DALLAS — "We have a marketing problem in America."

So said Roy Spence, co-founder and chairman of GSD&M, a leading marketing communications and advertising company, to attendees of the 18th Annual Sunbelt Builders Show™, hosted by the Texas Association of Builders at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.

"All we hear is the political sides, on all sides, who would perpetuate and ‘us vs. them’ culture. Us versus them is not the purpose of America. Us versus them is not the promise of America. The promise of America was … if you’re willing to work hard and take responsibility, everybody should have a chance to develop their full potential.”

To combat this divide, Spence — whose agency has helped grow some of the world’s most successful brands, like "Don’t Mess with Texas," Southwest Airlines, Walmart, DreamWorks, the PGA Tour, BMW, the U.S. Air Force and the Clinton Foundation — decided to take on America as his client. "We’re going to market the best of America to America," he said.

Spence highlighted three of the Promiseland Project’s guiding principles during his keynote address at the Sunbelt Builders Show™. (Photo: Jason Anderson)

The Promiseland Project

Spence was there to promote his plan for The Promiseland Project — a marketing and grassroots campaign to "unleash the power of Purpose to bridge the cultural divide in America," according to thepromiselandproject.com.

Launched on March 10, Spence highlighted three of the project’s guiding principles:

  • Walk in each other’s shoes
  • Respect the dignity of all work
  • We have to let people know there are many other paths — besides a four-year college — to be successful in America

He touted the project’s mission of promoting "purpose-inspired communications" to bring Americans together. "In any purpose-inspired organization, everyone needs to know the words of the song, everyone needs to listen to each other and everyone needs to stand up when it’s our turn," Spence said. "America has a great song to sing."

Spence emphasized the need to promote community colleges and apprenticeship programs to students in order to train and educate people for thousands of high-skill, high-income careers. As the voiceover declared in one of The Promiseland Project’s promotional videos, "It’s time to stop judging each other by the color of our collars."

Spence announced the formation of The Skill Up America Alliance to address the skilled worker shortage in the U.S. (Photo: Jason Anderson)

The crisis of skilled workers

In Texas, the average age of skilled workers is about 58, according to Spence. Even before Hurricane Harvey caused widespread damage to the state about a year ago, we had 500,000 skilled job openings.

"We have a crisis of skilled workers," he said. And we have a perception problem and a marketing problem when it comes to finding young workers to fill those jobs.

In response to this crisis, Spence announced the formation of The Skill Up America Alliance.

The alliance plans to start marketing that message that "from apprenticeships, community colleges and construction sites all over the country, when you sign up to skill up, you don’t have to wait four to six years with a mountain of debt to make it."

Spence also spoke of plans to build a mobile Skill Up Performance Lab to take to high schools and community colleges all over the country to help kids find their vocational talents early in life.

On the road to purpose, if someone helps you, you help somebody else

"The purpose of life is where your talents and the needs of the world meet. Therein lies your purpose," Spence said, paraphrasing Aristotle. "There are very few industries that show your talents meet the needs of the world more clearly than homebuilding. When we’re at our best, we use our talents to serve the needs of the world."

"You build news homes for families," Spence said. "Homes are not houses. Houses are built with steel, wood, brick and mortar. Homes are built with trust, values and a shared purpose. I think we need to build a new home for America based on shared values, a shared purpose and a shared trust."