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American Express


Red Lobster



United States Postal Service

Salvation Army

Time-Life Books

National Geographic


New York Yankees

Washington Redskins

Ruth's Chris Steak House

TJ Maxx

GoodYear Tires

Bell South

Washington, D.C. Public Private Partnership

“Strategist creates Public/Private Partnership with local government, surrounding states, and private business ending stand-off for client.”

Washington, DC Public Private Partnership Case StudyThe Challenge

In the fall of 1995, Visa approached the Washington, D.C. Economic Development Agency and invited them to enter into a multi-million dollar 5-year contract in exchange for being the official card of Washington, D.C. and receiving logo integration in all of their marketing efforts.

The District of Columbia due to its small geographic footprint did not generate much revenue from taxpayer dollars to market tourism for the city so this huge multi-million dollar commitment was very valuable to them.

The city’s decision to enter into this agreement violated their contract with American Express and when they would not back out of it forced American Express to cancel their merchant account and pull all of their marketing support out of Washington, D.C.

The Journey

As the Director of Sales for the Washington, D.C. market, I was told after I entered the job that none of American Express’ tourism dollars would be provided to grow business in the Washington market because of this preference campaign with our competitor.

However, to be successful in my position it was important that I secure those dollars to grow our year-over-year volume in this territory or I would fail as the leader. A bit of a catch-22. This investment would make or break my success so I had to find a solution to the problem.

The Discovery

Once again, I launched into extensive research. Everything from who the players were and how they benefited from the existing deal, to who were the up and coming leaders, their agendas, and how a solution could potentially be leveraged to benefit them and American Express.

I had to study and understand the dynamics of not only the Washington, D.C. government but also that of the surrounding states. There had to be a way to construct this so everybody won.

The Solution

When I got a little deeper into it I discovered in the past while the surrounding states of Maryland and Virginia had plenty of tourism dollars to spread around the District decision-makers had been hesitant to enter into a partnership with these municipalities fearful they would lose tourism dollars to less expensive hotels and restaurants in those jurisdictions.

But if you know anything about tourism in Washington you know that it is all about price. If people don’t care about price they stay downtown and enjoy being immersed in the history, the architecture, the museums and the monuments. If price does matter you stay in the suburbs and take the metro into the city to visit the sites.

Therefore, a partnership could only benefit all parties. It would drive revenue for all concerned if they pooled resources and were able to launch a bigger more robust campaign.

Additionally, a new mayor was due to be elected in Washington. So I met with all the potential candidates to discuss their agendas and my public/private partnership program.

In an effort not to go into too much detail here essentially what it would do for the city is infuse their not-for-profit programs with philanthropic grant dollars in exchange for face time with key decision-makers.

A win-win for all involved.

I met with local corporations and they were definitely interested in supporting such an initiative. After I secured agreement from all parties, I sat back and waited for the election results.

The Result

This story ends with the newly elected mayor’s call to my office the day after the election to schedule time to sign the appropriate paperwork, form committees, and kick-off my program.

Truly an exciting moment for my staff and I after all our hard work.

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