Promoter Summit 2018: JD Bilodeau’s Opening Remarks
February 2, 2018

The text and accompanying Keynote slides from NEBRA Administrator JD Bilodeau's opening remarks at the 2018 Promoter Summit:

I’d like to start off this “State of the Region” segment with a little bit of a review of the past three years in NEBRA. I thought I would do that with a quick run-through of a presentation I gave last winter at the USA Cycling’s National Symposium. I was asked by Joan Hanscom and Kelly Clarke of USA Cycling to talk about NEBRA, how we were changing our LA’s role, and the methods we were using.

So here is the presentation I gave- it’s entitled NEBRA, How Does It Work?

As you know, competitive cycling in the United States is undergoing a sustained and significant change. Traditional road events are going away, license holders are going away, and a lot of the structure we have enjoyed over the years is now gone, or it has transformed into gravel events, bike packing, even cross-fit. Basically the same transformation of the BikeReg office- where there used to be peddling there is now plank challenges. Colin’s getting pretty buff, as you can see.

Three years ago this is where we were. And NEBRA set about to improve it’s structure, and to move from a reactive administrative organization to a proactive support organization. This was a conscious and necessary shift in the way in which NEBRA operates. “The way we’ve always done it” was simply not working anymore.

So we set about to ID the issues our region was suffering from. The past two summits were a big part of that process. Gathering information, making data driven choices and building new standards and best practices. And ultimately getting our house in order was like any home renovation- you go to replace a light switch to discover that there are extra wires and the next thing you know you are in the basement. Everything takes longer than expected, and nothing goes to plan. The upside to that is when you start with the foundation you are building up a really solid house.

As part of that building process we started with a focus on event organizers. We set out to create structure that would support our regions events, help them stabilize and ultimately grow. Our Promoters Support Programs have created a knowledge base and support network with the Promoters Google Group and this annual meeting. We have created support documentation such as our best practices sheet which draws on data driven analysis to show promoters what can make their events as successful as possible. We provide bridge loans, development grants, Moto referee grants to help events grow and try new things.

And our grant process underwent a simple but significant change. NEBRA does not just “give” money out. We make ‘investments’. That wording is important- we are making an investment and we expect those investments to grow and pay dividends. Our grants now include a sunset provision- the expectation is that eventually a promoter will grow to no longer need the grant and we can move that funding on to the next recipient. Other NEBRA programs such as our State and Regional Championships have some additional requirements- in exchange for those premier events we expect promoters to produce exceptional events and events that meet and exceed our Best Practices. Those events must raise the bar- as I said before “What we’ve always done” just isn’t good enough anymore.

And NEBRA is putting in the work as well. We have run a couple of different versions of a series/ranking system. We have held an awards party and created a Hall of Fame. We run a fundraising ride- the August Adventure. We are learning right along with our promoters. And it is definitely on the job training. We have not always pulled it together. We’ve been late on awards- our 2017 party is going to be in March of 2018. So we take those lessons to heart and learn from them. We’ve expanded our communications channels. We’re hosting a Q&A this afternoon to get feedback on how we’ve done over the last three years. There has been a lot of talk on the inter webs lately about NEBRA not being transparent, or being secretive. That’s the furthest thing from the truth, and we’re committed to openness and transparency. I’m hoping that you’ll have a lot of suggestions on how we can improve our communications and messaging. We will be listening and taking notes. 

The work we are doing right now isn’t flashy, we are in the basement getting dirty. But without a doubt we are succeeding. Our foundation is solid. The hard work is paying off. NEBRA is currently the healthiest USA Cycling region in the country. That’s still a little bit like being the least sick, but we are moving, quickly, in the right direction. Over the last 3 years our growth in permitted events year over year has gone from -19% in 2015 to -9% in 2016 to +6% in 2017. Our year over year rider day count- the number of people racing has gone from -15% in 2015 to -16% in 2016 to +4.25% in 2017. 

In 2017 NEBRA almost closed it’s budget gap, and depending on our final USA Cycling rebates we may have gone back into the black this year. Our change in approach three years ago has necessarily increased our budget, but the steps we have taken to cover those costs are paying off. We expect that gap to remain about the same or to be revenue neutral in 2018 but some expanded grants and new programing such as the NEBRA travel team program.

NEBRA was the first Local Association in the country. It is our expectation and commitment to remain first, and with your continued support there is no reason we won’t.

Thank You-