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A Tough Row to Hoe: Economic Growth in Rural America

The timing of Dean Barber’s commentary on Rural Economic Development couldn’t have been better.  We are just off the Florida Rural Economic Summit here in Orlando and getting ready to roll out a Rural Florida marketing campaign following next week’s Enterprise Florida/Team Florida Marketing meetings.  So stay tuned.

Here’s Dean’s column in full.  A good read for anyone interested in economic development in Rural America.

Published on September 18, 2016 — Featured in: Economy
by Dean Barber
President/CEO at Barber Business Advisors, LLC: Corporate Location Analysis and Economic Development


A report released last week by the Census Bureau showing that Americans, rich, poor and middle class, saw their incomes rise last year was greeted gleefully by economists.

But in rural America, where I have spent much of my time of late doing economic development consulting work, the reaction will be more of a shrug. The government may say the economy is getting better, but many of the people in non-metropolitan counties aren’t feeling it.

Still, the report was eye opening. For the first time since 2007, the median U.S. household saw a healthy bump in income last year — up 5.2 percent to $56,500 from $53,700 in 2014. Much of that gain came from the drop in the unemployment rate that created more paychecks for American workers.

No doubt the economy has improved. Unemployment is at 4.9 percent, down from its October 2009 peak of 10 percent. Home foreclosures have eased dramatically, with 97 percent of major metropolitan areas logging rates below their Great Recession peaks in the first quarter of 2016, according to Realtytrac.com.

By the end of 2015, net private business investment had recovered to pre-recession levels, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank.

A crucial takeaway from the Census report last week was that economic gains were not isolated to the rich. Poor Americans, those at the bottom 10th percentile of the income scale, saw the strongest gains, with 7.9 percent growth over the last year.

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Almost as big as the Saturn V

Jeff Bezos, a graduate of my alma mater, Miami Palmetto Senior High School, has unveiled plans for Blue Origin’s next generation of launch vehicles.  And they are massive.  Almost as big as the Saturn V that took Americans to the moon and back.

Can’t wait to see one of these big boys blast off. New Glenn away.

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What’s with car commercials these days

They are either loud and obnoxious, or repetitively boring.  But I’m just not getting Walt Whitman and Volvo. This seems a very odd approach to brand differentiation. But then a Swedish car company owned by the Chinese is certainly a very different brand than it was a decade ago. It is different, but . . .

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“It won’t be the Sunshine State Nation.”

By Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

A new state branding campaign will be unveiled Friday backed by an initial $10 million that touts Florida as a great place to grow a business.

Enterprise Florida, the state’s job-recruiting arm, will introduce the new campaign at its board meeting in Tallahassee. The new state business brand was fast-tracked, as Enterprise Florida quickly sifted through dozens of potential advertising agencies and, later, dozens of storyboard campaign ideas before picking one.Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 9.37.25 PM

Bill Johnson, Enterprise Florida CEO, had promised he would deliver a new chief marketing officer and a new state business branding campaign within his first year at the helm. With the hiring in October of Tampa Bay marketing veteran Joe Hice, formerly with the Moffitt Cancer Center and the person who led the team that created the University of Florida’s “Gator Nation” brand, Johnson is honoring his own timetable.

Enterprise Florida won’t share the branding campaign slogan in advance, but in an interview, Hice laughed as he promised this: “It won’t be the Sunshine State Nation.”

What it will be is a campaign that combines, after all the vetting, the surviving two ideas pitched by Jacksonville ad agency St. John & Partners, whose clients include the Florida Lottery, Zaxby’s and the Daytona International Speedway.

“There’s an urgency to get out there with the Florida story,” Hice says, “and to tell that business story over and over again.

“Florida has done a great job of promoting the state as a destination for families and tourists,” he says. “Now we have an opportunity to take advantage of that awareness and start telling the business story along with that other story.”

To many, a new state business branding campaign cannot come quickly enough. Florida stopped marketing the business scene here more than a year ago, even though the state is enjoying big-name corporate relocations and job growth in the past year second only to larger California. A previous attempt in 2013 to create and market a business brand by Enterprise Florida flubbed.

