Thursday, July 28, 2011

Conceptual GPS

It's been a while since I've provided a good personal account of my thoughts and what's going on in my professional/academic world. While the articles and news I post are very relevant to the focus of this site, it means nothing if I can't synthesize the information I want to share with the world. If you read my blog, I have no doubt you know what's going on in the world for the most part. It's a game of musical chairs, but every time the music stops they add another chair. Today, I would like to discuss some issues I've noticed in the realm of local business and education matters.

Of late, I've been heavily involved with the efforts to improve education and economic development in the Nashville metropolitan area. I have to admit, I've never been a fan of the city, and always thought the town was somewhat backwards in their view of the world, and how they enacted their version of being like other progressive cities (be careful who you compare yourself to). However, I have always told my friends that Nashville typically does well over the long-run because it never overcooks the meal in times of economic prosperity, and thus never loses the farm in economic downturns. No better example could be true than right now this nation.

When I begin to think of the states and cities I admire and have a desire to live one day, I see very little difference in terms of the assets that make them that much different from Nashville. While in terms of culture and diversity Nashville struggles to make the top 50 of 40 options (that was a joke, not a typo), this depression (yes I used the "D" word) has placed everyone on relatively the same footing. In that I mean, the presence of resource scarcity can make the most liberal of towns become ultra-conservative, racist, and isolationist. Not that Wisconsin is on my list, but they are going through some serious changes as a result of scarce resources.

I went on Zillow to look at the value of my first home in Atlanta. I bought the house for $140,000 in 1999, and sold it in 2003 for $170,000. The house is now worth $120,000, which more than likely means it could move today for $110,000. Using basic calculations, some would say "that's a 29% decrease in the home value, which is about the norm for today's market". How ever you choose to look at it, that &^$% hurts! Even worse, I'm not the proud owner of a home that is priced at 1990 levels, but was built in 1999. Needless to say, the markets in Nashville have remained relatively steady in these unfortunate times. Sure, I'm taking a bad hit on my home, which was purchased in 2007 - the peak of the lunacy period. But, I feel better about my chances to retain value in the region in comparison to Atlanta, Florida, California, and other places.

I love the concept of change and progression. More important, I want to always be associated with change and progression for the sake of collective improvements. Of late, I've experienced some great beginnings to significant improvements in the Nashville area. There is an energy within the Nashville Chamber, the school system, and the citizen base to truly make the overall state of education more advanced in the city. People and organizations are putting their money where their mouth is these days. Even outside the city, such as Sumner, Robertson, Wilson, Trousdale, and Macon county, I have witnessed a change in rhetoric and actions toward economic development and education. The reality of bleak employment outlooks has forced everyone to wake up and realize how accountability and responsibility can save the day. However, there are two things I am still looking for that will totally transform this region to become an emerging market in this nation: collective capacity and inertia.

During a recent educational summit I attended at Libscomb University, a speaker called for more initiatives related to collective capacity. I'll give you my definition, which is influenced by concepts of institutional and governance theories. Essentially, collective capacity, in the context of local governments and organizations, calls for the sharing of resources, assets, and infrastructure to develop a more comprehensive product/service platform for a particular region. From an educational standpoint, a system of sharing hard-to-find STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) faculty and support staff among a few counties could allow the relevant counties to have a more robust offering of courses and options for their students, in the midst of cost-sharing and strategic alliances through technology. For counties with limited funds and tax bases, they would have the opportunity to significantly increase capacity that would otherwise be unattainable because of cost. Another example of this centers on the regional dream of developing a rail system for collective travel. If cities can begin readjusting their infrastructure through codes and city planning to accommodate this new mindset of mass transit, it can allow for companies to consider the region more, due to the improved access of the desired workforce - capturing citizens from a wider region than the city limits. In short, collective capacity is the game-changer for the region. However, the concept creates political challenges that require internal consultation to develop a clear plan of action.

The other missing piece has to do with institutional culture. Although there is a lot of movement in the region toward education and economic development, the effort is a new concept, requiring people to consciously, and intentionally, work at being progressive. Great organizations, successful teams, and impressive societies find a way to take these intentional actions and make them normative behaviors and beliefs. Eventually, inertia sets in and an outsider would be hard-pressed to move this group of people off the goal of success. Why is inertia important for the Nashville region? When successful attitudes and actions are the norm, the transactional cost associated with high achievement are relatively low. If the region is unable to establish inertia for success in the culture of the citizens, government, and businesses, the surge in funding will eventually lose the ability to influence the forward movement. The problem with changing the culture and setting the right path for inertia to take place is that no one person or group can create it. However, it begins with a series of successes and achievements. I'm not talking about the traditional form of Nashville's version of success that compared its performance against itself. I'm talking about making comparisons against other relevant cities in this nation, and even international markets. I know, it may be wishful thinking, but can't let the idea go away without arguing for it.

