I'm a creative generalist who has the honor of working as the Executive Director of the Economic Development Alliance of Lincoln County.
In the past 25+ years, I’ve worked as an entrepreneur, economic developer, writer, teacher, software developer, computer game designer, concert promoter, musician and creativity trainer.
Let's see what we can build together!
Newport, OR USA
Economic development, Entrepreneurship training, Strategic planning, Business plan writing (narrative and financials), Team management.
Writing (technical, nonfiction, fiction, grant, web, speech), Public presentation and speaking, Classroom instruction, Marketing, Research.
Game design (computer and board), Creativity training, Event and concert planning, Project design, Digital art (Pixelmator, Procreate), Video creation, Blues guitar, Cooking.
One of our key strategic initiatives in Iron County was to grow our tourism industry. We had the outdoor recreation assets, but marketing outside of the region was spotty and unprofessional. Our first effort was to dust off a borrowed ten-year-old trade show display and head for an outdoor recreation trade show in Milwaukee in early 2018. While we made a decent showing, the real magic of the show was studying the other location vendors. What was working? What wasn’t? How could we up our game? After that show, we developed a plan - it became a three year county-wide tourism marketing plan. We focused on professional printed materials (Visitors Guide and brochures), all created in-house. We linked those printed materials to our newly redesigned website at iron.org via QR codes. Then we created an amazing trade show booth - and worked on our presentation skills - human interaction, quality video, interest-specific slideshows on an iPad. In 2019, we hit shows in Chicago and also the world’s largest paddling expo called Canoecopia. Our floor presence was top shelf - one of the best of the shows - and we took folks from discovering Iron County to making the decision to visit, making the 2019 summer tourism season the best we’ve ever seen.
When I started working for the ICECA in Iron County, Michigan (in the beautiful Upper Peninsula), I realized that job one was creating a plan. Six months of research later, and we had a five-year strategic plan towards economic vitality. From that came the realization that tourism, specifically, outdoor recreation tourism, was an essential aspect of our work. That lead to a three year, county-wide plan focusing on tourism marketing. That research made me realize that our digital image needed refinement - we needed to add both professionalism and fun into our online presence and marketing materials. That lead to a wholesale redesign of our annual Visitors Guide (and website at iron.org) as well as the creation of a series of memorable "Live, Work, Play" badges focusing on the recreation and professional opportunities in Iron County. And boy do those badges (printed as stickers) fly out the door at the trade shows we attend!
In 2015, we learned about the national competition hosted by Frontier Communications, Dish Network, CoBank and the Weather Channel. I sharpened my pencil and told the story of Monmouth. The contest was judged by a team of nationally-recognized economic developers, and in May of 2015, we were named one of the 50 national quarterfinalists - and one of only three communities named in the State of Illinois.
In 2014, the State of Illinois threw a wrench on one of our few powerful economic development tools: our Enterprise Zone. All expiring zones would no longer be allowed to be extended. Instead, it was to be a free-for-all competition for just 49 new EZs in the State that would be activated on January 1, 2016. And this time, instead of just downstate communities applying, the competition was now open to the affluent suburbs of Chicago. Communities hired consultants left and right - we decided to go it alone. I drafted our application (150+ pages of narrative and planning) and worked with our City Administrator and Mayor to get all taxing bodies on board. And on December 17, 2015, the Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced that we were recipients of one of the 49 prized new Enterprise Zones. Our grassroots effort trumped the consultants.
When I took the economic development job in Monmouth, I knew a large focus of my efforts would be on retail entrepreneurship downtown. I had business experience, but not retail experience, and I felt like I needed a laboratory to explore real world data. My wife, Susan, was interested in starting a new business, so we decided that a retail wine shop in downtown Monmouth was the perfect fit: bottled wine, wine by the glass and gifts - hitting all areas of retail. Market Alley Wines (marketalleywines.com) opened in 2011 to an astonished community - they had never seen such a beautiful shop in a small farm town. Now, eight years later, Market Alley Wines is still a fixture in the community (my wife sold the business in 2017) - a “third place” for friends across all economic and educational levels come together to talk, laugh and enjoy the ritual of fine wine. And along the way, I had access to priceless real-world data on how retail works in Monmouth, and we’ve used that data to help new businesses start, grow and thrive.
