Gainesville Getting Good Press

Even though the Gators haven’t been getting Gainesville any positive national press of late, GRU has been, and in a very good way. Co.exist, an influential Web feed focusing on what it calls “groundbreaking innovation” from Fast Company magazine, recently headlined Gainesville as the “world capital” of solar energy.

California-based technology writer Andrew Price reported, “with more than 7 megawatts of installed solar power for roughly 200,000 people, the city’s installed capacity per capita is more than triple the United States average.”

Co.exist said Gainesville also beat the per capita solar installations of entire countries, such as Japan and France. The story references University of California at Berkeley studies showing that renewable energy creates jobs, and lauds Gainesville’s feed-in tariff system, which provides those implementing solar systems with guarantees of being able to “feed” back to the grid—and get paid for the power they produce. Those guarantees are an innovative part of what makes solar financially viable for both businesses and homeowners.

National media attention to Gainesville makes us feel good, certainly, but having folks elsewhere hear about good things we do here can also engender economic development and bring new companies, and the jobs that come with them, to town.

Tommy McIntosh, chairman of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, certainly thinks so. “Gainesville has a great story to tell, and we want the world to hear it,” he says on page 13of this month’s Business Report, talking about why the chamber hired a New York-based publicist to generate national media attention for the Innovation Gainesville program. Brent Christensen, the chamber’s president and CEO, echoed the idea—and added that mentions in national and international media strongly influence business decision-makers.

Getting your message out is the point, whether in traditional media, via the web, social media, or the sort of old-fashioned guerilla marketing that I love to see tweeted about the blogosphere. But efforts at spreading the word don’t always go so well, even if they are pushing a good idea with the best of intentions. Just ask the Florida Legislature, if you can find a legislator.

Case in point: A little more than a month ago, the Legislature launched “YourVoice,” an online survey, using Survey Monkey, aimed at business owners and “stakeholders” to gauge public opinion about state rules and regulations. Some of these regulations may be poorly implemented or outdated, and the Legislature says it is seeking to alter those that place a burden on businesses.

Sounds good, if not very scientific, since it works from the self-selected sample of those—presumably businesspeople—who choose to fill out the Survey Monkey Web form.

But who even is aware that the folks in Tallahassee are seeking businesses’ opinions? An informal, unscientific poll conducted by Business Report editorial assistant Kyle Edwards came up with bupkis. No one he contacted had heard of the survey.

Kyle did find out that the information gathered is to be reported to the Senate Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability and the House Rulemaking and Regulations Subcommittee.

But it seems questionable whether the survey is reaching its full audience, as we couldn’t find anyone who has heard of it. So we decided to ask at the top about how many surveys had been filled out and what sort of regulations concerned the businesses that responded.

But after repeated attempts to contact them by phone went with not a call returned, and after being instructed by their staffs to email our questions to both House Rulemaking and Regulations Subcommittee Chairman Chris Dorworth and Senate Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability Chairman Senator Jeremy Ring, we still haven’t gotten an email back.

In case you want to participate, the survey is at—now maybe if they had bought some advertising, or hired a good publicist you might know what they are up to.


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