By Jonathan Bullington and Gregory Trotter
Source Chicago Tribune
Highland Park doesn’t yet grace any billboards or beckon businesses with radio ads, but that could soon change.
Over the summer, the city approved a $75,000 branding study to be conducted by North Star Destination Strategies, a Tennessee-based firm. The hope is to unify Highland Park’s nine distinct business districts under one brand, city officials say, and North Star’s recommendations could be made to the City Council as soon as January.
The endgame: retain and attract more businesses in a competitive marketplace.
“Each district is still marketing itself. That’s not going away,” Deputy City Manager Ghida Neukirch said in a recent interview. “All this is doing is creating a larger umbrella.”
Across the Chicago area this year, communities as demographically and geographically different as Des Plaines, Highland Park and Tinley Park are breaking out their checkbooks to pay marketing firms and economic development consultants tasked with helping them figure out how to better attract businesses to fill vacant sites. But communities run the risk of projecting a negative image with aggressive marketing campaigns, some warn.
“What you end up with is municipalities competing against one another,” said Mary Ann McGrath, professor of marketing at Loyola University Chicago. “We love competition. But it seems so petty when you’re really trying to promote employment and a robust U.S. economy.”
Highland Park’s nine distinct business districts — from the retail-focused central business district to the more industrial Briergate district off of U.S. 41 – set it apart from neighboring towns, Neukirch said. Having that sort of commercial diversity is a strength when it comes to attracting businesses, she said.
“Any of our neighboring communities has the potential to be direct competition,” Neukirch said, “but I really think Highland Park is so unique.”
Councilman Alyssa Knobel, who chaired the city’s business and economic development commission before joining the council earlier this year, said she expected North Star to provide more information on who the competition truly is and what sets Highland Park apart.
It will be up to the city to execute what it finds most useful, Knobel said.
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