qualify for tax credits is by producing a film about filming in Georgia. Historically, we have not showcased these productions on Georgia.org, so I wanted to bring these in to the web experience to further leverage credible comments from famous producers and actors.

So here we began. We first looked around for some qualified animation companies in Georgia, of which there are many. But ultimately we landed on Floyd Country Productions who produces the popular hit show, Archer. There is always that bit about budget and deliverables that needs to get worked out, but suffice to say they were awesome to work with. The bonus came when Amber Nash agreed to do the voice of the character based on herself. We cranked on the script and got it to be about as non-governmenty as we could, while also delivering the salient stats and facts. Meanwhile, styling and character development were underway along with plans for the web experience.

I approached the web experience with the same outline of the script. The scrolling parallax design is divided in to sections that emphasize tax credits, jobs, workforce development, studio development and tourism with the final call-to-action sending the user to main film page with additional resources. The copy and associated video is designed to bolster that section with personality and proof of perspective from actual producers and actors.

We launched the whole thing on Film Day at the Georgia State Capitol. An audience of film industry people were gathered, and the Film Works video was warmly received. I even heard a “bravo!”

The same day we launched a digital marketing campaign on Facebook and LinkedIn, and the MPAA even picked it up and distributed it through their network.

It was great to finally see the end result grow wings and fly. You can check out the whole experience at Georgia.org/FilmWorks.

Now what to do when the deputy commissioner of film approaches me to do something new again?

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.

Japanese Investment Video

My latest video production is complete. It was quite a journey, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed. It is always fascinating to peer behind the curtain and see how global brands operate. But the best part is figuring out how best to tell their stories, and do it in a manner where the personality and the “real factor” shines through. This video is designed to be a handshake reaching across the globe to Japanese executives who are thinking about doing business in the United States. Even now, Georgia is home to more than 500 Japanese facilities employing over 30,000 Georgians.

Footage was captured at the JapanFest in Atlanta, the Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, and company locations in Norcross, Peachtree City and Monroe. But the crux scene is at the restaurant. I was able to get each of the companies to Nakato, the oldest Japanese restaurant in Georgia, for a tatami-style dinner. Even the owners of Nakato, along with their daughter, joined us for a very special evening.

The culture and tradition of Japanese people is one of humility and respect, and it was an honor to work with all of the individuals it took to make this project a reality.