Program Reports

The program write ups as they appear in the meeting bulletins.

Program Write-up Joystick Labs – Video Gaming Industry

 Video Gaming has come a long way since Atari was launched in the 1970s and later when the industry began migrating from video arcades to home computers—remember the Commodore and Tandy computers.  A guy named Steve Jobs was selling Apple computers out of his parents’ garage.  I’ll bet many Santa Clauses in this club remember scrambling in the next decade to find copies of  Frogger, Pac-Man, and Space Invaders to put under Christmas trees and in stockings.

Development of video games has become big business, bigger even than the movie industry.  Gaming is something on the order of $30 billion a year.  Silicon Valley leads the pack but the Triangle area has emerged as one of the top ten areas—with 30 video game studios and companies—ranking somewhere around fifth or sixth in the country.

Joystick Labs, located in the American Tobacco facilities, plays an important role mentoring and fostering emerging video game developers who have great ideas but little business experience and no money.  Joystick’s Managing Director John Austin and co-founder Glen Caplan gave us a fascinating overview of their operation and the video game industry.  For most of us, their presentation was something of an eye-opener.  They were not preaching to the choir.  A show of hands revealed few video gamers in our midst except of course for a small number of younger, more “with it” members.  However, a later show of hands revealed that many club members reticent to admit game playing confessed to being avid fans of  “Angry Birds,” a game ap on their Iphones. [Read more…]

Program write-up – Open World Program: Visitors from Sister City Kostroma

Open World Program Kostromo GuestsThe U. S. Congress chartered the Open World Program in 1999 as a pilot program to invite leaders from the former Soviet Union to visit the United States as an introduction to our version of democracy and free enterprise.  Beginning in 2011 the program began focusing on leaders younger than 36.  Open World pairs these visitors with local organizations such as sister city programs, Rotary clubs, colleges, local government agencies and other non-profit groups.  Durham is one of sixty or so communities across the United States that have hosted about 18,000 participants over the years. [Read more…]

Program Review – Morris Ridge Update

Scherich Jernigan and MedlinWhen Jack Wiggen had to miss the meeting Seth Jernigan stepped in and introduced Bryan Scherich and Drew Medlin who together run Measurement Durham, LLC the real estate arm ofDurham’s own Measurement Inc. They joined us to provide an update on Morris Ridge, an urban mixed use development just north of the Civic CenteronMorris Street. Measurement Inc. is the highly successful firm begun by Bryan’s father Hank Scherich that provides achievement tests and scoring services for state governments, other testing companies, and various organizations. MI evolved from a consultancy originally focusing on writing to become an important player in the field of education.

Both Bryan Scherich and Mr. Medlin grew up in Durham and besides their responsibilities in the company are active in the community. Mr. Scherich is on the board of the Durham Lions Club and Durham Central Park, the latter in close proximity to the Morris Ridge development. Mr. Medlin is a board member of Preservation Durham, Downtown Durham, Inc., the Furman University Alumni Association and is an active member of the Urban Land Institute. [Read more…]

Matt Dees from Durham Magazine

President Arthur introduced the Matt Dees the editor of Durham Magazine and a potential member. Mr. Dees had a little bit of a hard time describing how the 13,000 mailed copies that are published every other month are distributed. I’m not surprised because I get a copy in my mailbox maybe once or twice a year and no more, which is not frequently enough for me to miss it. I suspect it is because the neighborhood I live in might be just under the line from the demographics that lifestyle magazines hope to attract for their advertisers. And yes, I’m a little bit of a low-brow snob whose favorite beverage is PBR and who doesn’t aspire much to a more glamorous lifestyle.

Mr. Dees confessed that his prepared remarks were brief and he was true to his word. Nevertheless, it was an interesting peek into what must go on behind the scenes to get a niche magazine like this out the door every couple of months.
He talked about the difficulty of straddling the line between being positive but not fluff. He described the difference between their Chapel Hill magazine and theDurhammagazine in an interesting way.Chapel Hillseemed to embrace their magazine as an “entitlement” as in “of course we’re a fabulous wine and cheese community.” Durham on the other hand conveyed an attitude of gratitude, like a poor kid invited to the country club party.

He described the content they sought to produce forDurhamas aspirational. Food and restaurant coverage is a big deal as you might expect. As a Realtor I was interested that a regular feature is “Great Homes inDurham.”Durhamtruly does have some great homes and they could use the publicity because the market for them has been dead here for at least 5 years. He also described how they constantly debated taking a more in-depth look at controversial topics and didn’t want to get caught with their head in the sand. He also described how they like to get pictures and the names of people in the magazine obviously because everybody likes to see their names in print, especially as part of a hip crowd. [Read more…]

Program – Mixed Use in Durham

Some of the best programs that we have had in the last several years of excellent programs are those that give us a peek into what other people do for a living, what problems the have to solve, what obstacles are in their way and what makes them toss and turn at night.

Rotarian Rob Everett introduced and then wrapped up one of those presentations on Monday. The topic was mixed-use development inDurhamand he was accompanied by Patrick Young of the City/County Planning Department and Dan Jewell, an activist for progressive planning and landscape architect with offices in Downtown Durham, our most visible mixed use triumph.

What this team was doing was campaigning for revisions toDurham’s current mixed use rules.Durhampioneered mixed use in the state in 1996 and improved the tiers in 2006. There are a number of proposed changes that are currently under review by the City/County Planning staff. Mr. Young pointed out that the issues involve appropriate location, the range of uses, parking and overall density.

Mr. Jewell and Mr. Everett then provided a little history of Erwin Terrace, the mixed use development acrossErwin Roadfrom Duke atLaSalle St. This is on property that has been in theEverettfamily for generations. Two of the five planned buildings have been completed and are occupied. The very popular Nosh restaurant and several other eateries are in one and I can attest through experience that parking can be a problem in this kind of development. However, the longer range plans include a parking deck and two additional buildings await a better economic and financing climate. The fifth building is unlikely to be built because of watershed concerns at the back to the development’s site.

Although there are certainly folks that resist the impulse to continually modify and control what gets built and what doesn’t though zoning, the lack of zoning almost guarantees ugly. I chose not to move toDallas thirty some years ago because nice homes were often built literally across the street from chain-linked industrial buildings. [Read more…]

Diane Daniel – Farm Fresh North Carolina

I had the privilege of introducing Diane Daniel for her presentation on Farm Fresh North Carolina which is also the title of her book. This also put me at the “President’s Table” near the podium. Sitting at the front always make me feel like one of those eager beavers in a class room.  I felt even more this way when Diane asked if anyone recognized the animals in one of her early slides and my hand shot up and I shouted out “alpacas!” This was not because I’d already heavily sampled her very interesting book but because my brother inNorthern Virginiahas recently acquired 3 alpacas. Last spring I spent an interesting Saturday with him at a farm wrestled 75 alpacas to the ground to be sheared.

Diane’s book is essentially a travel book and she put over 23,000 miles on her Honda visiting all the farms that she describes in the book. But what I found really interesting about the book were the stories of the people on these working farms that also open their doors to curious tourists eager to learn something about their state.  It’s also a little subversive.  The client of mine whose urban agriculture project I described in my introduction, dismissed me good naturedly as “too set in my ways” to embrace this trend that encompasses concepts of “slow food,” “sustainable farming,” “urban agriculture,” “community supported agriculture” and “farm to table.”  He’s probably right, but Diane’s book reinforces a new impulse to seek out and enjoy fresh organic fruits, vegetables, dairy products and even meat. [Read more…]