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Billboards offer opportunity to tout Meriden

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MERIDEN — In trying to develop a way to advertise the city on its new electronic billboard and other billboards in the state, city officials and stakeholders have come up with a marketing campaign to change the perception of Meriden.

Officials are preparing a marketing plan with the theme of “Meriden 2020: Bringing it. Together.” There are several reasons for the theme, including giving the target audience a real date to “hold onto” and a realistic date to complete projects.

“We want to enhance the perception of Meriden as a great place to live and work,” said Don Wilson, of the Connecticut Economic Resource Center. “We want to turn some of that cynicism and skepticism into hope and pride.”

As part of its arrangement with the company that operates a new electronic billboard on city property fronting Interstate 91, Meriden receives 2,000 hours of free billboard advertising each year. With images flashing every seven seconds, it equates to more than a one million images annually on the Meriden billboard and others around the state.

Rather than simply advertising events, the city decided to spend $25,000 on was used a marketing consultant. The Connecticut Economic Resource Center was chosen after a bidding process and a group of stakeholders began meeting with the CERC team. Four billboard images are being planned, including ones centered on schools in the city, businesses, recreational activities, and the ability to transportationvel both to Meriden and out of the city.

“This positive marketing campaign for the city of Meriden is another critical piece in the transformation that’s ongoing,” said City Councilor Brian Daniels. “We’ve got shovels in the ground on several major projects that are going to change Meriden for generations. Now we need a mechanism to get positive messages to businesses outside of Meriden and businesses inside of Meriden.”

Among the projects underway are the downtown Hub redevelopment, the new train station and improved rail line, and the high school renovations.

While Meriden has plenty to be excited about, Midstate Chamber of Commerce President Sean Moore said that the stakeholder meetings were “brutally honest.” The positives and the negatives were discussed.

“I think it will be a real loud, collective statement,” Moore said. “The ‘bringing it’ has just a little bit of attitude and equates well to a younger crowd, a crowd that virtually every city in the country is trying to better connect with.”

Among the assets CERC listed in the presentation were Meriden’s history, its “beautiful landscapes and parks,” culture, accessibility, educational opportunities and an inviting business climate. Some of the other issues it listed included a “run-down downtown,” low-income housing, “few good restaurants and retail stores,” the perception the city is unsafe, and numerous failed revitalization efforts.

Moore said he is looking forward to the campaign being launched on the billboards, but noted that it could translate well to brochures, websites and other forms of advertising.

Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski said there is a plan to launch, although the domain name has not been purchased yet.

Mayor Manny Santos said he also liked the campaign and hopes that it resonates well with residents and businesses.

“It accomplishes a range of things we want to do in this city,” Santos said. “I just hope the perception is corrected as well as some of the realities. From what I’ve heard from business owners, it is not easy doing business in this city.

“I think the future is bright and it seems like a fantastic campaign,” he added. 203-317-2266 Twitter: @DanBrechlinRJ

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