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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A personal touch

The United States Postal Service is struggling to find a place in the digital world and recently reported an $8.5 billion loss in the past fiscal year. Many people have switched to using e-mail or social networks to stay in touch. While I’m a fan of social networking and e-mail, I also appreciate the sentiment of a handwritten note. I don’t think digital communications can replace that.

The holidays are a perfect example of the difference a handwritten, mailed note can make. The warmth of a hand-addressed envelope brimming with holiday greetings and family pictures could never be replicated by an e-card.

Nevertheless, to survive in the digital world, the Postal Service needs to reinvent itself like many other businesses have done.

Learn more about the Postal Service’s struggles and potential solutions from a National Public Radio series.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A community partner

This holiday season The GH Spin wants to tell you about a company that consistently invests its time and money in its community. Flint Hills Resources, which operates Pine Bend refinery in Rosemount, maintains a steady presence in the community by sponsoring educational opportunities for children, environmental clean-up efforts, a training facility for law enforcement officials, and more.

Flint Hills has been the title sponsor of the Flint Hills International Children’s Festival for almost a decade. The festival, which is one of the nation’s first of its kind geared toward children, introduces more than 50,000 people to international art each year. The company also sponsors several programs with the Science Museum of Minnesota which allow children to learn about science through fun, hands-on experiments. Most recently, Flint Hills and some of its female engineers hosted Girls and Science, an event at the Science Museum aimed at inspiring more girls to become engineers and scientists.

Flint Hills is also working to restore natural habitats near its Pine Bend refinery. For the past 11 years, volunteers from Flint Hills and the surrounding community have pulled buckthorn and opened and connected prairies on a section of the Mississippi River bluffs that is owned by Flint Hills Resources.

Local, state and federal law enforcement groups have trained at no cost for more than a decade at Flint Hills’ training facility. The multi-faceted training grounds include a mock duplex and apartment building, an obstacle course, and a K-9 course.

Companies that are truly great community partners are few and far between. We are proud to have Flint Hills as one of our clients.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Seven score and seven years ago*

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most famous speeches in U.S. history in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – the site of a major Civil War battle four months earlier. It proves that some of the best speeches are also the shortest. At only 10 sentences, it concisely captures Lincoln’s feelings while inspiring the American people to believe in the nation’s future.

Lincoln was not the keynote speaker that day. The keynote speaker lectured for two hours before Lincoln spoke. But Lincoln is the remembered speaker. These were his words, no doubt carefully selected:
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” **
* The Gettysburg Address was delivered 147 years ago. “Score” means 20.
** This text is one of several versions of the speech that Lincoln wrote. It is believed to be the final version.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Manganese demonstration project underway

Congratulations to Cooperative Mineral Resources, a subsidiary of Crow Wing Power, which began a demonstration project this week to mine bulk samples of manganese ore from a site in Emily, a small town in central Minnesota. Manganese is used to make steel and is being considered for use in new technologies to reduce power plant emissions, purify water, and improve rechargeable batteries.

Cooperative Mineral Resources went through an extensive approvals process in Emily and with state and federal agencies to secure the necessary health, safety and environmental permits before starting the demonstration project. Goff & Howard has helped explain the science behind the environmentally sensitive mining technique, answer questions, and address concerns about the project.

If the technique proves viable, this could be the first step toward a larger commercial project that would create jobs and potentially share millions of dollars with members of the Crow Wing Power Cooperative. Learn more about the project from Minnesota Public Radio’s coverage, and look back at Goff & Howard’s first blog about Cooperative Mineral Resources.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The end of e-mail as we know it? Facebook says yes, the GH Spin is not so sure.

In 1972, Ray Tomlinson transformed the way we communicate when he invented e-mail. Tomlinson used the “@” symbol to send information from one computer to another, and communication has never been the same. Now, 38 years later, 26-year-old Mark Zuckerberg wants to change e-mail as we know it.

The Facebook founder announced yesterday yet another new feature for his ever-expanding social media empire – a comprehensive message system that would consolidate e-mail, texts, and instant messaging in one social inbox. In less than a month, each of Facebook’s 500 million users will receive an e-mail address (@facebook.com).

You will then be able to choose how you prefer to receive messages – text, e-mail, or Facebook account – and messages will automatically be forwarded to you in your preferred format.

Zuckerberg says that Facebook’s messaging system is not e-mail. In fact, he said in a news conference that he doesn’t think e-mail is going to be a modern messaging system, partly because it is too formal. For many, he’s right. Younger people are forgoing e-mail in favor of more casual instant messaging and texts.

