Daraius

Daraius

This past week, I attended my ninth Maryland Economic Development Association (MEDA) annual conference. Each time I attend, I come away feeling smarter and better networked into the community of economic development. This year’s conference theme, “Research to Revenue: Harnessing Maryland’s Intellectual Capital for Economic Growth,” was very timely and interesting. The panels and speakers ranged from venture capitalists to entrepreneurs to practitioners.

 

Conference Overview
One of the key takeaways from the conference speakers and panels was that conventional thinking and practices will get the same outcomes. If everyone is doing the same thing, nothing will change. The opening keynote speaker challenged the way economic development practitioners view technology transfer projects. The closing keynote, a venture capitalist, suggested that economic development may have added success if states or localities invest in start-up companies outside the region and, if successful, then bring them to the state or locality to permanently set up shop.

 

My Presentation
I had the opportunity to present our work on the National Establishment Time Series (NETS) data. These data have 45 unique attributes for each company such as number of employees and sales from 1990 through 2012. Moreover, all the data are geocoded, a feature that enables us to analyze business trends at the sub-county level. We hoped that this availability of data and our analytical and mapping expertise would enable local economic development organizations to have better information about their counties and the business districts within their counties.

 

Entrepreneurs at MEDA
There were several panels of entrepreneurs who spoke of their challenges with funding, hiring, and the culture within their organizations. While the cultures in each varied dramatically—from a very cerebral quiet office to a rather loud and rambunctious shop floor—all were in agreement that the state and local resources used to assist entrepreneurs were instrumental in their collective success.

 

Finally, the closing speaker offered a great story of combining a family business with technology. Hooper’s Island Oyster Company was started by a waterman using technology, university scientists, and passion to create a sustainably farmed oyster sold locally as well as in the mid-Atlantic region. Moreover, I can attest that the oysters were absolutely delicious. So, all in all, this past MEDA conference was a great success both for the mind and taste buds.


Raquel

Raquel

Is hosting the Olympics worth the investment?
The winter and summer Olympic Games encompass significant work on behalf of the host cities. Before the Olympic Games begin, construction activity and preparation occur years in advance. One of the most frequently asked question once the Games are done is, “does the time and money invested to host the Olympic Games really benefit the host country?” One can assume that, aside from the pride gained in hosting, countries are expecting some benefit from their investment.

 

Sochi-2014-Company-OlympicsThe 2014 winter Olympic Games were hosted in Sochi, Russia, home to 343,000 citizens. This year’s host country invested significantly in the opening ceremony to boost tourism and create a lasting legacy. The ceremony featured a record 88 countries, 66 world leaders, and 800 performers. The cost to host this year’s winter Olympics in Sochi was an estimated $51 billion—a record high investment. Approximately 235 projects were facilitated to prepare for the Olympics, such as repairs to infrastructure and new housing for local residents. Through improvements due to the many projects and the added tourism of the games, the city is expecting to see a lasting positive effect on the economy.

 

Economists…in agreement?
Recently, National Public Radio (NPR) ran an interesting story regarding the long-term impacts of the games. One of my favorite parts of the story is this line: “Economists are notorious for being unable to agree on anything. So it’s striking that on the finances of the Olympics, they almost all agree.” Opinions usually point to the fact that once the games are over a country mostly ends up with an indebted city. This is almost in direct contrast to the expectations of Government stakeholders.

 

The British Government, in particular, claims that they were different. A report (nearly 1,000 pages) estimates that they earned at least $1 billion more than the $15 billion they spent to host the 2012 Summer Games. However, there has been a lot of criticism of the report, mostly because the report was funded by the government. Max Nathan, a London economist for the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, claims that it is too soon to really gauge whether or not hosting the London Olympics was worth the investment.

 

Photos Tell the Tale
Perhaps more telling than any economic report are images from past cities that have hosted the games. A photography project (http://olympiccityproject.com) led by Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit visits cities such as Athens (2004), Barcelona (1992), and Beijing (2008). The conditions they found in some of these Olympic villages are a far cry from their grand expectations. Some have been turned into prisons or malls while others have been left to decay.
 

Athens—Faliro Olympic Beach Volleyball Center - Photo credit: NBC News

Athens—Faliro Olympic Beach Volleyball Center – Photo credit: NBC News

It will be interesting to see what happens to the facilities in Sochi now that the Games have ended. How these facilities will be used in the future will say a lot about the long-term benefit to Sochi. According to Forbes, for some past host cities and countries, the Olympics have marked the transition to being a world player. They cite Tokyo (1964), Seoul (1988), and Beijing (2008) as prime examples. For Russia as a whole, the hope is that the Olympics has given the country a bigger starring role on the international stage and laid the groundwork for future international investment growth.


Daraius

Daraius

Every February, restaurant reservations at romantic spots become very scarce, heart-shaped gift boxes of chocolates sell like hotcakes, and the price of a dozen roses seemingly rises along with the stress level of any one who is in a relationship and is looking for that perfect Valentine’s Day gift.  According to the National Federation of Retailers, an American will spend $133.91 on average on Valentine’s Day gifts, compared to $130.97 in 2013. However, only 54% of those surveyed will celebrate the holiday—down from 60% in 2013.

 

With the advent of the internet and smart phones, Valentine’s Day gift giving patterns may be changing. More than 40% of consumers will shop online or use their smart phones to purchase a Valentine’s Day gift. So, gone are the days of men (I say men as a majority of the Valentine’s Day spending, by over half, is done by men) dashing into a florist or jewelry shop to buy whatever is available on the way home from work. This is important, as over half of the women would dump their boyfriends if they did not get something for Valentine’s Day. Even a card would suffice, and Valentine’s Day is the next most popular holiday after Christmas for cards.

