Presentation at National MIC-HIC Conference by Barry Lee Myers

06-Jun-2010

National MIC-HIC Conference - April 19, 2010
NOAA/National Weather Service
Lansdowne Resort, Leesburg, VA
Barry Lee Myers
Chief Executive Officer
AccuWeather, Inc.
385 Science Park Road
State College, PA 16803-2215

The following are prepared remarks from Barry Lee Myers, invited speaker.
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Thank you for this unique opportunity to be here on behalf of AccuWeather and the American Weather and Climate Industry Association.

I am here to talk about working together.  And, I can tell you that I trust Jack implicitly, so when he invited me to talk today, I readily agreed.

As I entered the lobby here, I was pleased to see AccuWeather on the electronic screen, and thought what a great venue Jack had picked.

Then I came here to the auditorium, opened the door, and saw about 300 people and realized I had not asked Jack how many would be here today.

So at the break a few minutes ago, I saw you had tea, decaf, regular, and extra strong coffee.  I know you can figure out which I chose.  I think I am sufficiently activated that you will hear me in the back of the room.

I want to welcome you to the “ Twilight Zone. “

I frequently greet people who visit AccuWeather in that manner.  Why?  Those of us in this room have the ability to tell, with great accuracy, what the future will hold.

Unlike advice about what a stock might do, or about what kind of investment might pay off – we can tell in the fall, if the winter will be cold and snowy or warmer and wet.   We can tell what the temperature will be tomorrow or next week and whether it will be sunny or not.

We can tell whether in the next 30 minutes a person will likely be killed if they keep standing where they are, without taking shelter.  Based on that information people can plan better and even make money in business, by increasing revenue or reducing cost.

A business can decide whether to stock snow-fighting tools – shovels, boots, salt, plows – or reduce supplies.  A bride and groom can decide whether to start planning to move the Sunday wedding indoors or under a tent.

The idea of starting a weather company, literally on pocket change, and competing with the government’s free services, is the story of AccuWeather . . . and the American weather industry in general.

When my brother Joel, and I, were thinking through the weather company concept in those early years, back in the 1960s, most of the weather information reaching the public came directly from the United States Weather Bureau.

Government employees consulted free with many who called them on the phone or stopped into their offices, and government employees provided special scheduled services to large and small companies.

Government employees drew newspaper weather maps and charts for The Associated Press and many local newspapers.   Government employees did weather broadcasts on radio.

As attitudes changed, it took decades to step into new ways of thinking and interacting, on both the government and the industry sides.  I am pleased to say we have reached a new paradigm of cooperation and mutual support.  And the results are dramatic.

Today some have estimated that the majority, perhaps even 90 to 95%, of the weather information reaching business and industry, the media, and the public comes from and through America’s Weather Industry and Weather Media.

This transformation is the result of changes in the industry and in NOAA and NWS.

Because of this, America’s Weather Industry is the most robust weather industry existing in the world today.

As an enterprise, public and private, we should be proud of that. 

Efforts of governments to participate in this success in far-flung areas from Europe to China have not succeeded.

ECOMET’s attempt beginning two decades ago to control Europe’s weather data and have governments profit from it, has not worked. 

China, with a government weather service of over 60,000 people and a spun-off private weather company, is yet to generate any money trying to do so-called commercial weather work.

Why?

Two factors: first, it was not a cooperative joint effort; second, because of a fundamental American difference - freedom.

Freedom of access to information has spurred may American industries – freedom of access to economic data, agricultural data, census data, climate data, and weather data are only a few examples.

This data access issue may become of increasing concern in the American Weather Enterprise as private data sources emerge.  But the results of the American success are everywhere.

At present, in America and growing worldwide, weather information is in your home, on your television, in your car, on your refrigerator, on your radio, in your newspaper, all over the internet, and on your mobile device. 

It is on the gas pump where you fuel you car or truck. 

It is on the electronic signage in your doctor’s office or retail store. 

It is on the counter of the check-in desk at the hotel where you stay.

If products travel by rail or truck, the weather industry helps get them to you. 

