Victory by Association: Episode 5 | Jeff Murison

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Jeff Murison

Jeff Murison currently serves as the Executive Director of the Hillsborough Street Community Service Corporation, a three-mile long Municipal Service District in Raleigh, NC, adjacent to NC State University. He also serves as Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Corridor Alliance, a new 9 square mile economic development corporation in west Raleigh that is considering becoming a MSD in the near future.

Victory by Association: Episode 5 | Jeff Murison 

JT: Well hello everyone, I’m Jeff Tippett, I am grateful that you’ve joined us for today’s episode of Victory by Association.

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Today i’m excited to welcome our special guest, Jeff Murison. Jeff, welcome.

JM: Thanks for having me

JT: This is kind of awesome, to interview someone I know in real life. I don’t often get this opportunity. Should be fun.

So quickly tell me about the Hillsborough group and what you guys do.

JM: We are the community development corporation for Hillsborough Street, here in Raleigh next to NC State. Our job is to bring the community together and help it continue to grow, and to make it a destination in Raleigh. A place where people come and have a great time, and want to come back time and time again. Whether you’re a student, faculty or staff, alumni, resident, or just visiting Raleigh.

JT: Love it, well you guys do a fantastic job. Jeff, give me something interesting or unique about you that most people don’t know. Something they won’t find on your LinkedIn or your website.

JM: Well that could be embarrassing. It’s kind of crazy, but I am known to make an incredible breakfast casserole, so people invite me to their events, saying I’m invited but I have to bring the casserole. So whether it’s at the beach, or a wedding, or a holiday parade, that’s my thing. I make them different each time, and now I have to make two or three because they sell like hot cakes.

JT: I love it. So we send this podcast out to about 50,000 association executives a week, so you might get a few requests just as a heads up, be prepared for that.

So tell us a bit about the association victory you’d like to share today with our audience of association executives.

JM: Sure, well obviously we’re in the business of trying to get people to come to Hillsborough street. And the city was great and invested a bunch of money in a new streetscape back in 2010, asked us to do a grand opening, so we did and it was successful. And it did well, had maybe 15 – 20,000 people in attendance, it was a fun day. We all loved it, this would be great if we could do it again and again. And about a year later, it turned out to be NCSU’s 125th anniversary, and they invited me to be on the planning team. And I was the only person outside of the University on the team. And as we were talking about it, I said let’s do a street festival. It was hugely successfully, something like 40,000 people. They said it was only going to be a one-and-done thing, but it was so successful that we were like, wow, we need to keep doing it. We lobbied them hard, and now we’re coming into our 8th year for doing Packapalooza. It’s an event that’s part of a tradition now, that welcomes students and families back to University. It’s a family-friendly, fun, free event on a Saturday.

JT: That’s fantastic, and I can tell you that personally because I’ve been there. And pulling together 40-50,000 people, that’s no small feat. That’s a major accomplishment there. Why did this matter for this face-to-face encounter?

JM: We talk about town gown relationships, that partnership between a college and its town, its community. Its host community — there’s a lot of tension there. Students and local residents are on different cycles. Businesses and universities have different interests. And so creating positive relationships and that kind of energy comes from that strong partnership, and a strong town-gown relationship is really important. And this day is also, it uses the street, it welcomes everybody to come. It’s family-friendly, and everyone can come. It’s free, it’s welcoming, it shows off the best of the University. But it also highlights businesses and merchants, and it shows off the street to freshmen in their first days. It’s a safe, welcoming experience that makes it clear to them that Hillsborough Street is the center of Pack Pride. So hopefully they’ll have decades of memories and experiences connected to the street.

JT: I love that. One of the things I especially like is how you’re talking about how associations can partner with another organization to create something much larger than that the association could do by itself. There has to have been some barriers or obstacles in working with such a large partner. What are some you’ve face?