 

However, while the means to purchase Valentine’s Day gifts has changed, the mix of gifts have not changed; it is still cards, candy, flowers, dining, jewelry, or some combination of the above. Gifts of gym memberships or fitness equipment are usually not well received.

 

Women prefer to receive their gifts in the evening after nice dinners, while men prefer to get their gifts in the morning. With the exception of friends, most people will spend more on their pet for Valentine’s Day than on their coworkers, classmates, and teachers. Condom sales spike by nearly 30% on Valentine’s Day, and the month of March is usually the biggest month in sales of pregnancy tests. This figure is not surprising as 85% of men and women consider sex an important part of Valentine’s Day. Moreover, over 10% of couples get engaged on Valentine’s Day.

 

While Valentine’s Day retail sales are nearly $20 billion, Christmas retail sales are nearly $270 billion. However, forgetting a gift on Christmas may not have as significant an impact on your romantic relationship as forgetting a gift or getting the wrong type of gift on Valentine’s Day.

Image credit: Tada - click the image to view full Valentine's Day infographic

Image credit: Tada – click the image to view full Valentine’s Day infographic


Sharyn

We’re happy to announce the completion of a 6 month project with Cyberguys, a local technology company providing computer solutions, service and sales.  This was a collaborative effort between 3 groups within DECO – the Center for GIS, the Integrated Marketing Team, and Regional Economic Studies Institute.

The first phase of the project focused on developing a strategy to help Cyberguys expand their reach. To accomplish this, we analyzed who their local competition is, what their services include, and how those businesses pricing structures aligned with Cyberguys. Cyberguys provided us with a comprehensive customer list that we were able to display on a map, allowing us to visualize where the customers live in relation to the retail store. In turn, this allowed them to see exactly where their customers are located – right around the corner or on the other side of town. We also recommended new customer bases to target as well as package pricing that would be attractive to those audience groups. The strategy also included suggested specific media outlets and provided a social strategy that will provide the guidance they need to launch their social platform.

The second phase of the project took our focus onto more tangible items which included messaging, print collateral and a new website. For the messaging, we kept it straight forward so that potential customers would know exactly what the Cyberguys do. We landed on

Cyberguys. Expert Computer Solutions Service and Sales. Priced Right and Hassle Free.

This messaging was integrated with selected imagery on various mediums (print and web) to create consistency in the visual branding. These visuals complimented Cyberguys’ established logo. For the print collateral, we designed two pieces – a direct mail postcard that can be easily updated for specific audiences and a 2 sided flyer that can be printed on demand for the store or business development meetings. We also developed all the copy. To meet Cyberguys’ needs, all of the collateral was designed using Microsoft Publisher allowing Cyberguys to easily maintain their print collateral moving forward. Finally, we developed a website for Cyberguys. We made recommendations on the site’s architecture and reworked copy for the site to work in this new organization. We provided a photo shoot at their store and voila! Their site was ready to be launched. The great thing about their site is that it was created using WordPress and is hosted in their own hosting environment so they were able to integrate some plug-ins and modify the design allowing them to have complete control of their site.


Raquel Frye

It’s a new year and a chance for us to present our yearly outlook for the economy. The Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) hosted its 14th annual Economic Outlook Conference on February 16, 2011 at the BWI Hilton Hotel.  As in years past, the conference provided a platform to present RESI’s economic overview and forecast. The theme for this year’s conference was Are We There Yet? The phrase—commonly used by kids during long car trips—highlighted the question mark surrounding the economic recovery and our eagerness to finally bounce back from the woes that have afflicted over the last three years.

There are many indicators that help us gauge whether the economy is back on track and while many continue to show signs of distress (i.e. the labor market) the road ahead is looking a lot brighter than it was a year ago.  While we may not be “there” just yet, at least we know that we are not headed in the opposite direction anymore.  If you are interested in seeing the presentation and getting a little more detail please see this link.

As I indicated during my last post, this year, RESI participated in a crowd-sourcing activity that involved getting feedback from attendees regarding what they would do if they had power over fiscal, monetary and housing policies.   The top answers submitted by attendees were revealed family feud style.   In my opinion, it was a great opportunity to learn about what people feel are the best ways to tackle the significant challenges that we are facing. 

In addition to DECO staff, the program was composed of several other distinguished guests.  For instance, Robert Hannon, President and CEO of Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation welcomed us to Anne Arundel County with some facts and jokes.  Following the outlook presentation, Kathleen Snyder, President and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce gave us an overview of this year’s legislative session and the bills that the Chamber was supporting and opposing.  Last but not least, David Beck, Senior Vice President and Regional Executive and Robert Carpenter, Lead Financial Economist both from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond gave a very educational presentation about the Reserve’s dual mandate of promoting price stability and full employment.  They began their segment by giving a broad overview of the Reserve’s policy options and provided data and graphs to illustrate how the Fed’s balance sheet has evolved since the beginning of the recession. 

While I thoroughly enjoyed all the speakers that day, my favorite people that day were a group of extremely bright students.   As a special treat, we had several members of an AP Economics course from Arundel High School in attendance.  As someone who cares about economics education, I was delighted to see a group of students who seemed so genuinely interested in the presentations and eager to ask eloquent and thought-provoking questions.  I can only hope that we’ll be seeing these young people joining the ranks of economists in the near future!