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Branding efforts make way for area improvements

August 21, 2012
Jessica Nikolich - Assistant News Editor , The Alpena News

ALPENA - Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary staff, alongside other local organization and business members, has spent the past eight weeks undergoing a branding boot camp where Alpena was closely evaluated to pinpoint what makes it an outstanding destination for visitors, economic development, and youth. Alpena Convention and Visitor's Bureau Director Deb Pardike spearheaded the process with the City of Alpena over a year ago when Roger Brooks of Destination Development International conducted an assement of the Alpena community.

"We're really looking to see how can we separate Alpena from everything else, all the other noise. Every single community is trying to draw tourists, draw business. What separates Alpena from the rest of the pack," Jeff Gray, sanctuary superintendent, asked during Tuesday's sanctuary advisory council meeting.

Gray said the group was locked in a room at Alpena Community College for a week with a goal in mind to make a public presentation about the ideas discussed. He said they evaluated Alpena's arts, outdoor recreation, and industry to ultimately create a brand. The initial draft calls Alpena "the sanctuary of the Great Lakes."

"We can come up with the catchiest logo, the greatest slogan in the world, but if it doesn't fit our community and if we do not take the steps to earn that brand and make sure we do it every single day, then the time was not well spent," he said.

Pardike said all the information collected was based on responses from local people and what they thought was great about Alpena and what could be improved.

"Ultimately we had to come up with a brand that really had legs," Pardike said.

Gray said the group defined the legs of the stool, or the pillars of the "Alpena" brand, as learning opportunities, wellness and environment.

"These are based on real things. It's based on our culture, the environment that's here that lends itself to postive things that are going to help the community prosper and provide jobs for youth," Pardike said.

Chair Olin Joynton expressed some hesitation with branding Alpena as a relaxing, stress-free place for fear that it might prohibit business growth. Overall, the advisory council was impressed with the branding efforts.

"It's hard to excite old dogs sometimes because we've seen all these tricks, but this seems to be a new trick and certainly something I was energized by," said Carol Shafto, who attended the boot camp. "I was excited, I want to be a part of this, I want to sign up, and I felt that was the energy that the people in the room shared ... Alpena needs a shot in the arm, and I think this is it."

Gray hopes to continue reporting on branding developments at upcoming meetings, and encourages public feedback.

In other business:

Smith will be leaving in October, and an AmeriCorpos position will be available to anyone 17 years or older who is interested in discovering new career opportunities while performing community service.

Jessica Nikolich can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 343.



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