“We’re NOT moving back to Portsmouth”.

It was November 2012. The person speaking is my wife. We were standing in our kitchen a few days after Portsmouth Mozcation.

You see, I had actually lived in the Portsmouth, NH area for 10 years. I went to college near there. I spent most of my 20′s performing music, making friends, and feeling totally at home in Seacoast NH.

Being back there for Mozcation… feeling the energy of the local community combined with the Moz event was … tempting. I wanted to move back. In my mind, it would be so easy.

I told my wife: “But… I really think it would work this time. And I see a huge opportunity there for our business. The marketing and tech scene is thriving, but there’s no one doing SEO. It’s perfect!”.

She wasn’t having it.

“You can get a summer home there” she would say.

Ahhh, endearing yet not what I had in mind.

- – - -

Let’s back up a bit.

You see, we tried living in the Portsmouth area, where we first got married 6 1/2 years ago. It failed miserably.  I was a poor musician. We had no money. She was the one with a steady job and benefits … two hours away. She was driving 4 hours a day, three days a week to keep her job and provide our only steady form of income.

I maxed out my credit card and never told Sarah. She found the bill one day.

Our heat got shut off.

My car was breaking down on a regular basis.

Income as a musician wasn’t working out the way I had hoped.

This isn’t a sob story. These were MY mistakes and I’ve learned from them. All said, I’ve had a damn good life – but the point is we had to leave the area I had come to call home.

So after six months of struggling in NH, we packed up and moved to Holden, MA (the town just north of Worcester). We found the cheapest apartment that  allowed our four cats and started over.

- – - -

hated living in the Central Massachusetts area. It wasn’t home. I didn’t plan on moving here.

Worcester, despite being the second largest city in New England was NOT exciting, not inspiring and no fun. It’s had a tough history of never quite becoming the city it could be. It’s not a particularly attractive city. Not walkable at all really. I grew up near Boston. Why couldn’t it be like Boston? Or Cambridge?! Why did we have to leave New Hampshire?

Arggg, I digress.

So there we are in Central MA. My wife was working full time. And we gradually started digging ourselves out of a financial hole.

Fast forward 6 years to today. I’m not a poor musician anymore. I only teach 4 hours of music a week (soon to be none). SEO has been a LOT of work, a LOT of learning … but VERY rewarding in so many ways.

- – - -

But last November … man. MAN! Portsmouth. It took my mind and emotions hostage. I told my Dad about my idea. I told my friends. We’re gonna move back! I was convinced if we could just get ourselves in an “inspiring” place the business would explode. Portsmouth was the answer. We would be happy.

Sarah wasn’t having it though.

There was no way we’d ever live more than 30 minutes away from her family again. I totally respect that and love her for knowing what’s important to her.

Despite wishing Portsmouth would work out, I put it out of my mind.

Ultimately, as it turns out, Sarah would be right (she always is :-) ) – in ways she didn’t realize.

- – - – - -

Jump ahead to March 2013.

It’s been business as usual. Evolving SEO is doing better than ever. I have some really kick ass clients who I am so grateful to work with.

Yet?  Still. Not. Liking. Worcester. Still feel lost.

Then, in one moment. Everything changed.

I remember it clear as day. I was looking around Worcester on Google Maps (I LOVE looking at maps) when I noticed something I’d never seen before – right in the city center;

“Worcester Common Outlets” it read

It jumped out because if there were outlets in city center, I thought I’d have heard of them.

Googled it;

More about the defunct Mall on Wikipedia 

Sighhhh – just another symbol of a city that just keeps failing. But reading further I found this;

citysquare-wiki

What was this “CitySquare” project?

From Worcestermass.org [paraphrased]: “CitySquare, a $565 million, multi-phased project in the heart of downtown Worcester, is one of the largest public-private development projects in the Commonwealth outside of the Boston area. Upon completion, the project is anticipated to create more than 2.2 million square feet of commercial, medical, retail, entertainment, and residential space.”

Here’s a rendition of plans for CitySquare;

worcester city square plans

Wow! In Worcester?! A mixed use, nice, walkable fun place? Could it be possible?

