At a meeting of the city’s recently revived Industrial Development Board, members met with Tim Garner, director of marketing and communications at Jacksonville State University, to discuss how to begin selling the city’s most attractive attributes.
Garner said the city’s biggest marketing tool is its website.
“It’s got to be current every day,” he said. “It’s got to be owned by someone who takes care of that number one marketing piece, not some days, every day.”
Garner walked the board members through the process JSU took when the institution undertook a complete rebranding, explaining the importance of strategic planning and consistency of message. He talked about appealing to both the head and heart, showing their target audience that they are a good fit with more abstract qualities, but also that the city has strong quantifiable benefits such as good schools and infrastructure.
“That’s really important when you start to define what it is you want to say that Jacksonville, Alabama, will bring you,” he said. “There’s got to be something that we choose that that’s what we do the best.”
The result, he said, will become the city’s brand promise.
Mayor Johnny Smith said the city isn’t likely to undertake anything as extensive as JSU did beginning in 2008, but some of the strategies will still apply.
The Industrial Development Board’s most immediate goals in marketing the city, he said, are to completely redesign the website, making it more modern and eye-catching, and to produce an accompanying brochure so that they can place the city’s best attributes directly into potential developers’ hands.
The Industrial Development Board met in December for the first time in at least a year, the mayor estimated.
“We’ve done a pretty good job of attracting retail in the slow economy,” he said, but the city has lagged in luring industry.
But with the last leg of Anniston’s eastern bypass to I-20 potentially opening up within the year, city leaders felt the time was right to reorganize the board and start marketing the city to potential industry.
Since that first meeting, board member Scott Exum said he had met with fellow board member Anthony Kingston to come up with a list of attributes they would like to market in a brochure, including infrastructure, schools, tax incentives, housing and quality of life.
Exum said they had also begun taking an inventory of available property that could be of interest for industrial developers.
“We just need to make it real easy, in terms of acreage, location,” he said, and link all the information, including photographs, to the city’s website.
The city already has open land in the city’s Industrial Park, just off Alexandria Road. But, Smith said, access could be a concern for industries that require a lot of transportation. With the bypass opening, city leaders hope that a more direct route might help lure new businesses to the park.
So, the city is looking at the possibility of extending Greenleaf Street Southwest to provide a direct entrance into the park. The area is already a dedicated street, and the city has a 60-foot right-of-way to extend the street, he said.
Committee chairman Jamie “Red” Etheredge said he had spoken with Jacksonville Christian Academy, whose property abuts the proposed site. He said school officials were supportive of the project.
The mayor said the newly reorganized board is only in the very beginnings of its work.
“It’s going to take us awhile to get up and functioning,” he said, “but at least it’s a start.”
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.