In 2012, Western Illinois University economist John Gruidl and I began to explore the potential of a community development teaching game. We’d both worked with teaching games (often called “serious games”) for several years, and found that the ones that focused on economic and community development often had rather obvious biases in their message. What we wanted was an open game that simulated genuine community-level decision making and strategic thinking.
In early 2013, we had our conceptual breakthrough and Up and Out: the Community Development Game was born. In the years that followed, we developed a hybrid board and web-based game experience that simulated multiple communities trying to grow within a county. The game was featured at several Midwest Community Development Institutes, as part of the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (run by the University of Kentucky) and was adopted by Southeastern Missouri State University’s Extension program.
Anyone who knows me knows I love the blues - both old-school Depression-era blues (which I love to play!) and new innovative blues. In 2007, I created the Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival that brought world class blues acts to our little corner of the cornfields (in the historic old Rivoli Theatre). Throughout the years, the festival has brought in over 28 amazing acts - including both the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the legendary Bobby Rush - both right before they each won a grammy.
Over the years, I've done a lot of writing - both fiction and technical. When I started Magic Lantern Playware (my game development company), we bootstrapped that company by writing strategy guides on how to play the latest games (back then, titles like Quake 2, Dungeon Keeper 2, Septerra Core and Star Wars Episode One Racer, to name a few).
As I became a more experienced software developer, I started writing more technical books, including Game Development with Lua (with my then-technical director Mark Manyen) and Game Design: a Practical Approach.
I've been lucky that my technical books are still selling (it's a small royalty check each quarter, but folks are still buying them!), and they've been adopted as text books at several colleges. The two books mentioned above have also been translated into Portuguese, Korean and Chinese.
I tend to lean towards crazy, audacious ideas and then try to make them a reality. So far, it's worked pretty well. A case in point is Monmouth's BaconFest (I bet you didn't know that Monmouth, IL is the bacon capital of the world? Yes, more bacon is produced there than anywhere else).
I brought together a team of volunteers, we raised some cash and hosted an amazing bacon party featuring food vendors crafting insane bacon treats (Bacon cupcakes? Bacon apple pie? A bacon-wrapped turducken? Take my money!), a bacon eating contest (shown at right) and some killer bands - and sure enough - thousands descended on our town Square to pay homage to that delicious porky treat! The event is now on its fifth year and going strong.
One of the coolest projects we got to do at Magic Lantern Playware (it was really the gig that launched our company) was to develop Covert Ops for Red Storm Entertainment. It was the third Rainbow Six title and the premise was simple: what if you were already a member of the Rainbow Six team - what would you need to learn to become the commander?
This title was heavy on infotainment - it had tactical missions, but you also got to learn all about weapons, terrorism and counter-terrorism. At the time, our included background material was one of the largest repositories of counter-terrorist info anywhere. And we got to meet Tom Clancy. At his house. He showed up in shorts (way too short shorts!). And we drank a bottle of scotch together (Tom, myself and our head writer Pete). He even ignored a call from Orin Hatch as we drank!
Several years back, we had a crazy idea: to take our Magic Lantern game engine (J5 - named after the Jackson 5) and use it to teach kids how to code games. We partnered with the local Extension folks and set up a 48-hour code-a-thon for high school kids. It was insane! The kids just mainlined Mountain Dew and donuts and I was a shambling wreck after 40+ hours and 20,000 questions about why this or that didn't work.
Oversee economic development for Lincoln County, OR, located on the Central Oregon Coast. Developing county-wide strategic plan focusing on multiple key pillars of economic development. Building partnerships and collaborative teams to enhance the economic vitality of the region. Entrepreneurial ecosystem building. Grant writing and grant management. Manage relationships with members and stakeholder governmental entities. Manage staff, report to board of directors.
