• Capital looks to find its public face
    By Amy Ash Nixon
     | August 05,2014
    Stefan Hard / Staff Photo

    Pedestrians stop to look in shops Monday on Main Street in Montpelier. A marketing and branding study has been ordered for Montpelier, which will be used to help draw visitors, potential residents and investors.

    MONTPELIER — What is the city’s “brand”?

    Montpelier Alive, the downtown organization, is about to embark on a project to come up with an identity for the city that will be used to promote what is special here and help attract more visitors, investors and people looking to relocate.

    The process will give Montpelier Alive direction for marketing materials, its online presence, signs to make navigating the city more user-friendly for visitors, and much more, said Ashley Witzenberger, executive director of the organization.

    A committee of city, state and Montpelier Alive officials is steering the effort, said Witzenberger. It has help from a consultant from South Carolina, whose firm was used recently in branding projects in several Vermont communities, including Barre and Waterbury.

    According to Witzenberger, the branding work with the firm of Arnett Muldrow & Associates will cost about $18,500, to be paid for by the city with downtown improvement district money. Commercial properties in the district are assessed an additional tax to be used for the betterment of the business community.

    The branding process will be beneficial for the entire city, not just downtown, Witzenberger said.

    A representative of Arnett Muldrow & Associates will be visiting to start work at Wednesday’s meeting of the Montpelier Business Association at 8:30 a.m. in the Memorial Room of City Hall, said Witzenberger.

    The real work on the ground will happen Sept. 8-10, said Witzenberger, when there will be opportunities for public participation.

    Sarah Jarvis, president of Montpelier Alive, said in an email, “This project will provide a forum to bring community stakeholders together to talk about who we are as a community and how we want to promote ourselves to those who may visit, invest in, or relocate to Montpelier.”

    Witzenberger said Montpelier is a dynamic small city set in the backdrop of “the grandeur of the State House” and that there is much to work with to come up with a strong branding campaign to bring people here.

    Steven Cook, deputy commissioner of marketing and tourism for the state, is on the branding committee. He said Monday that Montpelier is one of two dozen communities with designated downtowns for which the state provides support. He said the branding process will help to develop “a unified message across the community, and it really helps to make both our jobs and the city of Montpelier’s job a lot easier by providing some clarity in a number of different areas, like: Who is coming to visit and how long are they staying? What are some of the assets of the community that we find so valuable?”

    “We’ve seen this type of effort happen in a number of communities around Vermont, and it really helps us to create a strategy for promotion of the area,” added Cook.

    Once the project is completed, he said, the state will be able to help with matching dollars for promotion and marketing to an out-of-state audience, which is the state tourism department’s thrust. For example, if Montpelier decided to spend $10,000 on an out-of-state marketing effort, the state could match that, doubling the reach of such a campaign.

    Echoing Jarvis, Cook said the branding effort is about more than tourists. “It’s a community effort to bring pride, acknowledgment and to recruit new residents and businesses to the area,” he said. “... It’s not just a travel thing. It goes much deeper than that.”

    The process, Cook said, “is just really fantastic to participate in. ... It’s a very good, strong reminder of why we all love living in Vermont.”

    The contract with Arnett Muldrow & Associates calls for it to deliver its finished work by Oct. 29.

    The firm’s proposal for the project notes that it has been doing work for Vermont communities for a decade. It was also selected to lead a team of firms from Vermont and across the country to work with eight communities affected by Tropical Storm Irene and the spring flood that preceded that storm in 2011: Waterbury, Waitsfield, Warren, Barre, Brattleboro, Wilmington, Northfield and Brandon.

    Its proposal for a Montpelier branding study and market analysis can be found at http://www.arnettmuldrow.com/filechute/finalproposal.pdf.

    @Tagline:amy.nixon @timesargus.com

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