JM: It’s a huge event, obviously pulling it off every year is a massive task. It’s got a huge price tag, so obviously the funding is an issue. Closing the street in Raleigh is a major challenge. It’s a busy thoroughfare, so it involves city planning and police, to make sure it’s done safely. Getting the word out is a challenge too. So it takes a team. There’s a planning team of probably 40-50 people, inside and outside the University, that works on it all year. If you really want to know what fun is, try sitting through one of those meetings to pick which artist is gonna be the headline band each year. The students all want Beyonce and Lady Gaga, and then we tell them what we can afford. So there’s a lot of challenges — the university is a large entity and you have to pull together a lot of people to close the streets, have power, deal with permits and vendors. It’s a lot to manage — making all that happen seamlessly takes a lot of work and last year, I think we estimated about 90,000 people attended. It’s a big day and it’s a lot of coordination, compromise and partnership.

JT: Absolutely, so we’re looking at this event. So what are your metrics for success. What do you call success?

JM: We call success “perfect weather.” If it’s a bright, sunny day, and one person shows up, it’s great. Obviously a large attendance, a diverse crowd, of students, faculty, alumni, but obviously we like to see the community come out, families and kids. When our merchants get involved, and have a booth, and show off their business, and create new customers, that’s a business. When we can get the community behind it and expose the community to some of the things the university is doing and vice versa. Sometimes we have the city out there with new things, like community awareness, that’s a win. And at the end of the night, when there’s 10,000 people surrounding the main stage by the bell tower, and really feeling they’re connecting to Hillsborough Street, that’s a great feeling of success.

JT: Fantastic, so Jeff tell us for our audience here who might be considering a big event, and partnering with a major entity like NCSU, what tips could you offer our association executives that they might need to know in pulling off something like this?

JM: Stay flexible, because there’s a lot of changing factors and conditions. Go in with a plan, a budget, but stay flexible. Be very open-minded about who your partners can be, because there’s partners all over the place that come from the most unlikely of corners. It’s really cool to see when a church wants to do this, or a department of the university comes out with an exhibit or activity you really weren’t expecting. When the international students all carry a flag from their home country down Hillsborough Street, that’s a pretty neat experience. So flexibility, certainly, I recommend having a rain date. That’s always useful. And also thanking your team. Because this isn’t done by one person, it’s done by a big team of people on that game day. It’s a lot of hands and volunteers — it takes a whole lot of folks to pull that off. And have fun.

JT: I love it. So you’ve taken me to my last question here for you. Pulling together all that, there must have been some wonderful volunteers, and I’m sure you have tons of them, but could you maybe give us a shoutout here? I think there’s great value to showing appreciation to others for things that they do.

JM: We’ve got tons of volunteers for that event and others, and two come to mind. Bob Mozier is a local resident who has been a city employee. He’s been on the board representing residents, he really helps us stay connected. When the city was doing a project to cut down some trees, he really worked for us to get the trees replaced and more trees added, to make it a beautiful environment. And the other person is Dan Howe. He was the assistant city manager, he’s now an adjunct at the university. He was on our board as a representative of the city, but when he retired he stayed on the board and was even board chair. Now he just lends his services to us and helps us with projects. We’re blessed to have great volunteers, great partners who just continue to give back. We try and recognize them, we actually gave Dan Howe the Hillsborough Street hero of the year award at our last annual meeting. It’s important to say thank you and remember the people that are really making it happen.

JT: Jeff, that’s fantastic, you have just been an amazing guest. I just think of all the value here you’ve brought to associations that may have been looking for a partner here to take on, but also might want to do a big live event. And man, you certainly have the tips here, pulling together 90,000 people. So Jeff, thank you for being a guest today. So how can people find you?

JM: And we certainly have a wide social media presence as well.

JT: Thank you all for listening. I have a free gift for you from my book: for a free chapter of my book, Unleashing Your Superpower, text “PERSUADE” to 66866.

I’ll see you all next week as we discover another victory by association.

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