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BBA Economic Digest: Capturing Attention

Capturing Attention

Back in the pre-COVID days, when I gave in-person talks to economic development groups (seem like ages ago), I was mindful of something the late Steve Jobs said: "People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint."

These days when I talk to groups, I do so virtually, usually via Zoom. But 

I still that take J0b's observation to heart. Either I offer no slides or limit them to a few.

Jobs thought meetings should be interactive, and that audience members should be actively involved. A slide deck puts an audience into a passive state. This is especially true when a presenter puts a lot of text on PowerPoint slides and then reads the slides back to an audience. That truly is Death by PowerPoint. My advice: Take pity on your audience. When I do make slides (and again I often don't), they feature a single image, maybe a word or two  or a single number in a huge font. If time permits, I'll ask questions of my audience so as to create a conversation and hope they ask me questions.

I like the 10/20/30 rule. No PowerPoint presentation should be more than 10 slides, longer than 20 minutes, and fonts should not be smaller than 30 point.

Coined by Guy Kawasaki, the formula helps presenters find a balance between design and conceptual explanations, so you can capture audience attention, emphasize your points, and enhance readability.

Kawasaki, one of the early Apple employees, championed the concept of a ‘brand evangelist’ to describe his position. Today he works as a brand evangelist for Canva, an online graphic design tool. 

It's Over Rover

President Trump's flurry of lawsuits is now a sideshow. The real focus among investors, analysts and market strategists is on Pfizer's blockbuster vaccine announcement, President Elect Joe Biden's agenda. "For most investors, the perspective is that the election has been settled," Tobias Levkovich, Citigroup's chief US equity strategist, told CNN Business. "Providing evidence of shenanigans and irregularities is required in a court of law. And I haven't seen any." While the Trump campaign team has sought to draw parallels to the 2000 recount that left the outcome hazy until mid-December of that year, investors aren't buying it. They note that Trump trails by too many votes in too many states for recounts to sway the results. "We see the likelihood that recounts and legal challenges could overturn this outcome as remote and favor looking through any resulting market volatility," BlackRock strategists wrote in a note to clients last week.

Though the economy has recovered from a large portion of the damage caused this spring by the pandemic and shutdowns, the process is incomplete. Biden will likely spend much of the next four years trying to make up lost economic ground.

Structural Shifts Many economists expect the next stages to be difficult. The economy is showing signs of slowing after the initial post-shutdown bounce, and recent history points to grinding recoveries, not quick bouncebacks.

The pandemic is also driving structural shifts in some industries that could permanently change how Americans spend and how companies do business—meaning dislocations for workers as the economy adjusts.

"We're recovering, but to a different economy," Fed Chair Jerome Powell told a virtual panel of the European Central Bank's Forum on Central Banking.

Not All That Here's what an economic development organization's marketing piece said that I came across this past week: "xxxxxxx is the perfect location to invest in an Opportunity Zone and save money. "The Opportunity Zone program offers incentives, in the form of capital gains tax abatement, for those who invest eligible capital into Qualified Opportunity Zone assets. Check out the OZ map to see how an investment in xxxxxxxcan add value to any project." Two thoughts come to mind. 1. As I have said many times before, there is no such thing as a "perfect place." There are only better places for capital investment per a company's needs. Such a claim on its face is ridiculous. Usually there are fundamental reasons why certain areas underperform in terms of capital investment. 2. The opportunity zone program, while not a complete failure, has revealed that it's not all that -- capital dropped in a community is not the same as capital designated for community benefit. Opportunity zones are designed to bring capital to low-income communities by providing tax benefits to investors. But there are no explicit development requirements for tangible community benefit. The program, in short, falls short.

Servants First

I've met them and so have you -- disengaged professionals going through the motions. Disengaged economic developers cost their communities dearly. Their communities lose out on ideas and innovations that could be developed. Gallup estimates that this disengagement costs the U.S. $450–$550 billion in lost productivity each year, which doesn’t even account for opportunity costs. Leadership has a lot to do with it. In his seminal 1970 essay "The Servant as Leader," Robert K. Greenleaf said the most effective leaders were servants first. But I have met professionals who have flaunted the perks of their position, emphasizing the privileges associated with their role. It sends a signal that their team’s future (and their community) wasn’t their priority. When managers adopt service-based leadership practices, they can have an immediate impact on their teams’ effectiveness. Teams that feel cared for and valued demonstrate their loyalty through their initiative and engagement.

All the More Noble

You've probably heard of the book, "A Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?" by Rick Warren. I would suggest that economic development is a purpose driven profession, at least when it is done correctly. Last week, I had a conversation on this with an economic developer whom I'm doing consulting work for. We agreed that there is a higher purpose involved -- that economic development is giving back to the community.

For that reason I think the profession of economic development gets into people's blood. It becomes a calling, which makes it all the more noble. It begins and ends with the residents of your community. They are the ones you are trying to help.

You do it by initiating and supporting upskilling training programs for your people. You do it by supporting local employers through a robust business retention and expansion program. You do by creating a better enviroment for business startups. And, yes, you do it through business attraction. The purpose is changing lives. It's a helluva thing.


Mark Anthony Brewing said it will build a new $400 million state-of-the-art brewery and production facility in Columbia, S.C., creating 300 new jobs. It will be one of the largest breweries built in the U.S. in over 25 years. Located in Pineview Industrial Park, the new facility will produce White Claw Hard Seltzer, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Mike’s Harder Lemonade and Cayman Jack Cocktails. Warehousing and distribution operations will also be located on-site. Construction is slated to begin almost immediately on the more than one million square-foot facility is expected to be fully operational by summer 2021.

And in Baton Rouge

Grön Fuels LLC is considering building a renewable fuel complex at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge. The complex could involve up to $9.2 billion of total investment over several phases. A final investment decision is expected in 2021, which will determine the final cost of the project’s first phase. Through all phases and associated projects, the complex would create an estimated 1,025 new direct jobs, with an average annual salary of $98,595, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project and subsequent phases would result in up to 4,560 new indirect jobs, for a total of 5,585 new jobs for the region.

The project would be built in stages over nine years at a site leased from the port on the west bank of the Mississippi River, near Port Allen. The first phase of construction would involve a capital investment of over $1.25 billion and create 340 new direct jobs by 2024. Upon completion of all phases – potentially by 2030 – the site would be one of the largest renewable fuel complexes in the world.

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