I got to stir the pot last week at Lake County’s Economic Outlook and Forecast event. The gathering came in the wake of recent fires, but most would agree that Lake County was due for economic encouragement well before the tragedies.
My topic was business and agriculture, two things I have no trouble getting excited about. Since a few have asked for the slides, here they are, along with a written version of what I said at the conference, or at least what I MEANT to say ; )
“Meet the Smith family. Ignoring the fact that they are fictitious, they play an important role in Lake County’s economic recovery. Why? I’m glad you asked! Because they live within 150 miles of Lake County, along with 7 million of their closest friends.
That means we have an audience larger than the population of Denmark, just waiting to make the 3 hour drive, IF properly motivated.
If we ask the Smiths what they know about Lake County, they will have several answers. They may say good things, like beautiful scenery, good wine, and excellent fishing. And they may say some not-so-g00d things, like algae blooms, cannabis cultivation and terrible roads.
Now let’s consider what they should say:
Giant Lake, Outdoor Adventure, and Local Food & Wine. Those are the real assets of our area, and those are the things we should encourage them to think about when thinking Lake County. Because, like any great business, a great area should create a clear, concise story, and plant it in the mind of the world. That way guests know what to expect when they come through the door.
Fortunately for us, a few relevant journalists have written about the area. Lettie Teague wrote in the Wall Street Journal on the rise of Lake County grapes, while the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an 18-page weekend section on everything from hiking to fishing to wine tasting. And Sunset Magazine has covered Lake County in several recent issues, on various topics.
But likely the Smith family learned more from friends and family about Lake County than they did from reading the newspaper. They asked on Facebook, at Starbucks, and at work: Where should we go on vacation? And those friends shared their stories, good and bad, from their own travels.
That’s why Walt Disney was so clever when he created Disney Land on the following premise:
Disney Land in Anaheim, by the way, employs 65,000 people, approximately the population of Lake County. It’s remarkable the impact that a well run business can have on a surrounding economy! But I digress.
Where did the friends learn about Lake County? From YOU GUYS! You all, 180 of you here in the audience (and now all the Lake County locals following along on the blog – ed.) , are the movers and shakers that make this place happen. You created their experience, and wrote the story in their minds.
Because those friends likely drove up some Friday night, and stayed at the Tallman Hotel.
They got up the next morning for a cup of coffee at Studebaker’s, and a hike on Mt. Konocti.
Then they rented a boat from Disney’s Water Sports, and went out on the lake.
And ended the day with dinner at a great local restaurant.
Then, because I’m a little biased, I hope they came out to Six Sigma Ranch for a Ranch-to-Table dinner.
All these things they could have learned about from the media, their friends, or one of our local associations, from those of us (YOU!) who get to craft the story.
And what is that story, to be specific?
You see, we have a real advantage here in Lake County. While some areas struggle to decide on a focus, ours is obvious: Start with the giant lake! And it’s surrounded by mountains, and a climate perfectly suited for food and wine. So our story, when we have just a few minutes to share with a friend or a reporter, is simple: Giant Lake, Outdoor Adventure, and Local Food & Wine. It is our responsibility, like any great business, to share it with the world.
What then, shall we do with the Smiths when they come to Lake County?
I suggest we treat them like royalty. We connect them with a boat, some local olive oil, pears, and a few bottles of wine. We might even sell them a pair of Bob Maher’s Maharaja water skis.
And then we send them home, so THEY can tell their friends, what a great time they had with the Giant Lake, Outdoor Adventure, and Local Food & Wine.
THAT, I believe, is the path to Lake County’s Economic Recovery.”