Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Business

Why is state creating a Florida business brand — in Nashville?

I have to admire Enterprise Florida's arrogant decision to outsource a six-figure job to identify the agency's "Florida business brand" to a Tennessee company. Nashville-based North Star Destination Strategies was picked for the $205,000 contract in June over four Florida finalists, including Tampa's own ChappellRoberts.

This deal is a head-scratcher. A Florida agency that exists to find more jobs for this state is paying a business elsewhere to market and research Florida — instead of giving the job to folks who live and work here, presumably "know" Florida well and certainly could use the work.

For Gov. Rick Scott, who chairs Enterprise Florida, his aging mantra may be "jobs, jobs, jobs," but they don't have to be jobs in Florida.

Colleen Chappell, the CEO of ChappellRoberts in Ybor City, says her firm received a "request for information" email encouraging an initial submission on the project. She says her firm always assembles its best ideas and strongest references then leaves it to the selection committee to decide who wins.

Given that Florida is made up of many small businesses like ChappellRoberts, the CEO thought that firsthand experience might help for a project as specific as defining a brand for Enterprise Florida.

Apparently not.

North Star has already sent out a survey to out-of-state businesses asking questions like: If you could change one thing about Florida what would it be? Or what is the No. 1 misperception about Florida? Enterprise Florida's choice of North Star was first reported by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

As that story notes, North Star produced a tourism campaign called "Find Your True South" for the Mississippi Development Authority in February 2011. Gray Swoope, staff head of Enterprise Florida, was running the Mississippi agency at the time, just weeks before Gov. Scott named Swoope Florida's top economic salesman.

Some Florida marketing firms said they were not even made aware of the project and failed to compete for the job.

North Star seems to have a long history of helping cities find branding slogans. For example, working in 2010 with North Port (south of Sarasota), North Star asked people to compare the town to a celebrity. Some picked Miley Cyrus — "a rising young star that has an uncertain but promising future" — while others said Britney Spears because "she started out with potential but now she is a train wreck." North Port rebranded with "Achieve Anything." It's still being used.

A 2003 North Star branding project on Florida's Panhandle for tiny Navarre Beach in Santa Rosa County came up with the odd choice of "Santa Rosa Sound. Ok?" Navarre tourism officials just laugh now and say that brand never was even introduced.

Outsourcing a job to Nashville to build a Florida brand? Glad we can help its economy.

Robert Trigaux can reached at [email protected]

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