Marketing Mondays | Let the Good Times Roll!

Just how bad is the economy?  Listening to the news and asking your neighbors often yields two different answers.  For small businesses, things don’t seem to be quite as bad as we think.  Here’s the OPEN blog with a nice reminder on this rainy Monday morning:

There’s a regular meme that makes the rounds every time there’s a dramatic shift in the economy one way or the other, with someone explaining why “now is the best time to start a business.” However, there are still always big concerns, especially during a big downturn like the one we’re currently facing. I can’t even begin to count the number of other startup or small business operators I’ve spoken to, where the opening question is “how’s the economy treating you?” or “how are you holding up in this economy?” And, perhaps it’s a fair question in terms of small talk between business owners, but I’d suggest that the true small business manifesto is that the economy doesn’t matter. It’s always a good time to be a small business. Here’s why:

  • As a small business owner, you’re not relying on the entire economy. You’re relying on your customers. If you offer something of value, you should be able to sell it to your customers, regardless of the economy. Sure, some of your customers may be more careful in spending, but that’s just an opportunity for you.
  • As a small business, you can be a lot more flexible. Big businesses have all sorts of legacy items that tie them down and make them slow. Smaller businesses shouldn’t have as many entanglements and can change and adapt much faster. If the economy goes south, then a small business can shift its strategy faster.
  • A small business is often closer to its customers, so it’s better able to serve customer needs, no matter what the economy. Today, customers are looking for ways to get more for less. If you can figure out how to better provide that, you can run circles around others.
  • A small business doesn’t need to bring in as much revenue every quarter to support the business. You’re small: this means your expenses aren’t as big. You just need to figure out how to make sure you’re covering your expenses, and then look for opportunities for growth beyond that.
  • As a small business, you have a better sense of when the economy is shifting. Big comapnies may claim they have a broader view, but they’re looking at numbers. You’re talking to customers.

So, as a small business owner, I say, let’s stop asking each other how the economy is impacting us. Let’s impact the economy by focusing on ways to connect with our customers and give them what they need — and the economy will sort itself out. We’ve got businesses to run.


School Board Contractor Selection: Changes in Store


A Polk County School Board Process for Selecting Contractors
 that is “Fair, Equitable and Transparent”

A “white paper summary” of a June 15 Meeting between Polk County Chamber of Commerce representatives and Assistant Superintendent for Facilities/Operations, Fred Murphy.

Over the past 90 days, a number of Polk County’s Chamber executives and their
volunteer leaders have been approached by local contractors who felt the process used for selecting contractors to manage major construction projects of the Polk County Public School System was flawed and unfair. There exists a strong feeling that dollars spent for Polk Schools should be spent with those businesses that are legitimately based in Polk County. There also exists a strong desire to ensure the process is free of favoritism.


Following discussions that initially took place between Lakeland, Bartow and Winter Haven Chamber executives, a decision was made to request a meeting with Polk Public Schools Administration. Immediately upon inquiry, Superintendent Gail McKinzie offered to arrange such a meeting with Assistant Superintendent for Facilities/Operations, Fred Murphy. (Murphy was tapped to resolve contractor selection and favoritism issues in November 2008 following the initiation of an FBI investigation into alleged wrongdoing by district staff.)

On June 15, Mr. Murphy met with representatives from the Bartow, Davenport, Haines City, Lakeland, Mulberry and Winter Haven Chambers of Commerce. The two-hour meeting was framed by a thorough review of where Polk Public Schools are in their efforts to create a contractor selection process that is “fair, equitable and transparent.”

Mr. Murphy spoke for the majority of the two-hours allocated and displayed a sincere commitment to creating a selection process that may not always make everyone happy, but a process that will truly be “fair, equitable and transparent.” The phrase is repeated here again to underscore Murphy’s repetitive statement of commitment.

He provided detailed information regarding the policy which is currently in its final draft stages. More importantly Mr. Murphy addressed two important points:

a.)    Within the new policy (under development), the mere offer of a gift by a contractor to a School Board representative will cost a contractor any future right to do business with the School Board.  The gift policy will prohibit school personnel from accepting gifts with a monetary value over $50.00.

b.)   The new selection process will include a “local recognition of proximity” policy that will provide a legally defensible edge for Polk County-based contractors.

