Show me a sign: Garner mulls All-America marketing

kjahner@newsobserver.comAugust 29, 2013 

Town Council directed staff to come back with more details after reviewing draft plans for how Garner could spend nearly $40,000 this year marketing its 2013 All-America City designation.

At the Tuesday work session, Rick Mercier presented the plan, which focuses heavily on signage and also includes media advertisements and promotional items. The 2013-14 town budget includes $30,000 dedicated to the effort, with other elements funded from the economic development budget. Most of that has been allocated, though the draft reserves $4,655 for opportunities that emerge over the course of the year.

“It’s a lot of money on the budget, but the time to do it is now,” councilman Buck Kennedy said.

Council expressed particular interest in using signs to increase the number of access points where signs could welcome people into Garner.

“I’ve had so many people say to me ‘I don’t know where Garner starts,’ ” councilwoman Kathy Behringer said.

Town staff said that the “aggressive and multi-faceted marketing campaign” would help capitalize on the town’s selection in June as one of 10 All-America Cities. It aims to reach both citizens and the business community to promote the town.

“It would be the next logical step in our efforts to enhance Garner’s image and brand both regionally and nationally. The campaign would also increase Garner citizen’s pride in their community,” the staff’s package to council said.

Towns and cities in the past have varied in efforts to market the award, in part depending on community size. Fayetteville spent $160,000 on the trip and promotions while winning in 2011, significantly more than Garner plans to spend. Southern Pines won last year, and did not spent substantial money on the trip or marketing.

Sign-wise, Mercier said he’d been to 2012 winner Pittsfield, Mass., and couldn’t find a sign marking the achievement. But he used pictures of bold signs in 2008 winner Aurora, Colo., as an illustration to the council.

Give me a sign

The draft allocates an estimated $8,000 for four gateway signs commemorating Garner’s award. Two will mark U.S. 70 entrances to the town from the east and west. One will stand on U.S. 50 at Centennial Park and another would mark I-40 and Jones Sausage Road; the latter Kennedy found valuable to catch business recruits visiting from the airport to check out Garner’s industrial sites.

Garner economic developer Tony Beasley said the estimates include some contingency and probably would leave money left over for more than four signs. In addition, the two U.S. 70 signs could be paid for in the next budget. Construction at U.S. 70 and U.S. 401 has already temporarily moved the “Welcome to Garner” sign, and it could be October 2014 before those signs – with a potential All-America City sign – return. Planned road work at U.S. 70 near White Oak Crossing could also hold up the eastern sign.

Council members expressed favor for signs of varying size at Garner borders on Garner Road, other northern-border streets, and northbound U.S. 401.

Another $4,905 would create signage at various town properties, including parks and the Garner Performing Arts Center. Six 11-foot teardrop banners for special events would cost an estimated $3,016.

Ads and promotional items

The town has already bought a full-page ad in the News & Observer that was bought with 2012-13 funds. A half-page ad in the Garner-Cleveland Record ran June 23, and came out of 2013-14 funds.

Reflective decals on town vehicles and public works trailers, new business cards and a new lectern logo add another $1,895 to the marketing costs. Promotional giveaways such as posters, window clings and prints of Vince Wood’s painting used in Denver tack on $2,473. The council was particularly interested in giveaways such as bumper stickers that could serve as roving advertisements.

The idea of selling T-shirts emerged at the work session, but Hardin quashed it, at least from the town’s perspective.

“I don’t want to be in the T-shirt business,” Watkins said, suggesting instead to license a design to the Garner Chamber of Commerce. “We’re just not geared up to sell merchandise. I’ve tried at other places I’ve worked and it never works out.”

The draft also mentions other already-spent funds that came from other parts of the budget. A Guide to Garner for all residents, newcomers, the real-estate community, and development projects cost $7,000; $3,500 came from the economic development budget and the rest was subsidized by WakeMed.

The draft also mentions various efforts without any new cost, such as printing promotional materials in-house, inclusion of the logo in other regularly-produced town products and news releases.

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @GarnerCleveland

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