Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Palm Coast and Flagler County: #1 in Population Growth

In an article published on Forbes.com today, Flagler County is mentioned in the number 1 spot in terms of population growth between 2000 and 2009.

The article opens stating:
" Residents of Flagler County are likely contending with busier highways and more crowded classrooms than they did about 10 years ago. That's because Flagler, like several Florida counties including Sumter County, St. John's County and Lake County, have been magnets for movers over the last decade; here, the balmy climate and a booming housing market drew retirees and families before the bubble burst, according to new population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. "
A slide show counting-down from the 10th spot to the first spot for Flagler County, shows statistical data showing the population in April 2000 vis a vis April 2009, and growth as a result of domestic migration...

Here is the original Flagler County Forbes Article.

It appears in these times of a slowing economy, and despite some reverse migration, Palm Coast and Flagler County continue to preserve their spot as the fastest growing micro-area in the United States.

We're glad to be doing business here. :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Google Fiber: How did Palm Coast really fair?

Ky Ekinci : Co-Founder Office Divvyby Ky Ekinci
Office Divvy ™

Application period for Communities to be considered for Google's Fiber-to-Home Network Trial is now officially over as of Friday night. City of Palm Coast is one of the 1100+ communities that applied for this project.

I previously wrote another blog post on this subject, titled "A Tech Opportunity for Palm Coast" iterating our support of The City of Palm Coast for this project.

Now that the applications are closed, and there is more information available, I'm writing this follow up post, for some further thoughts...

Here's Google's tweet, talking about the number of applications:

According to Google's own announcement, more than 1100 communities across the United States applied for the Google Fiber trial project. Applications from 194,000 people and organizations also received nominating and support of their communities.

Here is a map of where these applications came from (you have to love the technology):

The City of Palm Coast got in the game a little later compared to some mature, and not-so-mature cities. Our City's announcement for the project was made on March 8th, less than 3 weeks prior to closing of the applications.

I counted limited press coverage: Only two articles appeared on the Daytona Beach News Journal, plus another article appeared in the new Palm Coast Observer newspaper. Palm Coast mayor Jon Netts also released a video which appeared on the City of Palm Coast website, though this was released after the applications were already closed.

I wish there was more press on Palm Coast's nomination, and more community involvement from the residents nominating their city for this project. I think our otherwise strong Flagler County online community failed to make enough noise. Why do I say that? See my noise analysis below based on some of the select candidate cities, as I followed their "noise" factors on twitter:

Tweets in the last 7 days prior to the Google deadline:

You will notice that the cities I selected for analysis and comparison in the above table are not random. I selected Orlando and Sarasota because they are somewhat in close proximity to Palm Coast. I put Miami Beach in the comparison mix, because it's also in Florida and because its size is similar to that of Palm Coast. I included Topeka, KS; and Duluth, MN also, because they are smaller cities, but because they were able to do good PR campaigns and make a lot of noise for this project.

Whether we win or lose Google's Fiber project, this opportunity was also a good one for Public Relations and Press Coverage. More mainstream media press coverage and more residents participating online through the various social media platforms (Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, Digg, YouTube, Vimeo, blogs, etc.) to draw attention to their City for this opportunity would have yielded better results for community building and for making louder noise.

Here's what some of the cities did to make noise:

Topeka, KS renamed itself Google. No, not forever, but for a month. The 79-year-old Mayor of Topeka made stereotype shattering choices. The choices this small community made, helped them get coverage on CNN. Here is what was said in a March 2nd article published on the Tech section of CNN.com:
" At 79, Bill Bunten doesn't exactly understand the Internet boom. The Topeka, Kansas, mayor has an e-mail account, he said, but his assistants take care of most of his online communications and tend to search the Web for him."
You can read the original article here.

Mayors of Sarasota, FL and Duluth, MN also appeared on TV, on the CNN network, just a few days before the deadline. They were invited to the show because they made equally shocking choices to create more visibility and get their cities appear in the mainstream news-media...

Sarasota, FL renamed their "City Island" as Google Island. Also a temporary renaming, but it got them in the news. Sarasota also mobilized as a community and ran a savvy PR campaign. They released an exclusive website for press-visibility and community involvement, called www.GoogleIsland.net. Later, Sarasota's Mayor swam with a tankful of sharks in a publicity stunt. They released several videos of that on YouTube as well.

Duluth, MN Mayor jumped in the freezing waters of the Lake Superior. Coincidence maybe, but if Palm Coast has Jon Netts, Duluth has Don Ness. In a publicity stunt, Mayor Ness jumped in the freezing waters of the Lake Superior in February. The City made a video and put that on YouTube, which is below:

I'm not promoting stunts or monkey-business to get in the news, but in this highly competitive environment and during these slow economic times locally, "Out of the Box" kind of thinking has to be on the table as a vehicle for being found and being seen as a progressive city.

Here is an example of a small missed opportunity to promote Google's Invitation: A couple days prior to the deadline of submissions, Palm Coast delivered their Annual Report booklet to all their residents. First as an insert in the Palm Coast Observer newspaper, and the very next day in Polly-bags dropped in driveways of what appeared t be all the residents! The publication had a few advertisement inserts. I wish that a stand-out flyer was also added in that publication, calling on the community to get online and nominate Palm Coast. I'm not sure what the weight of resident nominations is in the overall selection process for Google is, but we would have to guess that more nominations by residents wouldn't hurt.

Palm Coast has a good chance for this project as a progressive city with great infrastructure, along with the existing Fiber Network (aka FiberNet) owned by the City itself. A leadership team that works well together, an incredibly strong project-leader, and numerous other strengths will absolutely help in the final analysis.

In studying all of this, I know that we, as business owners, professionals, and residents are equally responsible for helping Palm Coast get ahead. As we wait for the results of the Google opportunity, let's make a commitment for increased participation and support for the numerous opportunities that are ahead for The City of Palm Coast and Flagler County.

Thanks for listening...

Ky Ekinci
Office Divvy

PS: Because of the significant investment I've personally made in social media (learning, metabolizing, engaging) and because of the significant return I've received and frankly keep receiving, I feel an added responsibility to take others with me. To date, that's included business associates, clients, family, friends, our new technology and new-media internship program, and once strangers (many of those). I've seen first hand the power of community building, affecting change in others, asking for help and getting it (in seconds). New media can and will be critical in positioning Palm Coast not only as a strong place to live and work, but to thrive.

Update - Enjoy Part II to this post:
"Google is in Kansas; Topeka is in Silicon Valley?"