There is also an important business reason behind this. The messaging system creates more chances to reach the more-than half of a billion Facebook users via ads. Some are positioning this new service as Facebook’s way to better compete with Gmail and other e-mail services.

Despite the rise of informal texts, tweets, and Facebook wall posts, The GH Spin believes there will always – and should always – be a time and place for formal communications, namely in the workplace. While your in-laws might not care if you send them a quick message via Facebook, a potential client, employer, or colleague might not be impressed with your knowledge of Internet abbreviations.

Additionally, domain names associated with e-mail addresses subliminally inform recipients about the sender. Will an e-mail from an @facebook.com account have the same clout as one from more acceptable e-mail domains, like Gmail or a company domain?

As with all technology developments, we will have to wait to see whether or not the Facebook messaging system is successful. Google recently tried to take on Twitter with Google Buzz. But the buzz faded quickly, and Google is ending the service.

Nevertheless, this new development shows how Facebook is evolving to serve the needs of those who want quick, informal communications. How we communicate and the options available continue to evolve, especially as the social network strives to be an even bigger part of our lives.

Count on The GH Spin to keep you up to date.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Learning from Austin

Once a year for the past nine years, InterCity Leadership, a group of business, government and civic leaders from the Twin Cities, have visited other cities to learn how they deal with critical issues such as transportation, economic development, and education. Much like touring other homes to find ideas to make yours better, the trip has become an incredibly valuable way for our community to see how others have managed challenges and created opportunities.

This year Goff & Howard’s Mike Zipko was a part of an InterCity Leadership group that visited Austin, Texas, which has been heralded as the next Silicon Valley complete with an eclectic mix of arts, culture, and live music. At a time when the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area needs to find ways to keep existing companies and to attract new businesses, the group learned how Austin leaders have successfully done just that.
Through strong and consistent messaging, Austin has become known as the “live music capital of the world.” This buzz, along with the city’s collaborative relationship with the University of Texas, has helped attract large corporations and create thousands of jobs. According to city officials, Austin doubles in size every 20 years.

While there is much that can be learned from Austin’s success in growing its economy, there is still much to appreciate about our metro area, including the number of corporate headquarters located here, a strong system of colleges and universities, and a transportation system that continues to improve. Through trips like these, we are strengthening our regional economic development vision by incorporating some strategies from other cities and finding better ways to leverage the things that already make our region strong.

Members of the 2010 InterCity Leadership group visit the Mueller redevelopment project in Austin. In this project, the public and private sector are working together to redevelop a former airport into a 711-acre, master-planned, mixed-use development that will be home to approximately 10,000 people, 10,000 permanent employees, 10,000 construction jobs, more than 4,900 homes, and approximately 140 acres of public open space. The project could be an example for the Twin Cities to look at as decisions are made about redeveloping the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site in Arden Hills and the Ford Plant site in Saint Paul.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In case you missed it

It’s been another busy week in the fast-changing online world. Here are a few updates from The GH Spin’s “In case you missed it” file.
Patch goes live: AOL’s hyper-local news source, Patch, went live in Edina this week. Patch journalists in several Twin Cities locations are already active on Twitter and Facebook. According to MinnPost, Patch is hiring journalists for nearly 50 sites in the metro area and is adding 600 journalists nationally. Read more from MinnPost or The GH Spin.

Preview websites instantly: Google announced today a feature that will allow people to preview a screen shot of websites that appear in a search before they click on a site. The “Instant Previews” feature will be launched in 40 languages over the coming days. Read more here.

Twitter starts advertising: Starting this month, Twitter will allow companies to place an ad in a user’s Twitter stream regardless of whether the user follows the company. Virgin America, Starbucks, and Red Bull have already bought ads. This advertising option complements the “promoted tweet” that appears at the top of searches on the Twitter website. Read more here.

Clip coupons via Facebook: Facebook is now offering coupons through a new feature called “Deals.” More than 20 companies, including Gap, McDonalds, and American Eagle Outfitters, have signed on. The feature can alert users when a store near them has a coupon available, making it especially useful for smartphone users. Read more here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Chris Georgacas named top political influencer

Goff & Howard President Chris Georgacas was recently named one of Minnesota’s top political influencers by Campaigns and Elections magazine. On the list, he joins Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Congressman Erik Paulsen, former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale, and others.

Chris is widely regarded as one of Minnesota’s top public affairs strategists. He has been involved in Minnesota government, civic affairs, and politics for more than three decades, including serving two terms (from 1993-1997) as state chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota. Earlier this year, the Republican Party honored Chris with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Following a transition of leadership in the Emmer campaign, Chris became chairman and helped Tom Emmer become highly competitive in Minnesota’s gubernatorial race.

Congratulations to Chris on this well-deserved honor.