In fact it could be possible – as I discovered ground had been broken on CitySquare just a few months ago. HUGE progress for a city where normally plans never get off the ground.

- – - -

This trigged a massive domino effect.

I started to OPEN MY EYES, stop chasing something “out there” and focus on what has been right here in front of me.

I kept discovering more and more city projects, developments and exciting news for Worcester. Not limited to;

  • A 30 acre redevelopment plan for Worcester’s “Theatre District”
  • The re-opening of Worcester’s airport, with JetBlue leading the way. Starting with flights to Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Austin TX and possibly more cities this November 2013.
  • Plans to rebuild the Blackstone Canal and continue revitalization of Worcester’s Canal District
  • Major renovations to the DCU Center
  • Development / redevelopment of Gateway Park
  • The strong possibility of a full fledged film studio moving to town (they’ve recently been shooting bits of movies here).
  • A brand new transportation HUB (which will eliminate all bus stops surround the beautiful Worcester Common making it even better)
  • A proposed casino

The fact is … this city is EXPLODING with activity. This is a new thing. In all of six years living here, I have never seen anything like this.

Don’t get me wrong. Worcester has a long way to go. This city has a terrible history of projects getting delayed or never happening at all. But this. is. promising.

- – - -

Introducing Evolving SEO’s New Home.

We’re putting our foot down in Worcester. We’re bringing SEO with us. This city has a long way to go. But I feel a huge opportunity here now.

I went from feeling lost to feeling lucky to be here.

Not only do I want Evolving SEO to seize the opportunity, I have a vision for being a part of helping a growing city with a lot of promise.

- – - -

Finally, after over two months of looking for offices, working out lease details, here it is, Evolving SEO’s first real home. Our new office at 100 Grove St Worcester;

inside the new evolving seo location

  • Our office is 400 sq feet on the 3rd floor. 
  • After the last finishing details, we’ll be moving in June 1st.

Here’s the outside – an old (gigantic 100,000 sq ft) brick mill building circa 1831 (known as the “Northworks” building);

photo of 100 grove st worcester ma

- – - -

Let’s go macro for a second and check out where Worcester is;

worcester-macro-map

  • Get here in 45 minutes from Boston (train and buses available).
  • Get here in 3 hours from NYC (train and buses also available).
  • Boston, Providence, Hartford and Manchester are all major airports within an hour.
  • Worcester is New England’s second largest city, and the 71st largest city in the US (by population density).

Let’s zoom in and take a look at where all the development is happening;

worcester-development-2013

(click to see image bigger – I recommend right clicking!)

Few facts about what we’re looking at here;

  • Evolving SEO is walking distance to just about everything: restaurants, cafes, hotels, the DCU center, concert venues.
  • The development between the different districts are being done in a way, where the hope is they will be distinct, yet pull everything together in a way the city has not experienced in over 50 years.

Alright, finally, let’s look at Evolving SEO’s area specifically and some fun highlights;

worcester-gateway-park-evolving-seo

(right click to see bigger)

Some highlights here;

  • The building itself we are in has two restaurants, a yoga/pilates studio among other things. There are tentative plans for a cafe/sandwich shop too.
  • The highway is just behind us, where Boston, NYC, Hartford, Providence are all pretty quick rides.
  • Our building, 100 Grove St is the first property just to the north outside of “Gateway Park”.
  • There’s a new Marriot hotel next door.
  • The DCU center (where all major conferences are held) is a 5-10 minute walk. See where I’m going with this?
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute (who owns Gateway Park) surrounds us. Plenty of interns, oh yeah.
  • I can take the bus practically from my house right to the office. No driving? Heck yah!!

If you want to see the latest map of plans for Gateway Park, here’s the PDF from the official website.

- – - -

Goals

I have always had the grand idealization that the online world can actually CHANGE the offline “real” world. I still believe it can.

Evolving SEO will always be about helping the clients we serve. But we can be a part of the revitalization of Worcester. I’m infatuated with the idea of “online urban redevelopment”.