Oversee economic development and Chamber of Commerce for Iron County, MI, located in the western Upper Peninsula. Developing county-wide strategic plan focusing on business development, tourism, in-migration, education and asset development. Creating county-wide comprehensive tourism marketing plan. Manage staff, report to board of trustees and also oversee management of 32-site RV campground. Entrepreneurial mentoring and business coaching. Design and management of county-wide website focused on tourism marketing, Chamber services and economic development. Grant writing and grant management. Develop and implement an annual county-wide economic summit. Write monthly column educating community on economic development. Manage relationships with thirteen stakeholder governmental entities.
Manage economic development and community development for entire city. Oversee zoning department. In charge of downtown revitalization and downtown strategic planning. Entrepreneurial mentoring and business coaching. Design, coding and operation of all city websites. Creation and maintenance of City’s custom web applications including property and business databases, commercial and rental inspection system and building permit system. Completed the IEDC Basic Economic Development Course in 2011.
Technical director (and programmer) for The Breakthrough Foundry - a bootstrap company developing an online project management and collaboration solution for professional creatives. Designed software, developed initial application, managed programming team in Nepal, managed Monmouth College students in programming fellowship program for BTF. Awarded provisional patent for online collaborative team project management.
Initial technical director and programmer for Grow Your Yields (which has since become the Farmers Business Network). Designed initial web portal for farmer data input. Managed team of three independent contractor programmers. Position was contract-based.
Manager and programmer in the Office of Creative Software Development. Managed in-house team of four and coordinated with campus-based teams. Development of Going Solo (and online business simulation), Generic Curriculum Widget (a collaborative textbook authoring system), MarketMaker (a national platform to facilitate the farm-to-plate economy) and GameSmart (a tool to teach game development and programming to kids grades 6 through high school). Delivered programs and curriculum on entrepreneurship, writing, game development, physics and creativity.
Worked with the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs (through a USDA grant) to develop BasicSite, a custom PHP/MySQL Content Management System to develop websites for rural municipalities, Chambers of Commerce and economic development organizations. Developed and launched (and trained staff for maintenance) over 25 websites using BasicSite.
Producer, manager and programmer on 20+ software titles released by Red Storm, Infogrames and eGames. Over a million units sold-through. Developed the third Rainbow Six title and the two official Survivor games (based on the reality TV show). Managed two offices (Monmouth and Dallas) and team of 17.
Project leader, designer, writer and script programmer for the Prey project. Managed team of twelve developers. Earned “game of the year” awards at E3 in 1997 and 1998.
Lead designer for MechWarrior 3 game project until company was acquired by Microsoft.
Wrote weekly columns for local newspaper, reviews and features for Compute, Omni and other publications, technical books for CNET, Prima, Sybex and Charles River Media. Over 200+ published articles, 10+ published books.
Wrote monthly “Hex, Bugs and Rock ‘n Roll” column for national magazine, ad-hoc editing and management tasks, traveling special feature reporter.
Directed student workers on newspaper, creative arts magazine and yearbook. Managed budgets, printing logistics and technology. Managed both paid and volunteer workers. Taught journalism, multimedia and creative writing classes.
Assisted with writing, layout and production of alumni magazine as well as the weekly faculty newsletter, photography and press release writing.
Teaching assistant to Fred Chappell in the Department of English, lectured, developed tests, graded tests and papers.
Graduate assistantship. Responsible for proofing and review of faculty grant applications, data entry and grant progress tracking.
Studied under Fred Chappell and served as his teaching assistant. Studied science fiction writing, screen writing, the literature of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Mesoamerican archeology. Worked in office of Research Services for assistantship. Thesis was the novel "Abacus" (the first few chapters published in Aboriginal Science Fiction).
English major with focus on science fiction literature and creative writing. Also studied high-fire ceramics and middle-eastern architecture. Served as assistant editor to College of Fine Arts alumni magazine.
2012 - Western Illinois University ACET Distinguished Speaker Award
2010 - USDA - NIFA Partnership award
2006 - National Association of Development Organizations Web Innovation Award
2006 - Illinois Development Council Business Partnership Award
2004 - Monmouth Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year
2002 - Governor’s Entrepreneurial Success Award
References and full CV available upon request.