Historically, PLACESConsulting’s principals have worked to improve places through self-directed career paths (before they were as common as they are today).
Gary Esolen was an Assistant Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell where he ran the interdisciplinary program, and co-taught Science Fiction, Freshman English, Urban Planning, while writing poetry, and about labor issues in a community publication he co-founded. He organized a non-profit for low income housing and qualified participants and built houses. As the University became less innovative, Esolen moved on, to New Orleans, where he wrote for Newsweek, Cox and the NY Times Wire Service, local publications and then founded the award winning weekly newspaper Gambit. Under Esolen’s leadership, the publication provided considerable positive impact on local politics and public policy issues and he is credited with fostering a new appreciation for the culture and cultural diversity of New Orleans. While publishing Gambit after the collapse of the oil and gas industry in the 90’s Esolen published an editorial about marketing tourism to stabilize the New Orleans economy which had lost 10% of its job base (40,000 jobs). He worked with a business committee to create an organization to test marketing, and became the Executive Director of the organization to create a leisure tourism program which he ran for ten years.
Esolen is a poet, an actor, a playwright. He is analytic and strategic in his thinking.
Valeri LeBlanc began her interest in media with a broadcast license in high school, LSU’s first video distance learning courses, and in corporate advertising and production. LeBlanc has consulted concerning media, new technologies, their uses and regulations. She set up the first distance diagnosis system for a hospital, in Baton Rouge, in the early 80’s. She founded and ran a regional cable network which expanded into multiple markets and syndicated programming nationally. LeBlanc’s network was part of the test of the leisure tourism marketing campaigns used to prove that marketing tourism regionally would work.
LeBlanc is an award winning documentarist, a photographer and television producer and director. She synthesizes across many fields and creates new ways of seeing.
Esolen and LeBlanc formed a company in 1991 to carry out the media and technology opportunities which were facing cities and to expand our experience in developing tourism to enhance the economic and cultural development of places. Over their experience in the Caribbean and Mexico, the US, Canada and Europe the company has accumulated extensive experience with a number of issues and opportunities in tourism and in place development.
Along the way we developed and refined for places a new systems planning method working with John Warden, the leading military planner for the US, created a new understanding of how to leverage love of place and asset-based economic development (in tourism and other industries), how to address thorny systems problems, how to use love of place to effectively build social capital. We have come to understand that to create significant improvement (and get a system working for us rather than against us) requires that we work across disciplines. Let’s work together to do that.