How far to the beach?

If all goes according to plan and you are reading this on Sunday morning we should be in Tokyo, Japan. I am excited, anxious, challenged, stressed, confident and humbled all at once. It is easy for doubt to creep in. We know that we are carrying the hopes and dreams of our region with us. It reminds me a little of sitting in the locker room with my players prior to a State Championship game. They probably felt all of these same emotions. As a coach I always told them, “This is your dream to be here. This is what you have worked for since two a day practices in August. Your entire season has prepared to for this moment. You are ready.” I need to take my own advice. This is what Shale Crescent USA has been working toward since 2016. I will tell you about the trip here when we return.

This past week I had a conversion with a foreign prospect who is interested in locating a manufacturing facility in the USA. We have multiple sites on both sides of the Ohio River that appear to meet their needs. But the gentleman indicated that he was not interested in locating in West Virginia. “What are your concerns about West Virginia?’ I asked. He responded, “Richmond…” I was stunned and hopeful. After I explained that West Virginia is a state with its Capitol at Charleston. He softened. Then I added. “We border Ohio and from West Virginia sites along the Ohio River you can see Ohio.” He understood and was clearly excited when I discussed sites in West Virginia. He wants to know more about them. This is very preliminary but at least we didn’t get eliminated because he thought we were “Western Virginia.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. When I am traveling and tell someone I’m from West Virginia a common response is, “I’ve been to Richmond.” My wife and I were at a conference in Phoenix recently. An entertainer from the main stage sang Country Roads. I was excited until he got to…” Country Roads take me home, to the place I belong, to Virginia Mountain Mamma…” “Are you kidding me.” I thought, and he is from the United States.

This confusion actually worked to my advantage a few years ago. I got a parking ticket in Canada and where it said “State” was written. “Virginia”. Oh well. Lindsey at the Wood County Development Authority said that she has been asked, “How far are you from the beach?” They didn’t mean the banks of the Ohio.

All Americans should know where West Virginia is and that we are a state. They should be ashamed if they are ignorant of that fact. I was ignorant about a lot of facts and geography about Japan until I began studying the country to prepare for our visit. I am ignorant of the specifics of most countries. I know Hamburg is in Germany but don’t know where. We should not expect most foreigners to know where Parkersburg, Marietta or even West Virginia is. We need to tell them. I talked to people who do a lot of foreign travel and they tell me that most foreigners know where California is (Hollywood), Texas (Westerns), New York City and even surprisingly Cleveland. (maybe the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). That is about it.

The reason Shale Crescent USA was formed is to let the world know about our region, The Shale Crescent USA and why companies should bring their business here. We learned that people in the USA and around the world are beginning to understand that the USA is the leading natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs) producer in the world. What they don’t know is where the natural gas and liquids are being produced. They don’t know that almost one-third (33%) of US natural gas production is coming from the Shale Crescent USA. This is up from just 3 percent in 2010. They don’t know that if Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia were a country we would be the number 3 natural gas producer in the world. We produce more natural gas than Texas.

My call last week could be a bigger deal than I first thought. For years we took a back seat to Virginia who was always one of the top five places for business. I managed a business with locations in WV, VA, KY and TN. Virginia was always the most business friendly and easiest to work with. That has changed in the past four years. We now have a businessman telling us that he won’t locate in Virginia. He will locate in West Virginia! The only reason he turned down our sites is because he thought we were part of Virginia.

What this means for those of us trying to bring industry here; (Also true for your business)

We can’t assume that prospects know who we are, where we are and what we are.

It is always important to ask questions and listen effectively. We can’t make assumptions when it comes to people and relationships. This truth changed our Japan presentation. Instead of just using a regional map we now show the Shale Crescent USA relative to a map of the entire country and North America.

In sales “No” doesn’t always mean “No”. It may mean, “I don’t understand.” That is why asking effective questions and listening to the response is so critical to success.

We all know that West Virginia is a state and we know that the Shale Crescent USA has a lot to offer people and businesses. The challenge is to make sure that others know about us. (And that we are not Virginia) We all can tell our story. It is a great one! Thoughts to ponder. Make it a great week.


Greg Kozera is the Director of Marketing for Shale Crescent USA He has over 40 years of experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert with a Masters in Environmental Engineering and the author of four books and numerous published articles.