MONTPELIER — Montpelier Alive is working with an out-of-state consultant to tackle the challenge of rebranding the city, hoping to build loyalty and project an image that will lure new residents, new businesses and new investment.
At last week’s meeting of the Montpelier Business Association, about two dozen business owners met Tripp Muldrow, one of the principals of Arnett Muldrow & Associates of Greenville, South Carolina. His firm has done branding work and surveys for communities across Vermont, including Barre, Waterbury and Northfield.
“We are thrilled to be here,” he said.
The long-awaited branding project includes both the city and state as partners, and will be funded with money from the Downtown Improvement District funds, which are pooled from a special assessment on downtown commercial buildings and used for business initiatives.
At Wednesday’s meeting. Muldrow requested that shopkeepers help distribute a survey to their customers, mainly in restaurants and the retail community, about why they shop in Montpelier and how they think the city could improve the downtown business experience.
The survey will run through Thursday, Aug. 14, said Muldrow.
“We’re not doing brain surgery this week,” said Muldrow. “If it’s busy or hectic or something is going on, skip it. We’re not trying to catch every human who is coming through the door.”
The Capital City Farmers’ Market will likely turn in just one of the surveys, and not have each vendor complete one individually, noted Muldrow after Carolyn Grodinsky, manager of the market, inquired about the market’s participation.
One business owner asked if the people taking the survey should be browsing or actually making a purchase. Muldrow said it didn’t matter. “I’m really interested in the warm body,” he said.
Following the Wednesday session Muldrow and Ashley Witzenberger, executive director of Montpelier Alive, hit the streets together to visit in person with the members of the business community, visits that continued on Thursday.
This is the second year of the DID program, whose funds are expected to tally $75,000 annually, and which can be used for both physical streetscape improvements and additions such as benches, planters and holiday decorations, as well as for signage that’s part of the branding effort.
Tasks ahead include an intensive three-day visit by the consultant and many meetings with businesses, the community at large and other stakeholders. These will lead to the release of the “creative deliverables,” the rollout of the new branding concept and all its associated materials to use in a multi-year marketing program, including a new logo, positioning statements, marketing strategies, photographs and more.
Arnett Muldrow and Associates has worked in Vermont for the past decade, and has extensive experience with the Vermont Downtown Program, said Muldrow. Their people are armed with a strong understanding of the state, and are here to help the capital city present its best self.
“Anyone who tells you that it’s science is lying to you, said Muldrow. “It’s a little bit of voodoo and a little bit of experience and knowing.”
The final products are due in late October, said Witzenberger, calling it a quick turnaround.
The firm has done the same type of work in Barre, Waterbury and the Mad River Valley, said Muldrow. “So in a way, you’re the hole in the doughnut right now. We’ve done those other markets... so we’ll be figuring out how Montpelier continues to fill its important niche; that will be fun and that will be interesting,” he predicted.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the business association also passed the annual budget for Montpelier Alive. The downtown organization anticipates $195,075 in income and expenses of $191,870, leaving a predicted cushion of $3,205 for fiscal 2015.
Officers for Montpelier Alive were also unanimously approved: Sarah Jarvis, president; David Markow, vice president; Greg Guyette, treasurer; and Linn Syz, secretary.
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