Phil Hart: Our Participation Makes Us

Wednesday January 28th, 2015 I went to the Vance County Board of Commissioners Annual Retreat.  Home in Henderson was invited to attend as a media outlet to give our views of the past, present and future of Vance County from our organizations point of view.  If I were given the invitation personally, the presentation may have been different, however it was fitting that the invitation first went to frequent contributor Michael Bobbitt.  Michael is such a frequent contributor here and goes to many meetings at the city and county they just assumed that he was Home in Henderson.  He came to me with the invitation letter and told me his ideas on what to present which seemed reasonable.  Ask the readers what they think.  So Michael came up with survey questions to quantify the past, present and future and I turned that into a survey posted here and also shared on our Facebook page.

Michael would take the survey results to the annual retreat and based the presentation on that.  I decided to go and at least introduce Michael as speaking on behalf of our readers. When it was Michaels turn on the agenda and he got up to speak, Mr. Taylor saw me sitting beside Michael and introduced me as well, as being from Dataforge.  Mr. Taylor is a good customer of ours and he was telling the board about our work.  So as I stood up as well and walked to the podium he asked why I was there. I said “Yes, I am the owner of Dataforge, and we do work for numerous people in this room, and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about us, but that’s not why I’m here.  I am here in regards to Home in Henderson.”  Taken aback, they asked why I was there for that, and that’s when I almost heard gasps as I explained that I was the owner.  No questions were asked of Dataforge, but it was a good opportunity for me to solicit any and make the point that we are around despite being ignored whenever we call or write to the County Manager or  IT Director.

I went on to explain that HiH is compromised of the readers.  Those readers are ‘your constituents and colleagues’.  My goal is to provide the place for the community to discuss issues and Michael is one of those readers who has taken it upon himself to get involved in the community and encourage discussion.  Michael was sent the invitation letter and he is a frequent contributor, but he does not work for HiH and his opinion pieces do not necessarily represent my own our or readers views.  At that point, I handed the presentation over to Michael.  ‘Your constituents and colleagues’.  I made it a point to say this to the particular people sitting in this room but I doubt the point was understood.  

Mr. Taylor asked that presentations be data driven, so Michael spent some time introducing the methodology for this survey.  Again, we were tasked to give our views of the past, present, and future from our point of view. We shifted our point of view to our Readers point of view, and let’s make that data driven.  How do we quantify the Past? We could have went back to many reports, surveys, articles etc we just so happened to pick about 10 years ago to a survey that was produced by Market Street Services.  Vance County paid Market Street Services to conduct several surveys on the County’s economic and demographic position.  The surveys that were produced from these efforts in 2003 can be found here.  In their report, they outlined suggestions on what should be done to improve the county.  We chose to highlight their suggestions of 6 particular business segments the county should encourage to grow.  Health Care, Nonmetallic Mineral Manufacturing and certain food manufacturing, Tourism, Entrepreneurship and Small Business/Management of Companies and Enterprises, Wholesale Trade, and Transportation and Warehousing.  This was the basis for our past, now lets follow that through to the present and path to the future.

Our survey focused on the above market segments, and what are our readers view of how well the county has encouraged them.  We dove into more detail also, are you a business owner?  If you are, your survey questions went down a different path than if not.  If you are a business owner, is your business one of the above categories?  If you are not a business owner, but are employed, are you employed in one of the above categories?   Also, is County Zoning working well, is County Water working well, how often do you visit Kerr Lake, for how long do you stay in downtown Henderson for the car show, do you live and or work in Vance County, how far is your daily commute, what is your age, are you registered to vote, and did you vote in the last election.

