Friday, Oct. 19 2012 11:09AM
LS city agrees to fund of brand manager
Chamber of Commerce proposed alternative plan to city council
By Russ Pulley
Lee’s Summit’s branding effort and downtown both got a boost from the City Council when it approved two roundly debated proposals.
The council voted Oct. 18 to finance hiring a “brand manager” who would work under the supervision of the Chamber of Commerce to design a marketing campaign for the community.
The city and chamber entered a public service agreement outlining responsibilities and financing.
The council also approved tax abatement for the expansion of the Stanley Event Space, which supporters say will encourage other property owners to look at redevelopment downtown.
When the branding logo, designs and “Yours Truly” slogan were unveiled in August, the council applauded the concept but some members had reservations about the initial request of $260,000 from Lee’s Summit 360’s Branding Committee to finance the effort.
Council members Ed Cockrell and Dave Mosby had problems with taking money from personnel to finance the branding; Bob Johnson questioned using city funds without a way to measure results. City Manager Steve Arbo had told the council he would need to make a personnel cut help pay for the campaign.
Cockrell suggested delaying funding until the next fiscal year.
To help, the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council committed $30,000 to the effort, but the city still had to decide on its level of spending.
Arbo and the chamber at the Oct. 18 meeting presented an alternative plan which was accepted by the council.
The city agreed to give the chamber $80,000 this year to hire a “brand manager” who will begin work on promoting the brand and creating a marketing campaign.
“We’re thrilled with the continued support the council has given us,” said Nancy Bruns, chamber president.
Bruns said the interviewing process will begin in next couple of weeks. The manager’s initial work will include starting a “web portal” and implementing the brand at City Hall, she said.
The brand manager also will be responsible for designing a broader plan to be considered as part of the city’s budget next year, Bruns said.
The city’s $80,000 is available because the city missed getting a grant it was seeking, so it could use $35,000 it had set aside for matching funds, Arbo said, while it also delays filling some police department vacancies at a savings of $45,000.
Johnson questioned the agreement because it did not provide the kind of concrete measures for success he had wanted to see.
“I don’t see anything that even hints at sales tax growth or job creation,” Johnson said.
Arbo said he did not think branding could be tracked in a way that could show such a direct link to economic impact.
“I doubt you’ll ever hear a person say ‘You had a great brand, that’s why I put my manufacturing company in your city’,” Arbo said.
Councilmember Derek Holland said residents should understand branding is necessary part of doing business, comparing it to updates of the website and marketing at his company.
The city needs to be positioned for the coming economy, he said.
“We’re marketing Lee’s Summit,” Holland said.
Cockrell and Johnson voted no on the service agreement, but it passed 6-2.
There was brief discussion on the tax abatement for the Stanley.
Johnson said he could support a smaller abatement to make the project competitive with a “green field” development, but the proposed $178,500 abatement was too much because he didn’t see the project creating new, quality jobs.
That issue passed 6-2, with Johnson and Councilmember Brian Whitley voting no.
The Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority had recommended five years of abatement on the increase of property taxes on the land that’s now a parking lot next door to the Stanley.
There owner Bryan King is adding a brick and stone, two story building at 308 S.W. Douglas with retail space on the first floor. On the second floor it will have an upscale ballroom with wood floors and ceilings and chandeliers to replicate the early 1900 look of downtown. On the roof will be a terrace with a pergola and water features for outdoor ceremonies. That project is to cost $1.6 million.