When I started the Inspiring A-Town effort in late 2010 I had intentions of creating a grass-roots movement to emphasize our beautiful community and change negativity into positive momentum one person at a time. I labeled it a community-building crusade that seeks to inspire and foster community appreciation and involvement by inspiring community pride for all who currently live in Northeast Michigan; for those who used to live here; for those looking for a great vacation spot; for those looking to relocate to an area with a better quality of life; and for support of the local business community.
Over the past year or so people are beginning to join the effort in their own way and realize that small changes of behavior and mindset truly do have the power to change the face of a community. Many still don't realize what this is all about, and that's understandable. Being the hyper-organized culture that we have come to be we've institutionalized the act of making a difference. People no longer believe that their individual actions or intentions matter in the grand scheme of things. But, soon another community-wide effort that is incredibly exciting and refreshing will also encourage us all to do our part to make Alpena shine.
I recently learned of this effort that will be making big strides to take Alpena to the next level. The consulting group Destination Development International (DDI), led by Roger Brooks, was enlisted by the Convention and Visitors Bureau to assist in creating a special, unique brand that tells the Alpena story. His team spent countless hours looking at the region from an outsider's perspective as well as speaking to local folks and as a result, developed a plan with recommendations to enhance our existing assets and align future projects with a cohesive image.
The economy has hit small towns all across America hard and many, including Alpena, are still struggling to recover. In an effort to offer citizens the quality of life they deserve as a Northeast Michigan resident and in order to attract and retain talented workers and family supporting business, Alpena needs a unifying message about who we are as a community and what we have to offer. There have been many campaigns to promote Alpena over the years, but this is the first effort to consider the Alpena story in its entirety and attempt to communicate it cohesively throughout our community and to the outside world.
Alpena is a very special place that feels like home for everyone who spends time here. A place anyone can call "my sanctuary." And that is the mission of the new Alpena brand: "As the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes, Alpena truly embodies the haven from the stresses of everyday life: the culturally rich place to relax, rejuvenate, and inspire the happy, healthy, and creative you."
This branding effort seeks to enhance our existing community assets; encourage engagement at all levels including business, organizations, and citizens; and collaborate with community groups to bring new assets to fruition. Alpena is the "Sanctuary City." Everyone can identify something unique about the Alpena area that makes it a personal sanctuary (outdoor activities, relaxing destinations, tranquility that inspires creativity, etc). Being the "Sanctuary City" takes our identity beyond the cultural resources of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and encompasses our unique natural beauty, history, and culture to offer a haven from the stresses of everyday life. This message also aligns with efforts driven by the successful Pure Michigan Campaign.
The effort will progress in a number of phases ultimately encompassing the greater Alpena area. I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about it in the near future. Some initial projects will take place in downtown Alpena and branch out to the greater Alpena area. Eventually, all citizens, businesses, and organizations within the area will have a chance to be involved.
At its core, this branding effort is grass-roots. This initiative will be successful because of the dedication and passion each community citizen has for the Alpena area. This will not be a top-down approach; the grass-roots effort will encourage engagement and foster involvement at all levels. In fact, no one agency or organization is solely in charge of the effort. While the implementation of this brand is currently in its infancy, it involves a number of community champions and feedback and involvement will be sought from many over the coming months.
This is exciting. This effort has the momentum and power to unlock Alpena's true potential. Feel free to leave your comments, questions, or thoughts about the effort on the Inspiring A-Town Facebook page. And as always, share what you love about Alpena with everyone you know!
Mary Beth Stutzman's Inspiring A-Town runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays.