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Posts tagged ‘innovation’

St. Pete’s GREEN tint

Do you know all about the GREEN efforts in St. Petersburg, Florida?

Recently, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster along with the St. Petersburg City Council have been hosting public budget summits to offer the community an opportunity to speak up on what they consider top priorities to help address the city’s budget deficit. Overwhelmingly, people have expressed that they would prefer to pay more versus having services cut in the city—though they also would like some assurance that the city is using its funding as efficiently as possible in the process.

To this end, several community members expressed that they think the city needs to have a stronger focus on “going green” to not only help the environment but also to help cut energy costs for the city. Foster quickly interjected that St. Petersburg has many green initiatives; that the city has accomplished a lot with plans to do more.

And, on May 29th, the city held a ribbon cutting ceremony at The Coliseum (one of 21 city facilities) to recognize the successful completion of the city’s most recent green energy-saving investments.

New solar panels for water heater systems, HVAC systems, chiller plant replacements, and lighting retrofits were installed at the Coliseum and City Hall. It is reported that these green changes will save $22,117 annually in energy costs.

The May 29th ceremony was an opportunity for the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County officials, along with representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy and local contractors to gather, recognizing the completion of projects valued at $2.38 million.

The funding source for the energy saving projects, which began in 2010, was the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG), administered by the U.S. Department of Energy and available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 

The City of St. Petersburg reports that over the years, the city has partnered with more than 25 local contractors, small businesses, nonprofit organizations and professional consultants to complete the city’s list of green initiative projects. Some of these projects include:

  • Jordan School renovation
  • Water Resources Administration building
  • LED Traffic Signal conversions
  • USF-SP and Progress Energy solar energy system
  • 13 Fire Station upgrades
  • Hybrid fleet and E-Z GO utility vehicles
  • 2,300 acres of public parks system
  • Water Conservation efforts
  • Earth-Friendly Recycling program
  • 10 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations installed downtown

As Florida’s first green city, St. Petersburg continues to be a pioneer in its commitment to living green. In 2007, the city received its green designation and in 2008, the city adopted an Executive Order to focus on specific program areas, including:

  • Reporting of financial and emission reductions
  • Meeting LEED standards for large new construction or renovation projects undertaken by the city
  • Using alternative fuels
  • Converting street lighting system to more energy efficient systems
  • Developing and implementing a prototype solar project

More information on St. Petersburg’s green initiative can be found at: www.stpete.org/green.

 

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Pinellas County presents the “Learn and Succeed Network”–New focus on education from cradle to career

Link to full article here: http://saintpetersblog.com/2012/01/pinellas-county-prioritizes-education-from-cradle-to-career-learn-and-succeed-network/

Education from cradle to career: Learn and Succeed Network

I was invited by the JWB Children’s Services Council of Pinellas County and the Health and Human Services Coordinating Council for Pinellas to conduct a one-on-one interview with David Lawrence. Who is David Lawrence? He is the former publisher of the Miami Herald and head of The Children’s Movement of Florida. When I sat down with Lawrence, he began to interview me at once. He wasn’t subtle about it, and I didn’t resist. I was intregued–having been with myself my whole life, I’ve never found myself to be very interesting. I’m curious when others do.

Anyway, the few questions I did present to Lawrence ended with me being extended an invitation to attend a small, invitation only meeting–a gathering of some very influential leaders in Pinellas County spanning nonprofit, government and business sectors. It was here that I learned a little about the formation of the Health and Human Services Coordination Council’s establishment of Learn and Succeed Network, but more why the formation of this Network is of critical importance to our community.

From the article:

Lawrence has researched and stays up-to-date on many compelling facts to make his case for children in Florida. He reported alarming facts about the state of education right now. These facts illustrated enormous need in that 28 percent of third graders cannot read proficiently, and 3/5 of eighth graders are not reading at grade level. About 80 percent of childcare is nothing more than storage and warehousing with little to no education and learning taking place. When 90 percent of a child’s brain growth ends at the age of five, it is clear that early learning is critical to the future success of our county and its children.

Lawrence also is a man of intriguing etiquette, fully knowledgeable on Pinellas County statistics as well. He knew his audience. He went on to discuss some of the strengths that Pinellas County has, which can be leveraged to make an impactful change for this initiative, including diminishing unemployment, a manageable population growth rate, higher than most Florida counties’ per capita income, strong foundation and infrastructure.

Lawrence also mentioned that Pinellas County has in its midst a pioneer for children’s services—the JWB Children’s Services Council of Pinellas—which was the first children’s services council in Florida. JWB has served as a model for the other 10 children’s services councils in the State.

Yet, while Pinellas County has many strengths, one overarching concern that commonly plagues discussions about education is finances. The cost of reform and new initiatives is a marked concern across the nation, state and even locally.

Recently, Governor Rick Scott allocated an additional $1 billion to education for the State. At first glance, that may seem like a helpful move, but it isn’t. In February of last year, Governor Scott cut Florida’s education budget by $1.3 billion. Now that $1 billion has been added back, the State is still $300 million behind while the State has approximately 30,000 additional students to serve. Additionally, as property taxes support schools, and as property is valued far less than it was two years ago, this is even more revenue subtracted from education.

While this does sound dismal, hope rests in the fact that Pinellas County considers education and children a priority. Lawrence said, “It is not that [we] lack resources. The resources need to be reallocated to reflect the priorities of the people.” Lawrence stresses that for education reform to really be effective there cannot be a focus on “those kids—the disadvantaged ones, the minorities, the ones living in poverty. The focus must be on equality—equal access to high quality education, resources and opportunities of all children.”

One sixth of our schoolchildren are living in poverty and about 50 percent qualify for free or reduced lunches. Many of these same children come to school with more base problems that trump the need for reading, writing and math today such as food insecurity, homelessness, neglect, etc. Schools must then divert its role away from education to managing social problems and triaging issues.

In the end, all of this knowledge needs to translate to change. And this is what the Learn and Succeed Network is hoping to accomplish. The biggest return on investment is in early childhood development. This knowledge is echoed even through St. Petersburg College President William Law. Dr. Law states that even St. Petersburg College is examining pre-kindergarten and elementary school as an initiative, because it is the foundation of all education. Beyond this, career training, apprenticeships and diploma programs are being examined to provide greater employment opportunities to provide a smoother transition from education into careers.

As for the Learn and Succeed Network, it is currently under rapid development. I was invited by the JWB Children’s Services Council of Pinellas and the Health and Human Services Coordinating Council to interview David Lawrence and to learn about the emerging Learn and Succeed Network. I ended up attending a meeting with a select group of rather powerful individuals comprised of local leaders and business persons in Pinellas County. These individuals have been asked to consider participating with this new Network due to the wide breadth of pertinent knowledge and resources that could help ensure the Network’s success.

As a native to Pinellas County and a graduate of Pinellas County Schools, I for one am grateful for these efforts, and I hope for much success as the Learn and Succeed Network forms and begins its important work. On February 8, 2012, the first official activity of the Learn and Succeed Network will take place at the St. Petersburg College, Seminole Campus. This event will focus on creating a common agenda through identifying key goals and measures. Additionally, workgroups will begin developing strategies to achieve these goals. This is an open event and registration is required through the Health and Human Services Coordinating Council here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LearnandSucceedPlanning2012.

Communicate Vision: 7 Steps

If you want to stay ahead of the game, let your public know that your eye is on innovation and change. What is your vision? No, I am not speaking of a vision statement here–what you or your company would like the world to look like in some utopia. I’m talking about what you or your company is doing today to create change by being innovative. What do you and your public want? Make them understand that you not only both want the same things, but that you and your company are 100% committed to getting what you want, together. Here are some strategies to make that happen:

  1. Ask your public what they want. No, really. Ask them. Conduct focus groups, send out surveys, conduct social networking polls and discussions, get a buzz started and engage in conversations. Know your public well, develop relationships with them and find out exactly what they want. Hint: It may not be exactly what they say they want, but by knowing them you’ll learn things about them that will reveal a lot about their true vision to you. The purpose here is not just to get people to say what’s on their mind but to get them to say the things they don’t want to say, to tell you things they don’t know they know and to help you and your business reveal trends and needs that isn’t the most obvious. This can help you change a product or service in just the right way that you’re called genius, an innovator and intuitive. In fact, you will be,
  2. Listen. Yes, do listen to your public and also listen to your competitors, partners, colleagues, employees/staff, etc. Listen with a critical ear. Weed out the insults and compliments and hear solutions and opportunities for change. If you’ve always done things a certain way, don’t hesitate to examine if “that way” is really the best effective way now, today, responsive to current needs and goals. Listen to the people around you and welcome suggestions and resolutions. Discourage negativity that isn’t overwhelmingly overshadowed with solutions and forward-thinking.
  3. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. Make those changes happen. Begin aligning your products and services to be responsive to what your public wants and needs. Make your vision and their vision not only a shared vision but a shared reality. Develop strategic plans, product plans and service delivery plans that answer the new vision you’ve discovered. Document how each change is responsive to the new vision and determine how you will measure this effectiveness.
  4. Pilot. If possible, try a pilot release, and measure its effectiveness against a control group of the old way of doing things. Use diverse demographics or contain it among a specific target market, but keep it manageable so that you can examine the modifications and determine if they truly are effective or if aspects can still be tweaked to increase effectiveness. If changes are needed, make them and measure again. The quicker you roll through this process, the stronger your business will be. Learning to be flexible is key here and will benefit any business in the long-run.
  5. Wide release. Let it go. Send your vision out to your public, and let them know that it is of them and for them. That while these changes are based on their feedback and ideas, you are still open to continued innovation and want to know more about their wants, needs and vision. That you are committed to being responsive to them for as long as you are in business.
  6. Communicate. Not market. Use platforms that will allow you to engage in two-way conversations. You can buy ads and organize publicity, but most important is customer service and interaction. Make certain that every human representing your company is on the same page, communicating the same messages and collecting information towards progressive change. Bring your clients and customers into your communications strategy, demonstrating that your method of communication is one-on-one. No matter how small or large your business is, you not only make time for your customers and clients, you are in business for your customers and clients and they know it.
  7. Do it. Communicate by doing. Make sure your messages and actions are mirror images of one another. Your public will pay more attention to what you do than what you say, but if you can avoid contradictions between the two, ultimately you will arrive at trust. Trust that your business and your public share the same vision. Trust is priceless.

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