Before we get into the actual substance of this month’s post – if you were kind enough to read last month’s blog – “Thank You!” And if not, there’s no time like the present to read my initial post as Director; one intended to establish early expectations for how the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority will operate with its new Director. My predecessor provided a much-needed skill set and perspective to this county during his tenure. Andy more than delivered on his own advice; advice given to me after accepting the position. Advice that resonates with me personally, and professionally, as I hope it does you too. “Leave it better than you found it.” As this county moves forward in the aftermath of COVID-19, know that Andy’s advice is not just for me, but for all of us. His call to action should be our mantra throughout the recovery effort. To reuse a comment I made to our newly elected Commissioner Charlie Schilling yesterday, “It takes a village…” and the Port Authority is proud to be one of the villagers.
To stretch the analogy a bit further – while paying homage to the recently released David McCullough masterpiece “The Pioneers” – imagine for a moment you’re standing at the confluence of the mighty Muskingum and Ohio rivers circa 1788. Boatloads of new “villagers” are arriving daily. You’ve been in Marietta for more than a year and in that time, you’ve grown skeptical of outsiders. Especially with those who have ties to the government. Are you with me? Sound, or feel familiar? Humans are wired to be leery of the people, and things, that are unfamiliar and unknown. It’s a basic survival instinct that goes back as far as you believe our culture goes. The innate skepticism of the unknown is particularly ingrained in Appalachian culture and whether we like to admit it or not, the first settlement in the Northwest Territory is ripe with skepticism (and fear) of the unknown.
If you played along with the analogy, you may have heard yourself ask: “I wonder what this person(s) can do for us?” That’s the WIIFM Principle; one of the most fundamental principles of motivation and for many, it was Lesson #1 on Day #1 of Marketing 101. “What’s in it for me?” Your motivation to accept, engage, collaborate, participate, tolerate, or work with someone, or on something, hinges on your perceived return-on-investment. It’s not just business; it’s human nature. Satisfy the WIIFM Principle or “it” doesn’t happen. The “it” for the Port Authority is a “growing and vibrant economy” and we’ll achieve that by positively impacting the business, community, economic, and workforce development needs of our stakeholders.
So… back to my analogy one last time. I promise.
Imagine you’re a fellow villager and you have a need that falls in one of the above categories. You’re naturally skeptical about the unknown; especially those with ties to the government. You’re wondering “what’s in it for you” should you choose to engage our organization. Allow me to take the “elevator pitch” approach to satisfying the WIIFM Principle and if something resonates with you, we’re easy to find.
It is my belief that business development is an art; not a science. It’s best executed on feel; not with algorithms. Borrowing from Forbes – “Business development is the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.” At its core, business development is about building mutually beneficial relationships that create, and capitalize, on opportunities for growth. I’ve spent my entire professional career operating in this space. The cumulative years of professional expertise represented by the SeOPA Board of Directors’ stretches back to the founding of Marietta. Two centuries worth of wisdom and sector-specific knowledge you have access to when you partner with us. We might only have a staff of one, but WE are much more. SeOPA represents access to relationships, resources, and opportunities that can deliver long-term value to your business. Have I mentioned our collective ability to network you to a solution? Still skeptical? Take us for a test drive.
Think back to Andy’s advice. By supporting and collaborating with like-missioned organizations like our Chambers, Buckeye Hills, Marietta Main Street, or the Washington County CVB, we can all leave our respective definitions of “community” better than we found it. The Port Authority, much like our partner organizations, has a specific mission, core strengths, and a clearly defined target market. However, each of our organization’s missions and operations overlap at some point (think Venn diagram), and in the middle, is the common thread that stitches us all together – love for home and community. Still skeptical? Ask me about my love for home and how that motivates me to be a good neighbor personally, and professionally. Or, talk to one of several board members who chose to build a business and raise a family in Washington County.
Economic development is a big box to unpack. After all, what exactly is economic development?!? When in doubt, ask Wikipedia, right? Economic development is “the process by which the economic well-being and quality of life of a nation, region, or local community are improved according to targeted goals and objectives. Quality of life goals and objectives have great stewards in the partners identified above. The goals and objectives of the Port Authority are meant to impact the economic well-being of our local community and we can do that through a variety of mechanisms whether it be access to funding, facilitated connections and conversations, project management, or even land work. For a decade, I was a landman in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays. I have a robust understanding of easements, environmental assessment, construction project management, real estate transfers, surveying, utility relocations, and have acquired dozens of miles of various types of rights-of-way and hundreds of acres worth of surface use rights. As the son of a surveyor who has spent his entire life around land and real estate ventures intended to “turn a profit”, I’ve developed a skill set I’d like to leverage for our collective benefit. I do what I truly enjoy doing and you achieve your goal. That’s a Covey-approved win-win. Do you own land you’d like to develop, but don’t know where to start? Still skeptical? It’s a least worth a conversation.
My previous two years of employment before joining the Port Authority were spent entrenched in the local, regional, and state workforce development system. Currently, I serve as a representative for Washington County on the Region 15 Workforce Investment Board. I have close working relationships with the Appalachian Ohio Manufacturers’ Coalition, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, and Washington County Job and Family Services. I’ve built training programs, navigated complex grant programs, and have a strong understanding of what it takes to develop a skilled, reliable workforce. I haven’t forgotten what I learned and we shouldn’t let it go to waste either. Oh… and did I mention the leaders of 3 higher-ed institutions are on our board? Still skeptical?
Don’t worry, it’s human nature.