Michaels presentation can be found here, which he showed on a projector to the room and went over a few of the highlights.  In order to work on analyzing the data and putting together the presentation, he took the surveys that were submitted as of Friday January 23rd, 2015.  That was 42 surveys submitted.  We used a third party service, Kwik Surveys to conduct it, and takers did not need to have an account on HiH or submit their real or online name.  I won’t go over the survey results in this posting, as Michael has already addressed some of that in his presentation.  However, I think more results can be inferred by the survey which we may investigate further later.  To date, we have received 47 responses to the survey.  You may view the full results of the surveys here:  20150201_hih_survey.pdf

The room was taken aback by a few of the survey results.  50% of business owners do not have a business in the 6 target markets. 72% of respondents that have a job do not have a job in the above 6 target categories.  Do you visit Kerr Lake for recreation activities: 41% answered they do not visit at all.  58% of respondents do not attend the annual car show in downtown. 63% do not believe county zoning has benefited the county and residents, 58% do not believe the county water project has benefited the county and residents.  92% do not believe the county is in a better economic position from 2004.

At the end of the presentation it was open for questions by the board in which some demographics questions were asked and I stepped in to help answer.  The survey itself asked a few demographics questions that were optional to answer.  Gender (70% male, 30% female), Age (52% 51-67 years old), Registered to Vote (100% are registered) and Did you vote last election (90% did vote for a local candidate in the last election.)

All that said, to get to my commentary section.

It was clear in the room that Home in Henderson presented bad results.  There were moans and groans around the table at every data that was not favorable.  It was clear that ‘we’ are wrong, and are providing the world with a negative view of our town and county.  It was certainly not a possibility that these are problems that need to be addressed.  Obviously Kerr Lake and the Car Show are not meant to draw local residents to them. They are focused to outsiders, of course the locals won’t visit and that’s okay. 

Mr. Hester asked for clarification on the numbers of survey results submitted in which Michael gave the number of 42 surveys at his deadline.  Mr. Hester asked for our online readership, which is on average 3,600 unique readers monthly. (Since it varies, we calculated by taking the last 6 months of unique viewers which is about 22,000 total and divided by 6 to get a monthly average of 3,600) He went on to make a point that is approximately a 1% return on survey results. Yes, if you figure from those two numbers.  42, now 47 responses, is an excellent number of responses from the public.  “If that’s what you want to believe” said Mr. Hester.  Ok, lets define it a little better then.

The survey was posted on Monday January 19, 2015 and 42 results were returned by Friday January 23rd, 2015.  During that time, we had 711 unique visitors to our website.  Hmm, our survey response rate is now 6%.  However, we can get even more detailed and prove that the particular survey article was visited by 317 unique visitors.  Giving us a response rate of 13%.

It was clear Mr. Hester was attempting to discredit the survey results.  He, and others, continuously say our readers don’t matter.  Our readers are not a reflection of the county and community.  And the words of the people on this website are not to be taken seriously and the website should be shunned.

Again, this website is of your constituents and colleges.

Here’s more data of our readership overall, not just of the survey respondents.








So, if we look at the highest percentages, HiH is pretty even Male and Female, mostly aged 45-54, most have kids, most have an income of $0 to $50k, most have college education, most are Caucasian, most are registered Independent, and most are somewhat active in politics.

For the month of January 2015, we have 6,827 sessions from the USA.  Of those, stats estimate 1,532 are directly in Henderson, 558 in Charlotte, 468 in Raleigh, 391 in Durham, 271 in Wake Forest, 249 Greenville, 150 Fayetteville, 145 Clayton, 116 Fuquay Varina, 90 Louisburg.  Now these numbers aren’t exactly right as it’s very difficult to guess the location of readers, but Google allows some calculation to arrive at those guesses.

Other top countries that visit our site:  Brazil, Turkey, Spain, United Kingdom, Mexico, Italy, Austria and Canada.

I’m tired of having to defend HiH from a minority vocal opponents of our site.  It’s so negative they say.  What is negative exactly?  ‘These survey results are an example.’  So they’re saying your opinion is negative and therefore doesn’t matter.

 Below are the current stories that appear on our front page, minus the daily open lines.

