A Tuna Salad Company, A Seafood Company or a Canned Goods Company?

April 2, 2011

That’s the old Branding 101 example of “you are what you say you are.” The idea being that Starkist or Bumblebee will be most successful expanding their product offerings if it fits in with a defined brand that people understand. You might be open to buying Starkist brand canned salmon or even Bumblebee fresh tuna steaks. Conversely, you probably wouldn’t want to buy tuna fish from a motor oil company, just because they branded themselves as a business that “makes things in containers.” So there are limits to everything.

We see a lot of that going on in our region. Boeing isn’t an “airplane company,” but rather an aerospace company and so you’re open to buying their tankers, and satellites and missiles. Microsoft is very much in the middle of defining themselves as a “platform company” that provides the tools upon which you create – whether that be word documents, video games, mobile apps or building energy management software.

These are the things that I thought of when I saw this article about BMW investing in IT start-ups as a way to facilitate defining themselves as a “mobility company.” Is this more Chicken of the Sea canned salmon or Pennzoil tuna?*

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Weekly B-MOW: Ride the Bus for the Good of International Trade

February 28, 2011

Last week’s Best Meeting of the Week was hard to pick. For a short, four-day week, there were a wealth of options. But, proximity is the mother of inspiration (or something like that), so I’m going to go with Friday’s meeting. On Friday, I was at the Sea-Tac Airport Conference Center for the “Pacific Northwest Supply Chain Summit: Identifying Key Infrastructure and Logistics Issues and their Potential Solutions.” Put on jointly by the Ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Portland*, this was a forum for folks in the logistics and international trade industry (ports, manufacturers, railroads, trucking companies, expeditors, etc.) to share with the federal government their highest priority policy initiatives around supply chain infrastructure. In particular, the feds were interested in hearing about changes that would facilitate increased exports, in line with the National Export Initiative.

Now, a half day session on export promotion and supply chain infrastructure doesn’t have as much intrigue as season two of The Wire (which took place at a port, for the non-initiated). But I learned, or at least reinforced, some interesting things. And my number one take-away about export promotion through supply chain infrastructure investments? Sometimes investments in commute-trip reduction are just as good as new multi-modal infrastructure. Or to say it a different way, investments that get people out of their cars help facilitate international trade!

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Is 520 Tolling Good for the Bellevue Arts Community?

May 27, 2010

I was in a focus group the other day about the future of the “east King County arts community.” And someone was talking about how the major problem is that too many eastside residents look to Seattle for their cultural activities…but that it might change when tolling starts on 520. It took me a second, but I quickly understood that what she was saying is that the extra cost of crossing the bridge would be a disincentive to travel which creates an incentive to spend your Saturday night locally. Furthermore, because there isn’t a fully vital arts community yet on the eastside, economic theory would tell us that folks would be willing to invest in the short term to build that infrastructure if it saves them money in the long term.

I love the concept, and not only because I’m a nerdy economics guy. It has a great parallel to something I was talking about way back in the good old days of $4 gas about shrinking the global supply chain. Read the rest of this entry »

More Like “Kill The Sack”

December 23, 2009

I realize that land use and transportation policy isn’t often the topic on this blog. But I’ve been studying up on my planning to fit in better here at the old PSRC, and this article caught my eye:

But this fall, Virginia, under the leadership of Gov. Tim Kaine, became the first state to severely limit cul-de-sacs from future developments. New rules require that all new subdivisions attain a certain level of “connectivity,” with ample through streets connecting them to other neighborhoods and nearby commercial areas. If subdivisions fail to comply, Virginia won’t provide maintenance and snowplow services, a big disincentive in a state where the government provides 83 percent of road services.

Virginia expects the new rules to relieve its strained infrastructure budget: through streets are more efficient and cheaper to maintain, and they take pressure off arterial roads that otherwise need to be widened. “It’s about connecting land-use and transportation planning and restricting wasteful and unplanned development,” Kaine said in March. [emphasis added]

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Don’t Throw Away That Project List!

December 7, 2009

As conversations continue to advance about a “jobs bill” (not to be confused with a “second stimulus” in any way), there are a lot of ideas floating around out there about what should be funded and how. But probably the biggest criteria is when, as in “as soon as possible;” the long timeline of Recovery Act fund distribution is not going to be tolerated for this go around. But, let’s not throw away the baby with the bathwater! Read the rest of this entry »

How to Build a Cross-Base Highway

December 4, 2009

Pierce County’s long awaited and continually delayed Cross-Base Highway (SR 704) keeps looking for a solution to a need long overdue. For a project that started with a donation of right-of-way worth millions of dollars by Ft. Lewis, that head start in funding hasn’t made much progress against other state-wide projects that keep bumping the Cross-Base Highway.

As Fort Lewis is a work site that has gained 13,000 workers in the last demi-decade and seen a daily increase in thousands of vehicle trips, soldiers taking housing outside the post are continuing to seek housing in Thurston County as closer Pierce County housing is inaccessible via the congestion along the Pacific Ave.-SR 512-I-5 route, located in Parkland-Spanaway. Who hasn’t noticed the increase in congestion on I-5 south of the post as soldiers commute back and forth to Thurston County?

But is our challenge so unique that we must create a solution, or is experience available elsewhere. Of course! We are not unique! Others have solved this problem! Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Anniversary, Recovery Act!

November 13, 2009

They grow up so fast…it seems like only yesterday that Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In fact, it was not yesterday, but rather February 13, 2009. (The President signed it four days later.) Which makes today the nine month anniversary!

Even after all this time, there are actually a number of major opportunities still open. On this happy day, here are a few to keep an eye on (or apply for!): Read the rest of this entry »