Our view: If you build it, they might come
The city has hired a PR team to keep people informed about the downtown improvement project during the summer
The funding should be spent on creating a marketing campaign aimed at making sure business is not negatively impacted by construction inconveniences
News last week that the city of Steamboat Springs hired a public relations team to keep people informed about the impacts of this summer’s downtown improvement project was met with mixed reactions. Some question the $30,000 or so the city could spend on the outreach effort, but we think it will be money well spent if used for the right reasons.
In our opinion, the money needs to fund a comprehensive marketing campaign aimed at making sure visitors and locals know it’s business as usual on Yampa Street despite the inconveniences that will be caused by ongoing construction work in the downtown area.
Based on recent articles published in Steamboat Today, former council president Mary Brown has been hired by the city to serve as the “point person” to handle community outreach. According to Brown, it will be her job to update people about the ongoing status of the project and help residents and visitors know the best ways to negotiate through the construction work.
The city has also contracted with Blakely + Company and InterMountain Public Affairs for public relations services with costs not to exceed $30,000, according to Public Works Director Chuck Anderson.
It was mentioned by city leaders that part of the money earmarked for PR efforts would be used to keep business owners updated on the construction process. And, although we think it’s important for businesses to be kept in the loop, we think city staff could handle that specific responsibility rather than spending additional money on that task.
Instead, we’d like to see the bulk of the public relations funding spent on creating marketing materials aimed at offsetting the inconvenience and disruption that will be caused by launching a major construction project during the busy summer months.
Some of this funding could be spent on extra wayfinding signs in the downtown area to help people navigate the construction zone. These signs could point people toward individual businesses affected by the construction project and also inform visitors about where to find parking nearby. Materials marketing the downtown area could also be produced and distributed through property management companies, hotels and restaurants, the chamber and local media outlets.
We also think the city would be wise to expand its marketing campaign beyond only the downtown project to include the Central Park Plaza road construction project, which has already started and could extend beyond Memorial Day weekend and into the summer. People are already feeling the effects of that project, and businesses there would also benefit from an informational campaign similar to the one planned for downtown.
Both Central Park Plaza and the downtown district are home to businesses that drive sales tax revenue for the city, and, by launching two major projects this summer, the city is putting its own economic vitality at risk. With this in mind, it’s in the city’s best interests to do what it can to drive business to these commercial areas.
The marketing effort should be creative, multi-faceted and far reaching — aimed at making the summer tourism season unfold as seamlessly as possible. This is not charity for businesses but an example of the city working to protect its own tax base by creating a plan to offset a potential loss of sales tax dollars.
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