VGCC welcomes Wright back to Board of Trustees, gets grants update.
Summer Nutrition Programs Help Meet Critical Need for Students
VGCC Main Campus hosts two Small Business Seminars
Discounts on High School Equivalency tests, practice tests available at VGCC
VGCC invites high school seniors to FAFSA Day February 28th 2015
Vance County Board of Commissioners Work Session February 11th, 2015
Vance County Board of Commissioners Meeting February 2nd, 2015
STEM Early High School Application Process Begins
Audio: Henderson City Council Meeting January 26th, 2015
Michael Bobbitt: Home in Henderson Presentation to the Vance County Board of Commissioners
VGCC to host Gospel Celebration on Feb. 12
Reps. Guthrie, Butterfield, Young & Kind Reintroduce Bill to Increase Access to Health Care in Underserved Areas
Hut Wester endows VGCC Scholarship in wife’s memory
Vance County Schools – Information on Upcoming Release of School Performance Grades
North Carolina Weekend
Smokies scientists find 900 more miles of streams
Triangle North Healthcare Foundation completes VGCC Scholarship endowment

What of those are negative exactly?  Somebody tell me please.  Didn’t happen to have any in this section, but some days we have crime reports. These are press releases printed straight from the Henderson Police Department media release.  I’m told by these vocal opponents we should stop reporting the crime.  Not going to happen.  Who among you wants to go explain to the police chief why we’ll no longer publicize the good work they do?  We as a community can not turn a blind eye to the problems we have. 

For the whole month of January 2015, our top 10 visited pages, in order are:

The home page, the crime category, traffic stop ends in shooting suspect shot at officer then self, Vance County vs Christa Reavis, Search warrent yields heroin arrest, vance county home in henderson survey, vance county board of commissioners meeting monday january 5th 2015, the news category, Friday Weekend open lines.

Some highlights for January 2015:  The Crime Category is always our top category, it received 585 unique visitors.  The survey has now received 344 unique visitors.  The Vance County Board of Commissioners meeting on January 5th, 2015 received 360 unique visitors.

Did you see that?  360 unique people pulled up the agenda for this months board meeting. 

These are your constituents and colleagues.

HiH is a place for the community to discuss.  That offer is open to any one of you.  Michel Bobbitt takes the most advantage of it, but that doesn’t mean we have given him exclusive access to post his opinions.  You are all welcome to do so.  I actively encourage everyone to send me your news and opinions to post. We have unlimited space, unlimited article length, unlimited pages to fill.

We also regularly publish the full newsletters for Representative Baskerville and Butterfield, Congresswoman Ellmers, and Senator Bryant and Burr.   Any others are welcome to be published, just add us to your mailing list.

To those that say HiH is so negative, I say back, ‘Well I haven’t seen you send anything in.’  And they haven’t.  If you feel it’s too negative then send me positive, and we’ll have the positive outweigh any negative.  But there are some that just want to complain.  If they discredit the opinions of our readers, they can avert the attention drawn to the real reasons and instead say everything’s fine, we’re doing fine, it’s those negative HiH crowd that’s saying these awful untrue things.

HiH has a verified account system.  It’s purpose is for leaders in our community to join and when they participate in discussions here, everyone will know it really is that person commenting.  However, not one has taken up the offer.  Apparently, no elected official wants to discuss anything with you in a written public forum.

It’s okay if the same crowd consistently want to try to discredit our website.  It’s clear to me now they are not our target audience.

Our target audience is the readers who care passionately about the community.  About the Henderson that was and what steps we can to take to make it better.  Our audience recognizes there is bad, and that we need to participate together to do some good.   If you don’t want to participate because you can’t control the narrative that’s not going to stop us.

I don’t care who you are.  Send me your positives.  There is a ton of good forces going on in the community, so use us to publicize your groups work.  Send in your opinion pieces.  We’ll work with you on your ideas to get your message heard.  Naysayers included.

Phil Hart