So I have a few goals in line with that;

  • I would like Evolving SEO to lead the way for other digital marketing, tech and startup-like companies to call Worcester their home. By being another business with a presence in the city, I hope to attract other like-minded businesses here.
  • In five years, I envision Worcester hosting a full (at least a full day) online marketing conference with at least 400 people attending. The infrastructure is starting to take shape with transportation, lodging, great food and several conference locations. We just need the community and the people.
  • Start with small events and meetups. There are NO meetups groups here dedicated to digital marketing, SEO or anything like that. Nothing. The second largest city in New England – 71st largest in the country – has NO SEO meetup group. That’s going to change.
  • Help the city with it’s “online urban redevelopment”. The fact is – the way Worcester looks online, has NOT kept up with it’s improvements in the real world. Whether working independently (I’ve already bought some domain names :-) ) or directly with the city – I envision Worcester being as beautiful online as it is offline.
  • Incidentally, moving here helps to fulfill just about all of the goals I put forth last December, in one way or another.

- – - -

There’s a lesson here.

It was around January/February when I realized. I had NEVER taken my own initiative to “explore” this area. I had been in denial for almost 5 years about living here. In a way, Mozcation Portsmouth kind of put some closure to that. It forced a much needed conversation between my wife and I.

I started actually exploring roads (literally, less than a mile from our house) I had never taken before. Five and a half years living here and I finally going places right in our own backyard.

Sarah and I have been stepping out of our habits and trying new restaurants that have been here all along we’ve never gone to before.

This all made me realize that this is our home. Home for my family, for our business. And I better damn explore it so I don’t miss the opportunities … right in front of me.

And that’s why I was looking around Worcester on Google Maps that day. That’s how I found CitySquare.  And that’s why we’re gonna stay here, bring SEO to the second largest city in New England, help the city to grow – and never close my eyes again – I’m grateful to my wife for getting me to see the opportunity that’s been here all along.

What opportunities could you be missing that are right in front of you?

About Dan Shure

I'm Dan (Google Plus Profile). I've been helping businesses improve their websites since 2007. Improving your bottom line is my number one goal. My obsessive nature and love for SEO as a true craft doesn't hurt either.

23 Comments

  • May 19, 2013 Reply

    Jen Sable Lopez

    I love it Dan! You can feel the excitement in your words, and that is a wonderful thing. :) Your new office looks amazing! I’m glad to hear you’re embracing Worcester, I bet you’ll find all sorts of great things around there. Heck, we’ve been Seattle for 3 1/2 years now and have also just recently found some great parks and things within walking distance of our house! It’s crazy that we’ve been so focused on other things to even notice what was right around us. :)

    I’m sending you and your wife a huge hug! Good luck and many congrats on moving forward. :)

    • May 20, 2013 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Thanks Jen! Right?! It’s crazy how you can still find things right around the corner just by looking and making the time. Your support means a lot :-)

  • May 20, 2013 Reply

    Jonathon Colman

    Fantastic! Great news and great storytelling, Dan — I’m so geeked about your new space. Not just because of your success, but because you’re putting roots down in your community, re-investing (in terms of both money and passion) in your home. I know you’re going to do great things in that space as EvolvingSEO continues to grow.

    Cheers to you and Sarah, who’s always right. :)

    • May 20, 2013 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Haha – thanks Jon. Now when you and your wife come to town we can film a NoBoard or something in the new space. Your constant encouragement and friendship is much appreciated :-)

  • May 20, 2013 Reply

    Anthony Pensabene

    love the chosen voice and tone of this, from the first sentence. i’m going to use this as a reference to owners who want to express brand related information; because, you cant escape the fact we’re communicating to people who can relate to…the realities, good and bad, of other people.

    good luck with the new space and aspirations, sir. i reckon, a creator such as yourself need but time to catch up to the success you’re crafting with ideas. i’d place a shure bet on good things to come. do work, friend :)

    • May 20, 2013 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Dude – you’re a MIND READER because one goal in writing this was to provide an example of what other companies can do to communicate to their audience. I’ve been telling clients left and right to produce content like this, and so I need to be an example of that. It won’t work for all industries of course, and the key is to not copy MY voice by to find your own – but you knew that ;)

  • May 20, 2013 Reply

    davematson

    Absolutely great post, a compelling and inspiring story!
    As an aside, meetups are a fantastic resource for all kinds of useful networking. Very happy to have started one.

