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Solid as a Rock
by Fran Jackson
After a rocky career start with the fledgling Plymouth Rock Studios, the proposed film and television production studio in Plymouth dubbed "Hollywood East," Bob Nolet '08 has since made a Plymouth landing that is rock solid.
As Director of Communications and Events at the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce, Pembroke native Bob Nolet '08 markets a chamber comprised of seven hundred and fifty members and servicing nine towns on the south shore - Carver, Duxbury, Halifax, Hanson, Kingston, Marshfield, Pembroke, Plymouth, and Plympton.
Nolet is responsible for over sixty different events each year, from morning mixers, legislative luncheons, and business after hours, to monthly networking events and annual meetings.
"Our largest event is held every August and it's the downtown Plymouth Waterfront Festival. It's a full day event and about forty-thousand people come through over the course of the day. We have over two hundred and twenty vendors and kid's activities. It takes over a year to plan for it."
In addition to his responsibilities as an event planner and networking liaison, Nolet is responsible for media relations, publications and the Chamber's social media sites. "I'm a social person," says Nolet, "and this job is just a perfect fit."
The First Landing
It was the social media marketplace Craigslist that helped Nolet land his first role after graduating from Curry - a three month public relations apprenticeship with Plymouth Rock Studios.
"Watching the news, Plymouth Rock Studios was the buzz around town - everyone wanted to be a part of it, and no one was too sure what it was. But it was exciting because it was Hollywood, it was flashy, and it was coming to Massachusetts. It was going to be huge, and the best part was it was going to be in our back yard, here in Plymouth."
The studio proposal, conceived in 2007, included sound stages, back lots, a multipurpose theater, a hotel and offices. The original proposed location for the studio complex in South Plymouth, near the town lines of Bourne and Wareham, was rejected because of faulty land titles, and the focus for the site became the Waverly Oaks Golf Club. The project was dubbed "Hollywood East."
When Nolet saw the posting on Craigslist, he'd already done three marketing and PR internships while at Curry, a sophomore year on-campus internship, a summer internship at Brockton Hospital, and a recently completed agency internship at Shift Communications in Boston. He hadn't yet had any experience with a start-up company, so he thought, ‘why not try that?'
"I applied and I was the last person that they brought in to interview for the apprenticeship. It was probably the most nervous I had ever been for anything. I had gone on plenty of interviews, but I wanted this so bad."
Nolet heard back two days later and was offered the role.
He knew that the job market in 2008 was the worst in recent memory and gladly accepted the apprenticeship, knowing that getting his foot in the door was the best thing he could do.
"The biggest hurdle I had at Plymouth Rock Studios that I learned was to overcome people's perceptions about me. I was just out of college and I looked young. I had to show people quickly that I did have the skills that I needed and I was trained; the classes and the internships I did at Curry had prepared me."
Nolet made his mark, and when the apprenticeship concluded, he was offered the role of Director of Communications.
"It was a whirlwind. After I was hired for my new position, the next thing I knew I was on a plane to L.A. going to the Producer's Guild of America awards. I was on a red carpet. I had private tours of Hollywood studios. It almost seemed surreal."
Nolet found himself with a tremendous amount of responsibility, including dealing with the news media, sitting across the table from folks from the Boston Globe and working with Fox 25 and other broadcast stations covering the project.
"The responsibilities I was given, the situations I was put in, and what was asked of me was amazing for someone that was right out of school," says Nolet. "I was thrown into situations that I really hadn't experienced before on such a level. I grew so much as a person, and was growing into that professional that I wanted to be. It seemed like it was happening awfully quick."
What didn't happen quick enough was the project's funding and the construction. The studio had hoped to start construction in July 2009. In September it announced that it had received financing from a Florida based lender. But the funding fell through in November just weeks before the planned groundbreaking, and construction was delayed indefinitely leaving the project looking for new investors. The financial backing was never secured, and the project never materialized.
"It was devastating. We had put our heart and soul into it, everyone that worked there. We were almost like a family; we would all have dinners together, go out together. We were all working for the same goal, to bring Hollywood here and to build this film studio, and make it the best film studio in the world.
"It's really hard to explain to people. Some people think ‘oh it was just a job.' Well, it wasn't. I have lifelong friends that I made from there, because we were there night and day, Saturdays and Sundays. We did everything we could, because we believed in the project.
