Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Next Brilliant Marketing Idea: Official Dirt

While on a recent Southwest flight, I set down my latest read (The Coldest War, by David Halberstam) in favor of Southwest's entertaining in-flight magazine. In an article about St. Patrick's Day I read about a new product available for Irish people who miss the Old Country: Official Irish Dirt.

You can check out their web site at, and there for $20 purchase four small bags of official Irish dirt, shamrock seeds, and get free shipping.

The concept of Official Irish Dirt got me thinking about other official dirt-selling opportunities, which I have listed below:
  • Official West Bank Dirt: For the Palestinian in All of Us

  • Official Afghanistan Dirt: When You Miss Your Taliban Roots

  • Official Iraq Dirt: Nothing grows in it, but under it you may find WMD

  • Official D.C. Dirt: (So many directions to take with this one--it's just too easy)

  • Official New Orleans Dirt: Comes with official sea water, so you can submerge it

  • Official French Dirt: Start Your Own Vineyard

  • Official Ukraine Dirt: Invade it, Rebuild It, Contaminate It

  • Official Green Bay Dirt: Maybe Brett Favre Will Come Back, After All

  • Official North Korea Dirt: No Matter What You Do, Nothing Grows in It

  • Official German Dirt: Deutschland, Deutschland uber Alles in der Welt
  • Official Saudi Arabia Dirt: Dig Deeply Enough and You May Strike Oil

In so many ways, official Dirt is a brilliant product for the sole reason that even as our attachments to each other become more electronic, we remain nostalgic for physical places--to have a sense of place. With Official Dirt we can take that place with us wherever we go.

I think I am going to buy some DC Dirt right now: Maybe I can get some from near the Mayflower Hotel and see what pops up.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

While Other Local Airports Thrive, High on a Hilltop, Worcester's Airport Remains Disused

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal featured an article in the Personal Journal section about the potential success rural regional airports can have in relieving congestion at larger airports closer to urban areas.

Referring to the notion that "the idea has worked elsewhere," the article mentioned airports around Boston as examples of this success. Providence and Manchester are the prime examples, along with "fledgling development" at Worcester, Mass., and former military bases in Portsmouth, N.H., and Bedford, Mass.

I'm assuming here that the "fledgling development" at ORH refers to the $15.7 million white elephant of a terminal, $1.4 million invested to expand the airport access road (which as all locals know is just a shortcut to avoid Webster Square and get to Paxton), and $12 million to enhance operational reliability including a Surface Movement Control Guidance System (SMCGS).

Propaganda from the Worcester city "machine" about ORH says there is "strong commitment from local, state and federal officials to ensure the airport's future viability" but beyond the aforementioned efforts I have uncovered no concrete manifestations of that commitment.

Rather, there are the high-profile "committees" comprised of local functionaries, the cash-cow feasibility studies that go to local firms, and the back-and-forth recriminations that mark business as usual in Worcester.

So I wrote a letter to the editor of the Journal to help clarify why ORH remains disused--and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

* * *

Dear Editor,

Regarding Scott McCartney's article in which he highlights the growth of Stewart and similar airports located near highly congested urban areas, the airport in Worcester, Massachusetts was once positioned as "Logan East." However, beset by internecine local politics and notoriously bad weather, there is currently no scheduled airline service to Worcester.

I assume Mr. McCartney's "fledgling development" refers to the $15.7 million terminal and the more than $12 million invested in operational reliability enhancements, including a Surface Movement Control Guidance System (SMCGS).

What exactly the SMCGS is controlling and guiding is to be determined: ORH hasn't had commercial service since August 2006, when Allegiant Air cut ties with the airport, citing high fuel costs and passenger loads in the 75% range. ORH was last year snubbed by low-cost carrier Skybus Airlines, which opted instead to serve Chicopee's Westover Metropolitan Airport.

Compounding ORH's inconvience is the lack of a direct connection to an interstate highway (potential passengers must travel at least five miles on winding surface streets to reach the airport).

While more than six million potential passengers live within a 50-mile radius of ORH, the airport's marble floors and plate glass windows have made ORH a dusty, disused, out-of-the-way example of why some rural airports cannot attract the passengers and commercial airlines so vital to alleviating air traffic problems across the U.S.