Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Loudoun Gold Line - Social Media-driven Economic Recovery

It's taken about a week for the energy and enthusiasm of the first "Big Ideas Big Action" (#BIBA) new media forum to sink into the sausage-making cavities of my unconscious, resulting in a far-too-typical 3 AM wake-up call to blog...but the ideas are percolating now as quickly as the coffee at this pre-snowpocalyptic-3 hour, and I'm thinking pink mixed with silver to make gold.

As you may know, the Dulles Metro "Silver Line" is finally now under construction, extending heavy rail service from East Falls Church out to Tysons Corner, Dulles Airport and eventually into Ashburn VA (Loudoun County) by 2016 or so. This significant investment in the region's economy is sure to sustain any long-lasting economic recovery trend that may be developing now, but it's still a ways off (though you might think it was coming a lot sooner from the proliferation of speculative real estate investment already visible along the Toll Road).

As you probably don't know, but should soon, the "Pink Line Project" is the wholesale revitalization of the DC art scene, a "catalyst for the culturally curious" - started by a BIBA guest speaker Philippa P.B. Hughes. Started as a series of local art "salons", the effort is now the trend-setting source of information and events for emerging art collectors, art enthusiasts and artists. What's also relevant here is the extensive use of DC social media channels to collect, relay and discuss Pink Line happenings.

This emerging theme of regional business and cultural revitalization on the heels of a lousy economy and global-warming induced weather patterns, lubricated by a rapidly-maturing social media ecology, is taking shape even here in Loudoun - at the very ends of the Silver and Pink Lines, and far afield from the "H Street Project". I'll borrow apologetically but thoughtfully from Philippa, and call this the "Gold Line Project".

What's happening is the awakening and convergence of business and cultural leaders in person and online to collectively share and leverage new media assets, in a long-overdue effort to seriously promote Loudoun County as prime investment material...in other words, bring your business, your organization, your family and your dollars (i.e. "heads in beds") here to the end of the Silver Line, but no need to wait for the train. This is taking shape (informally in concert with our grass roots "Made in Loudoun" online awareness campaign) as the Economic Development Commission's new "Loudoun Social Media Subcommittee".

Created in 1995 by Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors, the Economic Development Commission (EDC) is a public/private partnership responsible for promoting the county’s economic development. Its membership includes a wide range of local business and community leaders, volunteering their time on committees such as the "Marketing and Business Retention Committee" (MBRC) to, among other things, help "coordinate economic development and marketing activities among groups in the county". Its association with the Loudoun government, through the Department of Economic Development, is a different structure than that of the comparable institution to our east, the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (i.e. EDA, which is a fully non-governmental institution).

Lately there's been a lot of discussion regarding whether Loudoun should move from the EDC to EDA structure to help attract businesses to the County, enabling infusion of private-sector funds and operation with an incentive-based pay-structure, outside of the control of the BOS. Regardless of the outcome, it's apparent that some change is necessary in these entities, and closer coordination with the parallel activities of the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce and Loudoun Convention & Visitors Association.

Change in fact, is evolving quickly beyond the Silver Line - to the Gold Line - with the EDA's submersion of its constituents and stakeholders into the local and regional social media ecology. If you'd like to participate in this "project", helping bring investment and economic recovery to our pre-Silver Line Loudoun (and eventually perhaps an exurbia extension of the Pink Line) - get involved. Join the LinkedIn "Loudoun" group. Follow and support Loudoun DED-related activities and initiatives. Use your own new media assets and online business networking skills to promote the County and its wealth of cultural and community assets.

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