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DDA hires South Carolina firm to brand Oxford



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November 30, 2011 - How does downtown Oxford wish to promote itself to attract visitors and shoppers?

That's the question the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is hoping to answer.

In order to do so, the DDA board last week voted 8-1 to hire Arnett Muldrow & Associates, a firm based in Greenville, South Carolina, to develop a branding/marketing plan for the downtown district for an amount not to exceed $8,000. The lone dissenting vote was cast by Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn.

"In my view, this is something we desperately need," explained DDA member Chuck Schneider. "We need an identity. Are we the gateway to Oakland County? What the hell are we? Gravel Capital of the whatever doesn't exactly do much for me."

Arnett Muldrow & Associates "was created to help communities that want to rebuild their aging downtown, reinvigorate their historic neighborhoods, and create economic development opportunities," according to the firm's website www.arnettmuldrow.com.

Community branding – which includes things such as creating logos, taglines, advertising campaigns, etc. – is one of the firm's four specialties. The others are town planning, historic preservation and marketing analysis.

"Arnett Muldrow has emerged as one of the nation's leaders specializing in branding for communities in the context of creating economic vitality," according to the firm's website. "Unlike a typical advertising or marketing agency, we are a planning firm that understands the complexities of community issues. Our branding and marketing efforts combine the sensitivity of planning with the expertise of a professional graphic artist and marketing specialist."

Examples of the firm's community branding work can be found in the South Carolina communities of Chapin, Gaffney, Honea Path and Daufuskie Island along with Culpeper, Virginia; Bastrop, Louisiana; and the Arkansas Delta region.

"Much of our work is for small to medium size communities without large budgets for marketing and branding," according to www.arnettmuldrow.com.

It was pointed out that back in 2007, the DDA paid $35,700 for a "downtown market analysis and strategic plan," created by the Northville-based McKenna Associates, Inc. and J. Eppink Partners, of Clarkston.

However, DDA Chairman Kevin Stephison explained that plan was focused on marketing the downtown to attract new businesses and determining which types "would fit in the downtown footprint we have."

According to that plan, "Oxford was best to be marketed as an enteraintment (and) eating destination versus the big box store type approach," he said.

DDA member Anna Taylor noted the 2007 marketing study along with the previously-adopted downtown "vision plan" are already being put to use, particularly in the development of the new streetscape plan.

"All of those things are being incorporated, used today as tools, as vehicles to get us where we need to go," she said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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