The campaign’s slogan was “Florida. The Perfect Climate for Business.” But it featured people wearing orange ties, which felt dated and alienated some businesswomen who felt it was not inclusive. And too many of the visual scenes in the campaign featured Florida sand, which many business leaders criticized for sending the wrong message —that the state was still a place dominated by tourists and retirees.

That campaign was also backed by just $1 million that Enterprise Florida set aside from its general budget.

The new campaign has more clout, backed by $10 million approved by the state Legislature. It includes $8.5 million in recurring funding, to help maintain the campaign over time — an unusual commitment for Florida’s here-today-gone-tomorrow funding style.

Other large-population states such as Texas and New York pitch their states to attract businesses with far larger budgets.

Hice says the new campaign involved extensive research, examining the recent data behind branding campaigns by Orlando, Jacksonville and other Florida cities, as well as extensive interviews with Florida business leaders, including Duke Energy Florida president Alex Glenn, and executives at TECO Energy and the Tampa Bay Partnership in this area.

The campaign will roll out quickly with ads in major business publications and on social media.

“This is not our campaign,” Enterprise Florida’s marketing chief says. “It is Florida’s campaign.”



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Enterprise Florida names new SVP & CMO and it’s Me!!!

ORLANDO, Fla. (October 6, 2015) – Today, Secretary of Commerce and President & CEO of Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI), Bill Johnson, announced the appointment of Joseph S. Hice Jr. to the position of Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer for EFI. Hice will oversee all EFI marketing and communications activities.

“I am confident that, working with our team, Joe will take Enterprise Florida’s marketing program to a new level in raising awareness, managing perceptions and influencing public opinion in support of our economic development activities,” said Secretary Johnson. “I look forward to working with him to aggressively and effectively market Florida as the best state in the nation for business. Our state has an incredible business story to tell and I know Joe will lead us in our efforts to get that story out there.”

Hice has spent more than 30 years as a marketing, communications and public affairs executive at  prestigious institutions  and businesses including the  Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, the University of Florida, North Carolina State University, Harley-Davidson Motor Company and Segway Inc. Currently, he is a partner with Tampa-based Well Strategics, a communications firm specializing in clients doing business in the healthcare and wellness industries.

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88 great Examples of what NOT to do in higher education marketing

Differentiating your university from the hundreds of other institutions you compete against has to be one of your top priorities when it comes to college marketing. Here’s a list of 88 examples of what not to do compiled for fun by the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Well, maybe all 88 aren’t horrible, but you’ll get the idea once you look at the list.

I know, I know, you can’t imagine the Chronicle doing anything for fun, but they have got to differentiate themselves too.  http://tinyurl.com/qbvvab9

You’ll note, not a single The Foundation for The Gator Nation in the bunch.  Can you guess the institution and the tagline without cheating?  I suspect not!

