Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

City Branding Can Impact Economic Development

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

City Branding Can Impact Economic Development

Article excerpt

This is the first article in a series on local economic development tools and practices. This article focuses on branding for economic development and highlights programs in Milwaukee and Lansing, Mich.

With city revenues declining, small businesses closing, and consumer spending waning, cities have begun to strategically reposition their approach to economic development. Cities can use branding as a way to unite the community around a new competitive identity and to communicate their fresh approach to the outside world.

A strong community brand should be based on the assets and strengths of the city, its history and culture, the objectives of the broader economic development strategy and the collective vision and goals of residents, businesses and other community stakeholders. When a city is able to differentiate itself, build upon and showcase its local assets and present a unified front, businesses and consumers are more likely to be attracted to and invest in the community.

A brand is not something that can be purchased or even created from scratch; rather it is crafted over time through a deliberate, strategic understanding of what the community is, where it came from and what it wants to be.

For instance, Milwaukee recently began an aggressive identity-building campaign to become the "Freshwater Hub of the World." For many years, fresh water research and water-technology companies that focus on waterenergy, agriculture and other technology had been developing and prospering in the Milwaukee area. At one point, the city realized there were more than 120 water-oriented companies taking advantage of the city's large concentration of pure, fresh water. Government and industry leaders believe that Milwaukee is in a unique position to replace its rust belt identity with one that builds upon the growing water-technology industry. …

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