If you eat, as I suspect we all do, America’s Weather Industry helped grow the food and the commodities traders transact in it.

The weather industry aids the insurance industry plan for weather losses and adjust them after a weather event.

The weather is in the news every day. 

It is the single most accessed piece of information watched, listened for, or selected on radio, television, the wired web, and mobile devices.

You can watch local weather channels on the AccuWeather Television Network in over 80 markets nationwide, and The Weather Channel in even more markets.
 
You can access American weather web sites and mobile weather information from anywhere on earth. American mobile weather websites are available in scores of languages.  At AccuWeather alone we offer weather in 38 languages.

By the end of this year, American based mobile weather information, for anywhere on earth will be available on over a billion handsets.
 
And people worldwide will start to find weather widgets on their new television set or digital box.

Much of this growth, going forward, will be influenced by a growing portfolio of GPS and location-based weather information patents, based in America, with companies like AccuWeather.

The American Weather Industry is a growing driver of international trade in favor of America.  And the industry’s growing presence, consolidations among companies it has generated, demand for communications and scientific services it creates, and a growing jobs base have spanned payroll and capital gains taxes – directly and indirectly - some estimate, produce more tax revenue for the government, than the government allocates to fund the National weather Service.

We are a self- sustaining enterprise.  In that sense, the tax money for the NWS budget is generated by America’s weather industry.

The specifics of the value proposition, extends beyond money, taxes, and the economy.

The combination of government radar and warnings, weather industry systems and actions, and the media, all contribute to not simply revenue, taxes and budgets – but to lives saved.

On page 3 of NOAA’s NWS Strategic Plan 2011 – 2020 there is a comparison of the 1950 Udall, Kansas tornado and the 2007 Greensburg, Kansas tornado.  It is an excellent example.  Mike Smith talks about it in his new book Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather.

Local television stations, using weather industry presentation systems, and television meteorologists, got the message out quickly.

What you may not know is that AccuWeather serves 80 percent of the class-one railroad mileage in North America – Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

When the Greensburg tornado, destroyed that town, just north of town, two Union Pacific trains were on the Union Pacific main line – one heading east, the other west, on separate tracks.

We stopped both trains about two miles apart, facing each other, while the massive tornado passed between them, leaving them untouched.

Also, because the trains were not on the track when the tornado passed, only minor repair was needed the next day, allowing, the tracks to be used for emergency relief.

Without the government/industry partnership, such might not have been the result.

The Mission statement on the walls at AccuWeather is about how to save lives and protect property, and help people prosper while running a successful business.  Our Mission and your Mission are very much the same.
For years, everyone in the weather enterprise in the United States talked about collaboration and cooperation between the public sector, the private sector, and academia.

But for decades, a contentiousness existed.

The public sector of the enterprise – the National weather Service and later both NOAA and NWS - and private sector – the companies in the American Weather Industry - talked together, but could not “come together.”  Yet, behind the scenes there were good personal relationships being built.

Joe Friday, Jack Kelly, and Jack Hayes reached out to the weather industry over the years, appointing Ray Ban of The Weather Channel, Jim Block of Meteorlogix, myself and others, to serve as advisors on U.S. delegations to the World Meteorological Organization and worked together in joint activities on national and international issues.

Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, the most recent former head of NOAA, supported better dialogue and better collaboration.  Today, he is a member of AccuWeather’s Board of Directors.

The Commercial Weather Services Association (currently named the American Weather and Climate Industry Association), American Meteorological Society, the National Counsel of Industrial Meteorologists, and other groups - invited public sector representatives to participate and attend industry functions.

The Fair Weather Report, commissioned by the National weather service, encouraged the American Meteorological Society to play a larger role in providing a forum for issues.

Amy Carroll, Eric Webster and others on Congressional Committee Staffs in 2005 encouraged the sectors to set agreed upon priorities that Congress could act on, because the tensions were affecting perception of all weather related initiatives – both public and private.