Change Your Life. Start Here.
Life’s Calling
It’s Your Life
Your Extraordinary Life
The Life of the Mind
Change Your Mind. Change Your Life.
Minds. Motivated.
Inspiring Minds
Inspiring Innovation
Innovation Is Our Tradition
Innovation. Education.
Education for Service
Education for Individual and Social Responsibility
Education for a World Stage
Education for an Inspired Life
Education Redefined
Education on Your Terms
Your Education. Your Way.
Personal Education. Lifetime Success.
Personal Education, Extraordinary Success
Where Success Begins
Where Success Is a Tradition
Your Success. Our Tradition.
Experience Tradition. Expect Success.
Real Tradition, Real Success
Real Education. Above All.
Real Education. Real Results.
Real Life. Real Knowledge. Real People.
Real People Start Here
A Great Place to Start
It All Begins Here
Higher Education Begins Here
Your Career Path Begins Here
Great Stories Begin Here
Start Here. Go Anywhere.
Going Anywhere Starts Here!
Go Farther Than You Ever Dreamed!
From Here, It’s Possible
Possible Is Everything
Realize What’s Possible
Redefine the Possible
New Beginnings. Endless Possibilities.
Believe in the Possibilities
Seek Your Dream
Be Your Dream
Dream Big
Big Dreams Come True Here
Dream Bigger. Do Greater.
Do Something Great
Imagine What You Can Do
You Can Do That Here
Think. Do.
Think Big. We Do.
Dreamers. Thinkers. Doers.
Learn by Doing
Learn. Do. Live.
Let’s Do This
Are You In?
What Will You Do?
Who Will You Be?
It’s All About You
Your Dreams. Our Mission.
One Purpose. One Mission. One Dream.
Start With a Dream, Finish With a Future
Imagine Your Future
Walk Into Your Future
Your Future Starts Here
Your Future Is Our Future
Your Future. Our Mission.
Your Future, Our Focus
The Focus Is You
You First
The Education You Want. The Attention You Deserve.
The Perfect Fit for You
As Distinctive as You
Like No Place Else on Earth
Exceptional Education. Exceptional Value.
Become Exceptional
Set Yourself Apart
Invent Yourself
Declare Yourself
Transform Yourself. Transform the World.
It’s Your World
Your Place. Your Purpose.
Your Life. Your College. Your Way.
Why Go Anywhere Else?
When You Get Here You Understand
You’re One of a Kind. So Are We.

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It is getting worse…10.43 GPA tops the list

The highest GPA for a graduating senior in Hillsborough County this year was 10.43.  Wow!

The average GPA for graduating Valedictorians was 6.839444.  The once elusive 4.0 graduate wouldn’t even make the cut as the lowest GPA posted by a Valedictorian this year was 4.25.

I know it’s a different world we live in, but when a student can earn (I use that term loosely) a TEN POINT FOUR THREE grade point average through his or her high school years, we’ve lost touch with reality.  So, if 6.8 is the new 4.0, I graduated high school with the equivalent of a 5.282 adjusted for today’s grade inflation.  And that, my friends, is just CRAZY.

Female Valedictorians outnumbered male Valedictorians 2 to 1.  By my quick count there were 30 female winners and 15 male winners.

So ask yourself, when a student can achieve a 10.43 GPA and the average Valedictorian earns a 6.8 GPA, is the 4.0 no longer relevant?

Here’s a link to last year’s story. That’s back in the good ole’ days when a 10.02 could win you top honors!  http://www.hiceschool.com/1-of-many/10-02-gpa-can-you-say-grade-inflation/

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In 486 B.C., the Ice Princess died of cancer. She was self medicating on marijuana.

“I am quite sure of the diagnosis — she had cancer.,” said researcher Andrey Letyagin.

The Princess was found buried with cannabis, which she may have used to deal with her immeasurable pain. There is other archeological evidence that the Pazyryk people used cannabis, wine, and opium for analgesic purposes.

“Probably for this sick woman, sniffing cannabis was a forced necessity,” Natalya Polosmak told the Siberian Times. Polosmak led the team of researchers that found the mummy in 1993. “And she was often in altered state of mind. We can suggest that through her could speak the ancestral spirits and gods. Her ecstatic visions in all likelihood allowed her to be considered as some chosen being, necessary and crucial for the benefit of society. She can be seen as the darling of spirits and cherished until her last breath.”

She died of Breast Cancer 2500 years ago. She self medicated with marijuana!

She died of Breast Cancer 2500 years ago. She self medicated with marijuana!

Read the whole story here:  http://tinyurl.com/lk9z3pq

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A problem with Hillsborough’s mail-in ballot? Actually, the problem is with the envelope

Because I may be out of town on election day, I requested and received a mail-in ballot from Hillsborough County.  About 150,000 other residents in the county received the same.

When I went to return my completed ballot, I discovered that I had accidentally sliced open both the envelope the ballot arrived in and the return envelope that was enclosed.  I felt stupid for doing it, but I opened the initial letter with my letter opener as I do with all my mail and I didn’t even think about it until I went to send the ballot in.