"So to see it come to an end like it did... it was devastating for all. It's just unfortunate that with the economy at the time, the funding never came through. Because if it had, we would have a huge film studio right now, ten minutes down the street from where we are, and it would really be something."
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
As the venture unraveled and Plymouth Rock Studios closed down, Nolet was one of the last people who left the project. He was dedicated and his superiors knew he was in it until the very end.
"The last thing you want to do is throw in the towel if you see hard times coming.
"I learned so much from that job in the short period of time I was there. Being a part of a startup is so eye opening. You see
so many different things that you don't see at an established company."
Nolet says he doesn't regret the initial path he took despite the career speed bump that it led him to.
"If I had waited for a job elsewhere vs. an apprenticeship at Plymouth Rock Studios, I would have never gotten one. Never. We had over nine thousand resumes on file at Plymouth Rock. That was a sign of the times in 2008.
"After Plymouth Rock, I didn't want to sit there and say ‘poor me.' At that time, there were thousands of people out of work."
Nolet feels fortunate to have landed a new job quickly after Plymouth Rock Studios, but his good fortune was as much a testament to his commitment to the Plymouth area and his diligent networking as it was to luck. He'd volunteered his service to the Plimoth Plantation Marketing Committee, as well as for Destination Plymouth, the Plymouth Tourism Board. It was through Destination Plymouth, where he met the woman who'd subsequently become his boss at the Radisson hotel in Plymouth. Knowing he was out of work after the studio venture dissolved, she reached out and offered Nolet a position as the Director of Corporate Travel and Tourism.
"I was at the Radisson for almost two years and it was nice, because I was still working in Plymouth, I was able to use all my same contacts. I was running in the same networking circles and going to the same events. I knew I didn't want to leave the Plymouth community, because I really worked hard to build the foundation that I had and I didn't just want to throw that away and move up to Boston and start over."
Nolet had indeed forged a solid reputation in the Plymouth community, so when Dennis Hanks, the executive director of the Chamber, had an open position, he reached out and recruited Bob for the job.
"I knew Dennis from my days at Plymouth Rock Studios. It was full circle and that's the power of networking. I still talk to the people that I worked with three or four years ago at Plymouth Rock. I still network and I see them these days in the same type of networking events we used to attend together - the networking events that we put on here at the Chamber. I'm on the other side of it now, in a sense."
Casting a Wide Net
"In my career so far, the biggest thing that has helped me is the networking that I've done. The networking that I did all goes back to Curry and from what I was taught there; that networking is the key to career success, and there's so much truth behind that."
Bob says what he enjoys most in his role at the Chamber is that networking interaction he has with business owners and the people in the community.
"There's nothing more gratifying than talking to someone that you've helped by promoting their event, or someone coming up to you and saying ‘I've met a great contact' or ‘I have a great lead from one of the networking events that the Chamber put on.' I think that's probably one of the best parts about what I do - being able to help people achieve their goals, and put their message out there. That's the most gratifying part of my job. Being able to help these businesses succeed."
In terms of his own career success, Bob cites his internship experiences as being instrumental in acquiring the workplace skills he still uses today.
"There are so many times when I'll think ‘what I just did I learned about five or six years ago on that internship I did, thank God I did it!' I have to give so much credit back to those internships, and that was because Curry pushed me to do them."
Nolet gained a lot of Plymouth pride while working at the Radisson and at Plymouth Rock Studios, so when he had the opportunity to work at the Chamber, he knew it was one that he had to take.
"It allows me to get even more into the community, and it allows me to do more of exactly what I wanted to be doing - communications, public relations, events, community outreach.
"The reason I love this community is the history about it. It's America's hometown. People come from all over the world to see Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower, and the Plantation.
"I've grown to love Plymouth. I've been a part of this town for five years now through my work, and I live here now as well. I recently became a member of the Plymouth Lions Club, and I love it because the Lions are the largest service organization in the world. It's very rewarding to give back to a community that has given a lot to me so far in my career. I sit on the Plymouth Cultural Council, as well, which is a branch of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
"I believe all things happen for a reason. Because I responded to that Craigslist ad for Plymouth Rock Studios, it launched my career here in Plymouth and I couldn't be in a more happier spot that I am in now."