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William B. (Billy) Lane

William D. (Billy) Lane

According to the Florida Inmate Release Information web site, William D. (Billy) Lane was released today from the Orlando Transition Center and is re-opening his shop in Daytona Beach, Florida.

You might recall that Billy Lane (Choppers Inc.) was involved in a drunk-driving crash that killed Sebastian Inlet Park Ranger and fellow biker Gerald Morelock on A-1-A in Melbourne Beach on September 4, 2006. Billy repeatedly took responsibility, didn’t offer any excuses for the crash and told the court he wasn’t seeking pity.

He was sentenced to six years in prison and three years’ probation.  Judge Robert Burger also ordered Lane’s driver license be suspended for life.

Good people make mistakes.  You can’t take the past back and he will have to live everyday with the thought that another person is no longer alive because of his actions.  There were no winners.  He paid a price, served his time and enough said.

My hope is that all goes well in his new shop and that he can be an inspiration to others in not only the creativity of his work.

Photo courtesy of Florida Corrections.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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For more than a year I’ve commented ranted about the various motorcycle rallies and the city council fiascos.

Many concerned city governments do their best to dissuade motorcycle rallies altogether using a series of tactics designed to run off motorcycle tourism.  By raising vendor and booth fee’s or trying to rein things in with stricter vendor rules or outright banning activity.  And if that doesn’t work they’ll pull the “P” card…exorbitant costs for policing the event to protect against the villain that doesn’t exist.

There have been boycotts by motorcycle enthusiasts, public forums, petitions, protests, organizations formed, news reports, and lawsuits filed (Myrtle Beach for example) so, I backed off on beating this dead horse which had begun to dominate my posts. I won’t say motorcyclists lost because we are still riding when, where, and how we want to, but some of the cities got their wish and several rallies were cancelled or downsized to the point where riders washed their hands of the whole thing.

Well, frankly I’m over it and looking forward to Laughlin River Run 2010.  If all goes well I will be saddling up in April.  I’ve attended this rally in various forms nine of the last 10 years.

Our posse is like most Laughlin River Run visitors in most cities that host motorcycle events. We don’t belong to a club or motorcycle gang. We don’t ride recklessly because we want to make it home in one piece. We aren’t going to walk out on our check or assault your families. Hotel furniture remains unbroken!  Several in the posse own a family business. And most all have worked their way up the ladder and been in management at a number of white collar companies.  All are family men and just looking to get away from the work-a-day world for a few days. We’ll spend money on lodging, we’ll go to restaurants, we’ll shop the vendors, we’ll have a few laughs, smoke a cigar or two and then we’ll go home. We’re the same people that cities work to get our tourist dollars, but have tried just as hard to run off as “villains.”

I read an article in, the Feb. 10 edition of The Sun News who reported that “For the first time in many years, hospitality revenue didn’t grow in Myrtle Beach in 2009, leaving the city with a larger-than-normal financial gap to overcome to balance its budget.” I told you so, Myrtle Beach.  But in reality we could [insert any city name USA here!] rather than Myrtle Beach.

Call my crazy, but here’s a novel idea for the Pacific Northwest Chambers of Commerce…in your city’s Chamber of Commerce embrace the, well… commerce, generated by the motorcycle rallies and maybe even play a key role in promoting them.  Yes, there will be times when city officials will have to deal with some complaints of congestion and noise. Instead of pulling the plug on tourist dollars hold the elected officials, heads of law enforcement, and Chamber of Commerce feet to the fire and ask them to do their jobs and address the issues.

Almost a year ago there was a CNN article where Kevin Kilian (Sr. VP of Daytona Beach/Halifax Area Chamber of Commerce) stated that their spring (Bike Week) and fall (Biketoberfest) motorcycle rallies generate $650 million dollars a year.

Could the same be true here the northwest?

Photo courtesy of Random House and Chip and Dan Heath.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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NASCAR.

I’ll admit that I’ve never been a big fan of this traditionally southern sport.  I’ve been more of a casual observer, not a participant and you wouldn’t catch me dressed up in any favorite driver licensed logo attire.

However, I was in Daytona Beach, FL on February 14, 2003 and of all things happen to be working in a press booth at the Daytona 500 race.  Yes, mullets were sported.  There was a lot of domestic beer drinking.  And hard-core fans were dressed up in stereotypical brightly colored racing gear.  I was involved in a series of product launch activities with Sierra Entertainment’s NASCAR Racing simulator game (NR2003).  This wasn’t just an average video game.  Rather it was a comprehensive simulator where many professional drivers used it in the multiplayer mode, including driving superstars Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. who were often found on-line practicing on the various race tracks.  NR2003 was the last version to be released by Papyrus (now iRacing) before Electronic Arts bought the NASCAR license from NASCAR.  But enough about work!

I read an article today on this weekend’s Daytona 500, Danica Patrick’s racing debut and found myself reminiscing about that 2003 trip.  Chatting with drivers, people watching, visiting the pits, tire change competition duels in the convention center, food and the entertainment.  There was a lot to enjoy.

My biggest disappointment?   Being two-weeks too early to participate in Bike Week.  The 69th Daytona Bike Week starts on Feb 26 – March 7th.  While I made a point to visit Charlie Horse, a few pubs, the hard sand and enjoyed some of the warm winter days it wasn’t the same without motorcycles lining the narrow streets… the opportunity to ride that 22 mile long “Loop” and see Florida’s natural beauty just wasn’t in the cards.  I did have a chance to do a drive-by at Bruce Rossmeyer’s old H-D dealer to scavenge for yet another unique black t-shirt.

As the internet buzz “lights up” with rally details I’m thinking that someday I need to participate in Daytona Bike Week.

