WALLINGFORD — As part of a three-year marketing plan, the Economic Development Commission is requesting $10,000 from the town to replace a billboard on Route 15 that was installed over a decade ago.
“The purpose is awareness and to reinforce in our clientele base what we have to offer in town,” commission chairman Joe Mirra said.
Mirra said the billboard would be similar to the one installed on Interstate 91 that advertises the town’s claim to the lowest electric rates in the state. The advertisement asks businesses to “Plug In2 Wallingford,” a slogan created by the commission. The Route 15 billboard near exit 64 is now blocked by a tree, Mirra said. Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. approved the $10,000 expenditure as a capital item in his proposed 2014-15 budget.
Members of the Town Council discussed the commission’s $94,867 proposed budget on Monday. During the meeting, Town Councilor Craig Fishbein questioned the billboard. He reiterated his concern on Tuesday.
“Their marketing campaign is ridiculous and I basically told them that on Monday,” Fishbein said.
The percentage of people that pass through Wallingford on Interstate 91 and Route 15 and have the ability to relocate their business to town is minuscule, Fishbein said.
Rather than spend $10,000 on a billboard, Fishbein said, he’d rather see that money spent on sending newly hired Economic Development Specialist Tim Ryan to trade shows where he can network with business owners.
Mirra called Fishbein’s idea an “interesting concept” Wednesday, but added he doesn’t see it as feasible.
Ryan’s success would be “very dependent on who shows up at these trade shows,” Mirra said. Ryan would be tied up traveling for several days, would incur expenses and there’s no guarantee of success, Mirra said. A billboard is always there and advertises the EDC’s web site.
Billboards over time have a derived benefit, but their success isn’t always easy to measure, Ryan said. What they do provide is “top of mind awareness,” he said. A billboard is also a onetime cost that spread out over its life is “relatively inexpensive,” he said.
Networking is also important, Ryan said, adding that he has attended events and has a “healthy list” of upcoming networking opportunities.
Town Councilor John LeTourneau said he’s fine with spending money on a new billboard.
“It’s something that’s already there and they’re just redoing them,” he said. “This is a onetime deal.”
While measuring the success of a billboard is difficult, it’s still a good idea, Town Councilor John Sullivan said.
“It’s out there day and night and everyone on that road going by has the opportunity to see it,” he said. “I’m in favor of it.”