In any case, I am very impressed with the city, for the first time in my life, for its effort to be progressive. This economy has done a good job of dispelling myths for regions, and Nashville  has certainly had its share of them. While the window of opportunity is there, let's do all we can to create new values and targets for the region. Ones that will sustain the region for more than twenty years. I encourage everyone to make the decision today to get involved with the many efforts to improve education and economic development in the region. Blog about it, talk about it, and BE ABOUT IT!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Plan To Bring 900 Jobs To Nashville Called Off


Electronic Express

Plan To Bring 900 Jobs To Nashville Called Off


Story posted 2011.07.19 at 12:03 PM CDT

NewsChannel5 Wireless News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A deal to bring 900 jobs to Nashville has been called off after concerns that the company closed several offices in Canada and laid off workers.

On Tuesday, Matt Wilshire, director of the Mayor's Office of Economic and Community Development issued a statement saying that the city is "no longer in conversations with IQT (Solutions) regarding locating their operations here."

The statement said that they spoke with the company, which is based in Canada, on Monday evening and said it is unlikely that they will move forward with their proposed operation in Nashville.

It went on to say: 

"We are disappointed these job opportunities won't be available to Nashvillians, but it is important to point out that no incentive dollars were expended. We are dismayed about what happened in Canada and don't think workers anywhere should be treated that way."

On Friday, IQT Solutions announced they were closing three call centers in Canada.

Other reports revealed that the company had not informed its workers in advance, and some workers said they had not gotten paid.

In June, the company had revealed major plans to move their corporate offices to Nashville and also build a customer support center. To encourage them to make the move, and bring hundreds of jobs with them, Metro even offered them a city grant worth $1.6 million .

In a statement issued Monday, Mayor Karl Dean said "We were surprised and concerned to hear about the developments in Canada, and I was dismayed by the way the company treated its employees there. Rest assured, Metro taxpayers are protected. Metro's agreements with IQT have not been finalized, and no incentive funds have been paid to the company. Consistent with my philosophy on economic development, the incentives offered to IQT are based on the company's ability to bring jobs to Nashville. If they don't create jobs here, they don't get incentives. We are not moving forward on this deal unless we get answers from IQT that satisfy my concerns."

NewsChannel 5 also got a copy of a letter that Mayor Dean's director of Economic and Community Development, Matthew A. Wiltshire, sent to IQT Chief Executive Officer Alex Morton.

He wrote: "we are deeply concerned about the announcement on Friday that IQT Incorporated had closed three operation centers in Canada. We prefer to be notified about this sort of substantive development prior to reading about it in the press. While we remain interested in attracting jobs to Tennessee, we will need a much clearer understand of IQT's plans and the commitment  of your clients before we move forward with our discussions."

IQT is a Canadian based company that does technical support for a number of major companies, for devices like cell phones.

Past Stories: July 15: Reports: IQT Solutions Laying Off, Not Paying Workers June 9: 900 New Jobs Coming To Downtown Nashville


Story posted 2011.07.19 at 12:03 PM CDT


© 2004-2011 LSN, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Kenyatta Lovett
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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cool Hunting: Ideas Not Airships

Ideas Not Airships

Hangar Design Group's newest book commemorates 30 years of design brilliance


Italy's heralded multidisciplinary creative agency Hangar Design Group (HDG) recently announced the upcoming release of their book, "As I told you before, Ideas not Airships," to celebrate 30 years of creativity. The lengthy book aims to reveal the intricate narrative between creatives and their unique design process through over 500 pages of inspiring imagery and thought provoking text.

Within seconds of getting our hands on this hefty coffee table book we were enamored with the brilliant graphics and modern mantras of design and creativity. The life of the studio is traced by taking the reader "on an unconventional figurative journey: suggestions, inspirations, memories, faces, places... belonging to anyone devoted to the process of shaping an idea into its full form."