At the CWSA Reception at AMS in January 2006 in Atlanta, Steve Root, CWSA President, rolled out a CWSA initiative: “What would it be like if ...” --- in which the idea of new collaborative initiatives could grow.  It was a risk for CWSA, to set aside decades of strong advocacy – in exchange for a paradigm that might require more tolerance of perceived government-related issues, as a path to achieving proactive solutions.

All of these events set the stage for a more open, less contentious feeling.  Sometimes “positive regard” needs to precede positive action. 

Some prominent CWSA companies approached The Weather Coalition 2006, to jointly participate in supporting NOAA/NWS budgets.

It is interesting to note, that CWSA and weather industry companies – including AccuWeather – had for many years, even during the most contentious periods, supported NOAA/NWS funding with the administration and Congress, writing letters, having scores of personal meetings, and testifying before Congressional committees.

Further support was offered to the Friends of NOAA by the industry and AccuWeather.  And meetings were held between the weather industry and top NOAA and NWS leadership and Congressional leaders to further these joint objectives.

Then, in mid-2007 AccuWeather encountered a situation where it was reported by a customer that NWS personnel were providing custom services to an automobile race venue, and therefore the venue did not need to acquire weather industry help.

NOAA was contacted and Ed Johnson wrote a complete response, explaining that NWS was not providing the raceway with service but was supporting a Multi-Agency Command Center to provide a better flow of services to local EMA’s concerned with the protection of the large gathering at the race.

In the past, the situation would have ended there – as a dead end.  Information exchanged, but nothing resolved.

But Ed and I continued the dialogue, with the blessing of the heads of NOAA and the NWS.  And, we got to the real underlying problem -- Confusion.

The venue operator thought the NWS was protecting it for its specific location – and so did not acquire a life-saving service from the weather industry.   The NWS was doing its job, helping local EMA’s, but not the race venue operator.  As the NWS did its job of informing the Multi-Agency Center, that information might or might not indirectly make it to the venue operator.  People could be injured and NWS personnel perhaps be blamed, all over a lack of clarity surrounding a venue operator’s mis-understanding of the role of NWS and the weather industry.

It was agreed to embark on a further cooperative path to lay out, for the weather enterprise, how to solve this issue using educational tools.  This resulted in a new NWS policy in 2008 defining NWS Support for Special Venue Events.  Cooperation produced clarity and an articulation of roles in this one instance. 

It set positive precedent and broke new ground.

For example, statements from or about the policy by NWS says:

“While NWS can provide support to public safety officials for special events, more specialized services are available from America’s Weather Industry organized and packaged to help make decisions about how to plan and run an event.”

The policy talks about what NWS personal should do, and importantly, what they should not do.  For example, it says they should:

1. Work with firms from America’s Weather Industry, chosen by Special Event Organizers. 
2. Interact with all such firms in a uniform and consistent manner.

3. Not provide specialized site-specific forecasts or direct forecasting support to Special Event organizers.

For the first time the NWS has dropped the broad “private sector” term when referring to America’s Weather Industry and used the name that identifies it.   These may seem like interesting semantics, but they are much more than that.   These are substantive policies being spread through NWS and NOAA, and new ones are now being worked on.

The message is being heard at gatherings about the country, where NWS and industry personnel attend and participate.

We all live under policies and we all live in language.

These activities are yielding the fruits we all hoped for in the entire weather enterprise.  I want to leave you with the following thoughts:

• NOAA/NWS and their programs and employees have weather industry support for agency funding.

• America’s Weather and Climate Industry has NOAA/NWS support in better-defined policies which serve us all.

• The Weather Industry and NWS are viewing each other as a strategic asset, rather than a threat.

• We all need the underlying data and infrastructure the taxpayers’ fund.  It helps to recognize much of the taxpayer money comes from America’s Weather Industry and that America’s Weather Industry is a world leader and trendsetter. 

• Current issues related to private-sourced data; we suggest the government should accept only if licenses can be secured that allows public distribution of all data the government receives and uses.

 

We all need to consistently reinforce that America’s Weather and Climate Industry holds a special relationship with NOAA, the National Weather Service, and the National Climate Service as a unique part of the private sector which facilitates and potentiates the work and function of the valuable government mission.

Thank You.

END.

 





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