The Blue Unicorn

An economic developer does not always get to choose his projects sometimes they choose him. It makes for interesting encounters at times. Having worked both rural and urban environments I would opine that the chief distinction is that urban typically has more infrastructure to support more sophisticated projects so the players are often more sophisticated. As with all cross sections of life there are good and bad guys coexisting in development at the same time (sometimes together) so what appears to be reality can sometimes be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The successful practitioner soon develops a sixth sense on what is real and what is BS, and uses that to protect against false steps. It’s amazing how closely the blogging world resembles that analogy. (Perhaps)

I remember once about 15 years ago I had a couple of guys drive up in a Limo and ask for some time. So I listened to their proposal for my small county. It was a movie about a blue unicorn. And the story line was “so great” that it would become an American Icon and they would then develop a theme park to rival Disney. Sounded a little far fetched, especially since their suits looked like they came from the Salvation Army Store. I checked out the Limo and it was rented from my chairman who ran an auto dealership. He made them pay cash for the rental for 2 hours and only put a quarter tank of gas in it. I asked them for a business plan and they didn’t have one. So I asked for a copy of the script and they said it was almost finished. So I suggested they come back with both of those before I assembled potential investment partners or State sources of grants. Turned out that they had just been released from prison where they had taken a business entrepreneurial course and they were applying what they had learned. Like most crooks though they were lazy and didn’t work the scam hard enough. Their plan was to generate verbal support and run a pyramid scheme on that.

The thought occurred to me recently how closely certain bloggers resemble that pair. It really wouldn’t be hard to sit in prison or in a public library and invent all kinds of extraordinary daily adventures AKA Walter Mitty. Most everything can be vague enough to be documented via the internet and appear to be legit. It is especially effective when a pair is working the con. Personally I have found the busier I get the less time I have for blogging so I am always a little bit skeptical when globe trotters have oodles of time to document their exploits. Name dropping is another red flag; it frequently denotes a strong lack of confidence and satiates an ever growing narcissistic need for false envy.

Really clever folk will target their vics through analyzing their on line persona and supplying a sympathetic profile that attracts the protective instincts. I suppose there is nothing really illegal with that part of the deal as long as one can see through the veneer and not get burnt too badly.

The old adage is frequently correct, “if it looks to good to be true it probably isn’t.”

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9 Responses

  1. Very interesting and astute.

  2. Thought you might appreciate the Blue Unicorn story. Those kinds of cons are easier today with the power of the internet. You know, one can just pick an area and google pics, addresses, websites and human interest stories galore. Heck I bet I could convince anyone that I lived anywhere in the world and was just back from a multinational trip without breaking a sweat.

  3. Unfortunately, rural areas in general, and especially in this economy, are so desperate for “economic development” that they’ll take just about anyone up on an offer. Plus, they often lack sophistication to sniff out “too good to be true” promises.

    My office provides infrastructure funding for certain types of economic development projects. We make them produce all sorts of documentation as to their legitimacy. No money without financials, if existing and expanding, pro formas, business plan, proof of site control, etc.

    They also sign a legal document that will do X, Y and Z, including a specific number of jobs. If we’re at all concerned about ability to deliver, there’s a “payback” clause and maybe even an escrow account.

    Most of our projects involve national firms that we know will come through: Dollar General, Wal-Mart, etc. Right now the private prisons are our major projects. We’re involved with the big Geo prison in Milton, another one in Graceville and a juvenile facility in Graceville.

  4. Very familiar with the Private Prison scenario, worked a project for about 20 months and then got what we really wanted from Harry Singleton…….State jobs/benefits and a secure prison population to keep it going.

    Most of my experience was in the Urban environment focused on High Tech job growth.

    I have heard many position themselves as something they are not. It’s not all economic development either.

    One interesting experience involved an online gaming scam of hearts. Guy had NEVER been beaten. After about 30 minutes I figured out why when they wouldn’t deal when I made the table. My ranking was too low for them to advance with. It became obvious that 3 of the 4 had other online communication so that they knew for certain what the 4th player held.

    Blogging is interesting unless it becomes sinister then it’s just boring and perhaps hazardous.

  5. > online gaming scam of hearts

    There was no money in this, right? Just the “prestige” of advancing? I’m incredulous that these folks would go to the trouble.

    That “online communication” issue is why I don’t play online single table tournaments with more than $5 buy-in. The winner only gets $22.50, which is pretty low to cheat for. The cheaters will focus on those higher buy-ins since the take is larger.

    Besides, I’m playing more for the “fun” than the money. Even a 50-cent buy-in screens out the drunk teens just goofing off.

  6. pt, while I see your point, I’m sure the bloggers you speak of, in this case, are real people. Of course, so were your Blue Unicorn “producers”. That doesn’t preclude the existence of a “con”, but the only payoff would be psychological rather than financial. As Steve says, why would they bother? But it’s often hard to fathom the motivations of people you don’t know.

  7. “As Steve says, why would they bother?” I believe that comment was directed to the hearts players scam and it illustrates my point. I don’t know with certainty why they did it, as there was no money in it, but I do know they did it.

    All I’m saying is that my sixth sense is up here. I have no idea what the motivation is, and don’t really care, I have enough real world challenges of my own to deal with. One of the things I did in my career was raise funds for my organization. ie I sat on top of buildings and talked to CEO’s in their corner offices. It was a really fun couple of years talking to them. Gave me a feel for what successful people are really like. Something is outta whack here is all I’m saying. (Thats highly technical analysis for fucked up as Hogan’s goat).

  8. I’m going to have to look up Hogan’s goat…): Outta whack though is without a doubt.

  9. In 1855 a European goat farmer named Hogan raised a particularly disgusting goat, which became famous for being the most horrific smelling and ugly creature to wander the fields. It is legend that his scent could be detected from over a kilometer away. The insult was popular in WW II along with FUBAR.

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