Chamber representatives present felt that positive steps were being taken to develop a process for contractor selection that was indeed “fair, equitable and transparent.” Those Chambers present have since conferred and expressed confidence that Fred Murphy’s goals for the Contractor Selection Process will be a significant step forward and hold the potential to restore contractor confidence and respect.

The new policy is expected to be presented to the School Board for consideration by August. When the policy is finalized, we will present the document in its entirety.

The commitment of all Chambers involved is to bring positive change to this contractor procurement process. Mr. Murphy displays a sincere grasp of the challenge and the commitment to make such positive change.

We welcome members’ comments regarding this important “buy local” issue.


Governor Crist Vetos Property Insurance Bill

Florida Chamber Alert:

Today, Governor Charlie Crist vetoed Chamber-backed property insurance reform legislation – HB 1171.  Here is the Governor’s veto letter.

The Florida Chamber continues to believe that Florida is financially unprepared for a hurricane and that we must enact solutions to fix our state’s insurance crisis. The Chamber will continue to work closely with Gov.  Crist and the Florida Legislature to craft legislation to address this critical issue.

The report “Into the Storm: Framing Florida’s Insurance Crisis” by the Florida Chamber and The Florida Council of 100 outlines several of the policy recommendations we will continue to pursue.


USF Poly sees nothing but Blue Skies

(Lakeland, Fla., June 24, 2009) – Late yesterday, as violent thunderstorms doused central Florida yet again, Marshall Goodman sent a tweet: “No need to worry about the rain, Central Florida. Blue Sky is coming soon!”

Goodman, VP and CEO of the University of South Florida Polytechnic, announced today that USFP’s business incubation facilities will be named Blue Sky. Earlier this year the Central Florida Development Council invested $700,000 toward the construction of an incubation facility on the new I-4 campus, expected to open in 2012. In the meantime, however, the community will be served by at least two incubation facilities: one in Lakeland and one in Winter Haven, dubbed Blue Sky West and Blue Sky East, respectively.

Blue Sky West will be a 6,428 square-foot location at 116 S. Kentucky Ave. in Lakeland. Blue Sky East will open at 199 Ave. B NW in Winter Haven with 3,000 square feet. USFP officials expect both facilities to open in early fall 2009.

A tweet refers to a post on Twitter, the popular social networking site. Goodman used the relatively new technology, as well as his personal Facebook page, to tease online followers not about the weather but about economic development in central Florida.

The Blue Sky facilities will be the first public business technology incubators in Polk County. They will focus on attracting and nurturing entrepreneurial businesses by creating a place where USF Poly faculty, staff and students can work with businesses to develop innovative technology.

“This is an important step for our region, as we cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation,” says Goodman.

“These facilities will provide opportunities for a wide range of enterprises. Some will be raw start-ups, and some will be more advanced. Regardless of the stage, Blue Sky represents an opportunity to thrive.”

According to Goodman, “The story of innovation is the story of entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship is all about calculated risk. That is the principle upon which we’ll base Blue Sky. We will provide a climate to nurture innovation.

“This is a huge opportunity, not only for entrepreneurs but also for investors. We hope it will bring to this area more technology-oriented businesses with the potential for growth and new jobs”

Initially, USF Poly will seek information technology companies interested in software, networking and developing specific IT projects.

“We have felt for the past five years at least that an incubator is integral to this region’s long-term economic success,” says Tom Patton, executive director of the Central Florida Development Council, which has donated a total of $1 million to the USF Poly incubator concept. In addition to the $700,000 for construction on the new campus, CFDC donated $300,000 for current operation of Blue Sky. USF Poly has pledged to match those operating funds to provide $600,000 to fund Blue Sky.

The $700,000 for construction will be used to apply for state matching funds and in pursuit of an Economic Development Administration grant. According to Patton, the long-term goal is a technology park that develops around the incubator at the heart of Florida’s High Tech Corridor.

“This is a major step forward in developing and growing our technology incubator,” says Steve Budd, USFP’s program director for entrepreneurship and venture planning. “It will become a living, learning laboratory for interdisciplinary and applied research, education and training that directly impacts technology commercialization and business development.

