by Eric Hagen
Each city has its own identity. The East Bethel City Council Dec. 21 hired a consultant to share the story with potential developers of what the city is and hopes to become.
On a unanimous vote, the council hired a Madison, Wis., based firm, Ady Voltedge. The contract is not to exceed $31,005.
Heidi Moegerle, councilmember and president of the East Bethel Economic Development Authority (EDA), said Ady Voltedge would share demographic information about East Bethel and other important facts in which a developer would be interested. It will develop a presentation that can be shared with site selectors.
“I certainly believe it’s a very positive step and an important step in the economic development process,” said City Administrator Jack Davis.
Ady Voltedge for now would not be involved in recruiting companies to come to East Bethel, according to Moegerle. This would be the next step after the branding and marketing plan is completed. Either Ady Voltedge or another company could be hired to handle this or city staff could work on the marketing, Moegerle said.
According to the application it sent to the city, Ady Voltedge has worked with a number of cities, chambers of commerce and companies on branding and marketing. It has worked with clients in its home state of Wisconsin such as the city of Portage and the rural Crawford County. It has also worked with a number of clients throughout the country such as the Greater Sterling Development Corporation in Illinois and the Lansing Economic Area Partnership in Michigan.
In its packet submitted to the city, Ady Voltedge stated it is an expert in finding, organizing and communicating the data required by economic development decision makers.
“Economic development branding and marketing is far different than consumer packaged goods branding and marketing,” Ady Voltedge stated. “The decision-making process in economic development is fact-based, consultative among multiple decisions influencers and high-risk with literally millions of dollars on the line. The data that they require and the kind of messaging that breaks through to them takes insider knowledge to deliver.”
What the council thought
East Bethel initially received applications from seven companies. The EDA narrowed the list to four and interviewed representatives from Ady Voltedge, Landform, SBD Design Consulting and Studio 106 at a joint Dec. 14 meeting with the council. The EDA consists of two councilmembers — Moegerle and Bill Boyer — and five members of the community that were appointed by the council.
Councilmember Steve Voss admitted he is a little nervous about the branding process. He said Forest Lake recently got done with its branding process and the firm it hired came up with the slogan. “Forest Lake: As Good As It Sounds.”
Moegerle said the city’s request for proposal document did not address implementation once the branding and marketing plan is completed.
“That’s a question that we’re going to face eventually and it’s going to be an important one,” Moegerle said.
Councilmember Robert DeRoche Jr. said it was pretty obvious that Ady Voltedge had done its homework on the city before the interview.
“They were pretty descriptive in what they thought,” DeRoche said. “It wasn’t they were telling the city what to do. It was ‘when we’re with you, this is what we need to do.’ It was just a little more vibrant.”
Voss, a consultant himself, could tell Ady Voltedge obtained a lot of knowledge about the area before coming in for the interview.
“If they had not told us, if we would not have read it, I would not have known they were from the next state over because they seemed to have a good grasp on… they spent some time researching,” Voss said.
More of what Ady Voltedge will do
According to its application, Ady Voltedge will review the data sources used by relocating and expanding companies to evaluate the city’s strengths and weaknesses. East Bethel will be compared with Anoka County and the whole metropolitan area.
Ady Voltedge will also review existing reports such as the city’s comprehensive plan, the city center district plan and the city’s website and other printed material, which will be useful information when Ady Voltedge meets with stakeholders.
Over the course of a full work day, Ady Voltedge will hold a kick-off meeting with different stakeholders including city staff, city commissions, area developers and current retail business owners, for example. The focus will be to come up with qualitative questions to find out more about the city that the data does not reveal.
The following morning, Ady Voltedge will conduct one-on-one interviews with local businesses, preferably the larger employers to focus on labor availability, business climate and employer input into potential office and retail businesses.
Following these meetings, Ady Voltedge will have the city distribute an online survey so more feedback can be collected.
After all this data is collected, Ady Voltedge will develop a “brand positioning document” and a “positioning statement” that will focus on the key elements of East Bethel’s “brand.”
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org