    • May 20, 2013 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Hey Dave – thanks for reading. I have a lot of catching up to do, to get to the attendance level of your meetups I’m sure ;)

  • May 21, 2013 Reply

    Ted Ives

    Wow, those floors are awesome, you could almost play basketball in there! I’ve found in old mills you often see some worn spots in the floors – from where someone pivoted with their shoe as they operated some machine for 30 years – always makes me wonder who it was and what they were doing. Great choice, you can have meetings over at the Marriott, and yes – think interns…congrats!

    • May 21, 2013 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Hahaha… wow you read the details I’m impressed. Gotta get YOU to come up and visit.

  • May 22, 2013 Reply

    Dylan Mazeika

    Congrats man! I’m glad you decided to do this. It’s a really good area, I’m glad that the idea of Worcester grew on you. Let me know when you get set up I’ll have to drop by!

    • May 25, 2013 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Thanks man, gotta admit, Worcester has changed a lot even in the 5 or so years I’ve lived here. Will definitely have you stop by!

  • August 30, 2013 Reply

    Mat Brogie

    Hey Dan! Looking forward to meeting you at the next meetup… I just read this and my adrenaline flow increased another level! I am so excited to know that there are others out there who believe in the ‘New Worcester!’ So many people have looked at me in an awkward/dumbfounded kind of way when I’ve said ‘I really want to locate the business in Worcester’… now I’ll just point them to this post!
    We are a mobile/cloud solution for small businesses (www.salespod.net) with an R&D center in Zagreb Croatia. We’re just starting the process of building a physical US presence (well over 1/2 of our business is in the US, but we sell/support completely over the web). I love setting up shop in Worcester! In addition to 10 great colleges, great food, high-energy ‘modern’ development, great access to big cities & ‘metro-west talent’, and unreasonably cheap/inspiring office space, Worcester is developing a growing vibe around all kinds of entrepreneurship… I love feeling like a ‘founding member’ (albeit a late comer to the club) of the new community, and am really looking forward to what happens over the next 10-20 years!
    I’m old enough to remember Providence in the 70s (the ‘armpit of New England’) and has seen the great things that have happened in Davis Square in Sommerville and Inman Square in Cambridge. All things are possible, and more importantly in Worcester they are really happening!

    • August 31, 2013 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Hey Mat

      Hi neighbor :) Likewise, when I saw the story about your company moving into Running Start, and in the tech industry, that was hugely encouraging to me as well! Thanks so much for reading my story, signing up for the Meetup and commenting! I too have really good hopes and feelings for Worcester and am very excited to be a part of its development.

      -Dan

  • October 12, 2013 Reply

    Thomas Zickell

    Dan,
    As a guy from Newcastle I totally understand what you’re saying and Portsmouth is an awesome place, but I am so happy for you man. The fact misfortune happened to turn into fortune.
    I did not know about this until just now the fact Worcester has a lot going on the reason I’m posting this is I had not checked out how in-depth this article was and being a New Englander myself I had kind of Worcester thought along the same lines you had. I am really happy for you at this place is actually going to be taking off and the fact that you’re going to be there when the city becomes something more walkable and definitely more fun to be honest is going to be great for your business if you can network with people when large projects are starting those are always good things.

    You have a wise wife man however I hope that one day you will be big enough to have an office in Portsmouth as well as Worcester, Boston Seattle, London, Munich & Orlando to be honest I want to see your business expand greatly and I think you’re doing a hell of a job of it right now all those cities are fantastic but I would love to see evolvingSEO become as big as Distilled.
    You are a truly great guy and deserve to live in a place that makes you happy I am glad that that is all coming to reality for you.
    Sincerely,
    Thomas

  • February 9, 2014 Reply

    Joe Santa Maria

    Hi Dan,

    All great points about why Worcester is an opportunity for open minded entrepreneurs!