Leading from HDG's first design sketches to the recent Sunset mobile home project—winner of 2011 Compasso d'Oro Award—this retrospective operates as a bound, over-sized mobile inspiration board delivering seemingly endless content.

Keep your eyes open come September to find a copy of "As I told you before, Ideas not Airships," presumably available through the Hangar shop.

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Kenyatta Lovett
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Cool Hunting: Maharam Digital Projects at VitraHaus

Maharam Digital Projects at VitraHaus

Artist-designed digital wallpaper installations bring innovative beauty to interiors


New York interior textile supplier Maharam recently continued its foray into digital design with the newest edition of Maharam Digital Projects opening last month to coincide with Art Basel. The digitally-printed wallpaper patterns are installed at Weil am Rhein, Germany's VitraHaus, where they are on display to the general public throughout the rest of the summer.

VitraHaus, Swiss contemporary furniture company Vitra's stunning Herzog & de Meuron-designed flagship, provides a fitting backdrop for the seven Maharam designs. Spanning all four floors, each UV-resistant wall covering is the product of a different emerging or established artist (Cecilia Edefalk, Jacob Hashimoto, Maira Kalman, Harmen Liemburg, Karel Martens, Sarah Morris and Francesco Simeti) and is expertly styled with Vitra furnishings.

These tableaus show how the collection introduces a more affordable large-scale alternative than artwork or other pricey wall treatments into the home and office. As such, the wallpapers sell onsite at Vitrahaus, as well as through Maharam online.

Each design functions as a self-contained aesthetic while also exemplifying a conceptual reality. "Dutch Clouds" by Karel Martens (above) plays on perspective with a composition of artist-designed symbols which together form an image of the sky over Holland on the day of his grandson's birth.

"Coastal Plants" (above) chronicles a three-year period in which artist Cecelia Edefalk traveled the European seaboard and contains over 200 watercolors expressing her interest in the painted image.

Maira Kalman's "On This Day" (above) shows the illustrator's recordings of modern daily life's quirks and absurdities.

Francesco Simeti mixes hunting decoys and toy birds into his piece "New World" to playfully change up traditional nature-themed wallpaper.

Also on Cool Hunting: CH Editions: Maharam and Nike Sportswear and Maharam

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Kenyatta Lovett
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Cool Hunting: Media Design School

Media Design School

Study with some of the world's best creatives at New Zealand's award-winning design school


Advertorial content:

Given that technological advancements in digital art are progressing by leaps andbounds, it's almost impossible to produce an excellent portfolio by just playingaround on your laptop after work. If you've decided to bite the bullet and get backin the classroom, New Zealand's Media Design School is becoming one of the best places to get a visual arts qualification (undergraduate or graduate-level) in a range of specialists, ranging from interactive advertising, 3D animation and graphic design.

Located in stunning (and outrageously livable Auckland), Media Design School started with a class of30 in 1998. Over the past decade and a half, it's become one of the best places in the world to study creative technologies. Young Guns named Media Design School the fourth most creativeschool in the world over the past decade, a hefty accolade coming from the organizationdevoted to spotting young talent. Graduates have gone on to work with George Lucas'Industrial Light Magic and Microsoft Game Studio, among many others. And New Zealand VFX and post-production powerhouse Weta Digital (owned by Peter Jackson) do their part too–they are the largest employer of Media Design School graduates in New Zealand.

But the best testimonial on behalf of the school is the work of the students themselves.Led by James Cunningham, a 3-D filmmaker whose most recent work premiered at the 2009 Telluride Film Festival, Media Design School students produced "Das Tub." Cunningham directedthe short film, and acclaimed New Zealand screenwriter Nick Ward wrote the screenplay.The film recently won Best Short Short at the Aspen Shortsfest, one of the world's top film festivals, and now qualifies for Oscar consideration—a considerable achievement for a film animated by students, who now have industry connections far and beyond what any of them might have imagined when they started their program.

Students in the 3-D department can also showcase their talents with Media Design School' Real or Render Challenge. Evenseasoned connoisseurs of 3-D will have a difficult time pinpointing the differencesbetween real photographs and student-produced 3-D renderings of household objects.Even an intricately detailed map offers no obvious clues.

All classes take place in Media Design School's beautiful Auckland campus.They're currently accepting applications online, for both domestic New Zealandand international students. For more information on the courses and how to apply,check the Media Design School website.

You can check out the school in this video:

Video Walkthrough - Media Design School from Media Design School on Vimeo.

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Kenyatta Lovett
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