About 1,500 people I know received an email about my planned departure from the Biofuels Center at the end of June.  

Four and a half years ago, I helped start up the organization.  Earlier this year, I led the search for my replacement and provided transition support and change management assistance to the communications team and the Center.  Since its startup, the Center has grown to maturity and strategic communications efforts have resulted in its being widely seen as a credible, technical and economic development agency for biofuels globally.  

Norman Smit to Leave Biofuels Center

Oxford, N.C. - 26 June 012.  At the beginning of July, I will have left the Biofuels Center of North Carolina to devote myself fully to yet another startup; this time, my own communications company.

It seems just a short while ago that I joined five new colleagues for the first meeting of senior staff to start up the Biofuels Center, but four and a half years have passed.  Since then,the Center has set about solving the two intertwined requirements necessary to establish a new biofuels sector - tens of thousands of acres of productive, new cellulosic crops, and the technology companies that can turn that biomass into biofuels.  In that time, my role has been to help strategically position the value of locally-grown and produced cellulosic biofuels in the consciousness of the public and North Carolina motorists; and, the state as a competitive location for advanced biofuels.

Some of the highlights of the past four years include:

  • Launching and administering the Biofuels Wiki, which has grown into a globally-recognized site of more than 1,200 pages and 250 registered contributors, that last month had more than 40,000 topic views.
  • From Bluegrass to Switchgrass, a free road music CD of donated tracks by North Carolina musicians from across the state, who supported our mission and enabled us to reach thousands of people with information about biofuels - and their local sound.
  • A YouTube channel with about 600 videos, many of which are by North Carolinians endorsing our goal of fuel independence.
  • Vibrant social media sites, including a Facebook page of more than 2,400 people and a fairly  technical Twitter feed followed by a number of industry heavyweights.
  • A public education campaign that reached more than 80% of North Carolina motorists.
Prior to the Biofuels Center, I helped start up a nationally-acclaimed biotechnology training initiative to reskill people laid off from traditional manufacturing.  The initiative joined community colleges with universities, industry, the Department of Commerce and other economic development agencies like the Biotechnology Center.  During the time I chaired the marketing committee for the initiative, we helped the state attract more than a billion dollars in new business and expansions.  The state had good programs, but this marketing showed just how competitive the state could be.

My company, Coherent Marketig, will help organizations bridge the gaps created by rapidly evolving communications technologies.  In some instances it'll mean helping companies dip their toes into social media, in others it'll mean reorganizing information flow and organizational structures or producing video for internal communications and training.  Either way, at a time when people in the marketplace can usually talk more easily about organizations than to them, helping organizations with business communications will prove an engaging challenge.  (Of course, this digital email can easily be read on your smartphone.)

I can be reached at and on Twitter @coherentmedia.  Please stay in touch and if you have a communications challenge, contact me. 

All the best,

Norman Smit

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