Interview with Don Holbrook – Economic Development Expert

I first met Don at the IEDC meeting in Reno, Nevada. I made a point of seeking him out because I was impressed with his work as an author and speaker. Don has written several books on economic development including The Little Black Book of Economic Development and Who Moved My Smokestack?. Don’s contribution to the field of economic development have been remarkable. Don is currently a partner with the Vercitas Group. The Group specializes in providing support services to communities in a number of economic development areas. Their brand statement is “Building a Stronger America”, so naturally I wanted to interview Don and get his perspective on the opportunities and challenges facing Brand America.

  1. Question: How would you articulate Brand America’s promise?

    America is and always has been since our first inception a place that offered at the root of our being, a place where anybody of any race, religion or social status is both welcome and positioned to explore their own ideals of success, personal freedom from tyranny and where hope and opportunity come across each others road. Our shining light to the world says it all, “give me your tired your poor, your huddled masses” America stands for all that is possible and good within the human spirit… we must not forget that or negotiate or allow that to be taken away from us in the name of security or promises of change for the better… sometimes the first model is still the best. Progress tends to sometimes be over zealous and paranoia sometimes causes us to react too far… let’s remain in sync with our roots… in our continued branding of America.

  2. Question: What are the challenges that Brand America must address to consistently be seen as "walking the talk"?

    We are always going to be the place to beat in terms of our competition and the challenges and challengers may not always compete fairly, but that is no excuse for us to change our focus and our resolve for why we are a unique and blessed land of hope and opportunity. As new challenges, obstacles both internal to our country and external pressures both economic and political arise, we must remain on a course that bespeaks our core values. All are welcome but they must strive to give us their best and treat all of our citizens like brothers and sisters. We cannot allow petrolism, terrorism, climate change, trade imbalances, fiscal disparity and lack of a proper taxation policy currently to derail our core values of civil liberties, quality of life, and a world-class business climate with an enlightened and productive citizenry on the world scale. We must remember that we have to be the shining light for others and that requires we have the biggest shoulders on all issues domestic and abroad.

  3. Question: What are the traits of Brand America that people around the world are likely to find appealing?

    We are a place where anything is possible if you dream it you can attain it. Our qualities are not perfect but they are uniquely American. Our manner and methods are drastically in need of some modernization and rethinking but just because we need some remodeling does not make our system broken. Getting back to our root reasons for being attractive to others is essential to both keeping those of us already here productive and happy and also it is the key to attracting the world’s pool of talent to our shores. At the root of our success are the following all of which need some current remodeling and improvements; Education- making it affordable and accessible to all our citizens and making sure it is the best in the world is absolutely important. Business Climate- having the best environment to start and grow a business is absolutely a core basis for why people come here. Our current tax and spend philosophy is not sustainable and supportive of a world class business climate… we must be the most profitable place to do business if we want to attract people and their monies to live and invest here. Economic Freedom is absolutely linked to quality of life and too much government is not the answer to reckless financial modeling and taxing profits and investment unfairly or severely will not create more investment it will cause less investment. I think our political stability and openness to religious views coupled with tolerance are still very attractive to others. Brand America is still the best environment for a quality of life for entire families to flourish and grow in a myriad of directions and express themselves uniquely. No other place offers that flexibility and infrastructure as well as Brand America. That should be our continued message to the world.

  4. Question: What are the different ways Brand America can keep its promise?

    I think getting our arms around key issues today in a proactive but very favorable branding philosophy is critical. For example how Brand America addresses real global issues such as climate change, renewable energy, trade imbalances and fiscal responsibility internally are huge opportunities and should not be seen as such Draconian obstacles to our moving forward. The same is true on the current foreign policy and international focus on our use of force abroad. We do not want to be seen as a thirsty super power looking to carve out our access to oil for the support of our own western lifestyle. We have to be seen as a force for balance of human rights and oppression to those that want to harm us or others that seek individual freedoms and civil liberties. The piece in USA Today about the Afghan Prison situation is a great opportunity to show we are not about treating even our enemies or possible enemies unfairly but in a humane manner. We must dismantle the perpetual media about us being the Great Satan as portrayed by Radical Islamic elements. That is where Brand America can be very useful and proactive in changing the minds and mending the hearts of so many confused and ignorant masses that are being misled by self-serving clerics and radical’s leaders.

  5. Question: What is the importance of Brand America in the world?

    Brand America should be the rock of stability to the world. A promise of great economic opportunity, political stability, religious freedom, civil liberties and that promote individual values, and economic prosperity coupled with the best quality of life on the planet… and it has vacancies for all that want to live here and be willing to operate within the rule of law that govern all that visit or live inside our nation. Bounty is plentiful to those that want to be productive. It is wildly important that people have an ideal or modicum of hope and that those with drive and initiative strive to get to our shores and once they arrive they are welcomed. America has always been that beacon of opportunity and hope… and that gives humanity a sense of balance that prior to America did not exist for the masses.

  6. Question: Who benefits from a strengthened Brand America?

    This is just straight forward – everyone does. The only people that do not benefit are those that oppose us in ways that are not acceptable to humanity. Terrorism sees a strong Brand America as their greatest foe, not our military forces.

  7. Question: Do you believe Brand America has a relevant, competitive and authentic promise?

    Yes, but we need to work harder at continuously improving an innovating our message and making sure our actual environment is matched to our hyperbole. To sustain and grow Brand America today we must take on the hard issues and challenges that face not only our own citizens but also the world and do so with a dignity and resolve that no nation or group of nations can match. We must be the highest bar for national accomplishment that all others feel is almost unattainable, so the image is only America could and would take on such an almost insurmountable challenge as this and do so in such a way this is uniquely American or as we always say in the Spirit of the Being American at our core.

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