So I’ve gotta ask myself, is there a potential problem with Hillsborough County’s mail-in ballot.

Return envelope sliced open while opening original mailing

Return envelope sliced open while opening original mailing

I called the Supervisor of Elections office when I discovered the problem and when the clerk answered, I said I had an issue with the return envelope in my mail-in ballot (envelope on left in photo above).  The operator immediately asked if I had cut open the bottom of my return envelope.

Hey, this woman knew exactly why I was calling so I assumed it must have happened before.  I said yes and asked if I could just tape it closed.  She said no, the office would have to send me a new return envelope to use, otherwise my vote would not be counted!  Say What!!!

About four days later the new return envelope arrived and I used it to send in my ballot.

So I’m asking myself about all those people who may be waiting until the last minute to send in their mail-in ballots.  If they too have sliced open their return envelope there may not be enough time for them to receive a new return envelope and get their ballot mailed in before the election deadline.  That means they loose their opportunity to vote in what may be one of the most important elections in the history of Florida.

There are 766,092 registered voters in Hillsborough County and 150,000 of them have requested mail-in ballots.  That’s almost one in five registered voters or 19.58% of the electorate.

Now ask yourself, how close was the last governor’s race and how close is this election going to be.   Right now it’s a dead heat.  So yeah, it’s gonna be close.

If just 10% of those receiving mail-in ballots discover a problem with their return envelope (like I did) that’s 15,000 votes.  And if just 10% of that group are unable to vote because they do not discover the problem with the return envelope in time, that’s 1,500 votes.  A small number, but enough to affect an election.

Now if more than 10% have a problem with the return envelope, the issue gets even bigger. Then again, there may only be a handful who sliced open both envelopes . . . like I did.

If you or anyone you know plans to vote early using the mail-in ballot, make sure you are careful when you open the envelope.  You don’t want to accidentally slice open the mail-in envelope that is inside along with the ballot. If you do, you’re vote may not count.  Hey, you may not be able to vote at all.

And that’s a problem.

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Mai-in ballot problem


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I’m confused by this UF “rebranding” talk

The University of Florida is The Foundation for The Gator Nation.  That is the University of Florida’s brand.  In my opinion, it always will be. Probably always has been.

All this talk about rebranding is just promotion by the local advertising agency hired to create a new tag line for the year.  And as all good marketing and PR students know, a brand is not a tag line or theme.  It’s much, much bigger than that.

The press releases states, The University of Florida rebranded itself … focusing on the school’s research, global outreach and commitment to take on big issues facing the world.  The new slogan: “For the Gator Good.”

The change the university says,  is meant to emphasize the way the school makes a difference through its research.  “The idea is to inspire others to come together and solve some of the world‘s most pressing problems.”

So when we created The Gator Nation campaign back in 2005, our first television commercials challenged people to:  “Go Start a Fortune 500 company.  Go write the great American novel.  Go cure cancer. Go to Mars.”  Wasn’t the idea then to inspire others to come together and solve some of the world’s most pressing problems?

Chances are . . . UF Ad

Our print ads and web marketing did the same in how we talked about the contributions made possible by UF:   “As Gators, a unique experience defines us.  We lead and know how to follow.  We speak and know when to listen.  We run Fortune 500 companies and cure diseases.  We influence every field of business and science with unique perspectives and inspired collaborations.  We come together to form an unbreakable bond that produces some exceedingly memorable Gators.  We are The Gator Nation!”

I probably am overly protective of the UF Brand, but even after nine years, The Gator Nation campaign still feels like my baby and I’m going to look after it.

Rebranding, not on your life.  A new tag line for sure and “For the Gator Good” is a good one, but it is not a rebranding effort and the university and its new agency should stop talking like that.  It makes them look dumb, and I know they are not.

It also confuses those who embrace The Gator Nation.  If The Gator Nation is not our brand, then what is it?

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The Gator Nation is EverywhereUF Brain Surgeon