Photo courtesy of Papyrus

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AACMWith an estimated 310 million people residing in the U.S., marketing to each person is the most arduous processes any company can undertake.  As a result, they slice and dice the population into sub-categories with facts, figures, and statistics which include demographics on ethnicity, age, gender, household characteristics, postal code data, purchasing influences along with many other attributes to develop a target market strategy.

Speaking of target markets… African Americans have a lot of influence on today’s culture and taste — and I’m talking beyond the role of hip-hop music and the issues of social responsibility vs. freedom of expression surrounding misogynistic words.  Harley-Davidson has recognized this influence and applied various perspectives on how the company will market to the African-American consumer.   Last April, H-D assigned John Comissiong to oversee the development of strategic marketing opportunities for the African American customer segment as the director of Market Outreach.

Mr. Comissiong is highly qualified and very well educated, holding multiple degrees including a Bachelor of Science in engineering from Cornell University, a Master of Science in engineering from Stony Brook University and a Master of Business Administration from Duke University.  In addition he is a licensed motorcycle rider and can be often seen on his Night Rod Special!!  In essence his job is to determine how H-D can obtain a disproportionate share of the $744 Billion in income which the 38.3 Million African-American consumers spend annually.  More specific, is the approximately $32B spent each year on Cars, Trucks and Motorcycles — how can H-D get more of those $$?!  It’s always about money.

Maurice Slaughter

Maurice Slaughter

This isn’t new behavior from corporate America.  For example, recently NBC News launched TheGrio.com, an African American ‘video-centric’ Web site devoted to stories and perspectives that appeal to the African American community.  Even the White House/Obama’s are expanding African American family definitions beyond Bill Cosby’s Huxtables with real-world examples and influence. 

So, what’s in it for H-D?  Today African American’s account for only 1.5% of new motorcycle sales. Even worse is that 7.9% of H-D’s total U.S. sales are to African Americans.  There are more less flattering stats.  Seven out of approximately 700 dealerships are owned by African American’s like Maurice Slaughter.  Few people of color sit on the company’s board or are members of the senior management and less than 10% of the employee base is African American.  H-D purchases approx $190M worth of material from minority-owned suppliers.   Representation of African American motorcycle clubs is fairly robust with: Buffalo Soldiers, Defiant Ones, Rare Breed, Magic Wheels, Soul Brothers and East Bay Dragons to name a few.

H-D has focused on the African American consumer market (AACM) with co-sponsorships at the NAACP Image Awards, the Atlantic or Urban Beach Bike Festival (referred to as Black Bike Week) and celebrating heritage “Bikers on the Boulevard” in Daytona.  They work with celeb’s and community leaders for opportunities to interact or obtain endorsements of H-D products in the African American community which in marketing terms is designed to create the perception that H-D understands African American needs and strengthens its credibility with that market segment.

I’ve been somewhat skeptical of H-D’s minority oriented efforts as sales and marketing issues are complex.  They do require creative actions and placing John Comissiong to maximize exposure and convey that H-D is relevant in the African American lifestyle and culture seems sincere and less of a stunt or a photo op.  Whether trend-setting celebs or average Joes, stimulating a dialogue between company representatives and motorcycle enthusiasts of ALL genre’s means H-D gets product feedback and company’s should never turn down a social opportunity with customers!

Photo courtesy Virginian-Pilot and Maurice Slaughter.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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H-DNet Web Site

H-DNet Web Site

Working together to improve their joint bottom lines IBM and Harley teamed up for a new television ad promoting the way IBM’s portal technology (H-Dnet) helps the motor company advance its brand identity online.

The four-minute ad was filmed on location at Milwaukee HQ, in Daytona Beach, and at Hal’s and Wildfire dealerships.  It’s a testimonial-type ad shifting from one speaker to the next and again talks “lifestyle” (Harley heritage) more so than products and how they’re using IBM technology to reach new riders.

See the 4 min video on YouTube HERE.  I watched the ad and think it will get favorable responses from the public at large.

H-DNet photo courtesy Harley-Davidson web site.

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I was in Daytona Beach back in ’03 for the NASCAR Daytona 500.  I had a temperature controlled seat view from a press booth, but having arrived from the cold and rainy Northwest I enjoyed the outdoor seats with ocean air while watching Michael Waltrip win the race — it was shortened to 109 laps that year due to rain.

On that trip I visited Bruce Rossmeyer’s Daytona Harley Dealer, but I’ve never attended Bike Week.  The event brings in a half-million bikers around the world and this year looks like Harley is “all-in” at the Ocean Center Arena.  The show is March 1-9th.  Harley corp. plans a solid online presence this year.  They’ll have daily blogs, photos, and video updates from the adventure all week with Biker Billy (of “Cooks w/ Fire” fame), Beau Pacheco and Jessica Craker doing the YouTube thing.

Hey Harley corp., if you ever want another “motley” crew member to do event correspondence I’m willing to fly there on my own dime, but can’t justify the expense for this “hobby-blog” gig! You listening Willy?  But then again why should you do anything because Harley already gets this free blog press?!

Okay enough whining, but between the Ford Truck displays, traveling museum, Custom Cycle Show and Florida festival music I’d say they are firing on both cylinders.  Not to mention the “Hot Buns” contest, the boozy and floozy bar tour and the famous “Cabbage Patch“.  A guy would really need to work at scheduling time just to ride!

The official Harley activities guide is here in PDF (1.5MB).

Bike Week seems to favor East Coast residents/riders… unless you’re into the fly-n-drive program or have a lot of free time.  If you go to the event I’d like to hear about your adventures.

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