    As someone who has endured many highs and lows as a marketing professional in Worcester for the past 25 years, I’ve seen first hand the ease in which some fall into pessimistic malaise. But, the true fuel that is energizing this city is the power of our young people and their optimism and intelligence.

    Worcester’s primary challenge moving forward would be to nurture and encourage these amazing young minds in such a way that gives them the incentive they need to stay RIGHT HERE and help some of us “veterans” of Worcester business and culture break through decades of missed opportunities and finally become the world class city we know it can be.

    Worcester Love!

    Joe Santa Maria
    Founder
    Kill the Ball Media

    • February 10, 2014 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Thanks Joe! And appreciate the Twitter share. Agree 100%. When you look at other prosperous cities you can see the 18-35 demographic really driving things. This would be college students of course, or people with energy just entering the workforce and just beginning to contribute to the economy. Couldn’t agree more that Worcester needs to do a better job of RETAINING the pretty sizable popular of college students that study here.

      Not sure if you found my Meetup, http://www.meetup.com/Worcester-MA-Web-Marketing/ – I started it last June after moving in here to get more of a scene going in the tech/marketing community. Would love to see some younger attendees for sure, with WPI right here and all!

  • February 25, 2014 Reply

    Mike T

    Hey Dan,

    I am a young professional moving to Worcester for an opportunity at UMass. I stumbled across this blog/website by accident while researching Worcester, specifically neighborhoods to live. Great writing! This is very upbeat and helped me envision myself living in Worcester. This is a big relief for me after hearing from acquaintances and reading so many negative commentaries on the internet regarding the city.

    Since you seem to know a great deal about the city and are clearly invested in its success perhaps you could help me with living recommendations or direct me to a good place to start my search? I have lived in Minneapolis (in the city) and New York City (Manhattan) and don´t mind a little grit but am looking to avoid crime/vandalism as able. I will have a car and the ability to commute from home to my workplace at UMass Memorial if that makes any difference. Thanks again for writing this and showing the world wide web a completely different side to the city.

    -Mike

    • February 25, 2014 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Thanks for the comment Mike! I’ll send you an email!

  • May 22, 2014 Reply

    Ann Marie

    Hey Dan,

    I also came upon this by accident while searching the internet endlessly for something positive about Worcester. This was like a breath of fresh air and actually made me feel a little hopeful about our move to the area!

    I saw that you may have helped Mike out with some suggestions and I was hoping you might feel generous enough to do the same for us…or just point us in the right direction! My husband and I are moving there in a month or two with our one year old son. He got a job at UMass. We have absolutely NO CLUE about the area and would greatly appreciate any insight you have on the subject. We are moving from Philly and are looking for a quiet(er) neighborhood with stuff to do, parks, places to eat (other than Taco Bell or Applebees!), etc.

    Thanks so much. One, for making me a tiny bit excited to live there and two, for your help!
    Ann Marie

    • May 23, 2014 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Sent you an email :)

  • July 23, 2014 Reply

    Jasper Oldersom

    Hey Dan,

    I know i’m a little late to the show, but your story really touched me in some way. By reading this article i notice that we all start somewhere. Because i know you’re doing well now, but i didn’t know the whole story. And it’s a genuine story.

    Your can tell Sarah that she is amazing for driving 4 hours a day 3 days a week when the situation required it. I guess the plane really takes off against the wind. Look where you are now. I love the floor on the new building, that’s really cool!

    Good luck with your online urban redevelopment plans ;)

    Cheers!

    • July 24, 2014 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Thanks dude. “The plane takes off against the wind” Love that! What a great analogy. Stephan Covey’s got another great saying – pilots in flight are off course 90% of the time, but constantly making little adjustments to stay on course. Meaning, when you overcome one hurdle, it brings new challenges. We’re closer to a “cruising altitude” but still consistently working on new things.

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