“Our incubator will be a focal point where the university’s academic development and our community’s economic development will blend and synergize to create a win-win for all stakeholders — the business community, our students, our faculty, and many others.  I believe that this is where the magic happens, where we will create high-tech, high-wage jobs.”

There are 7,000 incubators and counting around the globe, and they create jobs, grow companies and help technology evolve. President Obama has pledged $250 million a year in federal funds to seed a regional network of such organizations–an effort aimed at growing jobs and innovation.

“This is the first time in the U.S. that a new administration has made this kind of commitment to innovation, entrepreneurs and technology,” says Dinah Adkins, president and CEO of the National Business Incubation Association. “This is the first time we’ve had a presidential administration that wants to invest in this.”

The U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration says business incubators provide communities with significantly greater results at less cost than do any other type of public works infrastructure project.

A recent study conducted for the U.S. Economic Development Administration showed that business incubators provide communities with significantly greater results at less cost than do any other type of public works infrastructure project. In the study of the economic impacts and federal costs of EDA construction program investments, researchers found that business incubators are the most effective means of creating jobs – more effective than roads and bridges, industrial parks, commercial buildings, and sewer and water projects. In fact, incubators provide up to 20 times more jobs than community infrastructure projects (for example, water and sewer projects) at a cost of $144 to $216 per job compared with $2,920 to $6,872 for the latter, the report notes. For more information on the study visit www.nbia.org/works.

“Business incubators are critical components of the nation’s entrepreneurial support infrastructure and the only public works projects that were designed entirely as job generators,” says Adkins. “The jobs created by incubators aren’t one-time construction jobs, but enduring, high-paying positions that contribute to community and U.S. global competitiveness.”

Business incubation programs provide entrepreneurs with a guiding hand to help them turn their ideas into viable businesses.  Many thousands more jobs have been created by companies that have graduated from these programs and now operate self-sufficiently in their communities. For more information about business incubation and the EDA study, visit www.nbia.org/works.

For more information on Blue Sky see poly.usf.edu/BlueSky.



Led by Floridians for Smarter Growth, the business community is ready for battle

(ORLANDO, FL – June 22, 2009) The radical “Hometown Democracy” proposal failed to reach the ballot in 2004, 2006 and 2008. However, the Secretary of State today certified the anti-jobs amendment for the 2010 ballot. It will appear on the ballot as Amendment 4.

Amendment 4–a “Vote on Everything” initiative that would force taxpayers to fund elections for thousands of technical planning changes–is opposed by a broad coalition of over 135 environmental, business, labor, planning and community groups throughout the state. This growing coalition includes 1000 Friends of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Council of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association.

“The ‘Vote on Everything’ amendment could mean a permanent recession for Florida’s economy,” said Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and treasurer of Floridians for Smarter Growth. “This amendment will hopelessly complicate the planning process and indefinitely stall our state’s economic recovery.”

A local version of Amendment 4 has already been tested in the small Pinellas county town of St. Pete Beach, which adopted a “Vote on Everything” measure in 2006. Since then, local residents have suffered through a virtual economic collapse and endless lawsuits at taxpayer expense. In St. Pete Beach, “Vote on Everything” supporters have even filed numerous lawsuits to overturn the very election their amendment required.

“The story of St. Pete Beach is proof positive that this idea costs jobs and wastes taxpayer money,” said Ryan Houck, executive director of Floridians for Smarter Growth (FSG), the statewide campaign opposing Amendment 4. “Far from empowering voters, it has caused endless frustration at the ballot box and needless litigation at taxpayer expense.”

“Floridians for Smarter Growth has organized a very strong grassroots campaign organization,” said Wilson. “We have expanded our local leadership teams and grown our statewide coalition. Floridians for Smarter Growth is prepared to debate the ‘Vote on Everything’ amendment in every community in Florida.”

Floridians for Smarter Growth (FSG) was founded by Sunshine State business and community leaders to educate voters on the impacts of Amendment 4. Today, Floridians for Smarter Growth leads a grassroots team of nearly 1000 dedicated volunteers and 135 opposition groups.