CORTLAND, Ohio -- With 7,041 residents by the 2012 count, Cortland’s population is a fraction of the 26 million who live in Texas. Still, the Loan Star State’s economic development marketing strategy is right for the Trumbull County community, says Vic Rubenstein.
Rubenstein, vice president of the Liberty-based marketing firm Rubenstein Associates, says he met recently with an executive from Texas who was here assessing Cortland as a possible site for an auto battery plant. Driving away from that meeting, the executive told Rubenstein he felt like he was leaving Mayberry, the iconic community immortalized in The Andy Griffith Show and its spinoffs.
“That conjures up images of the friendliest place on earth,” said Rubenstein, which is why he proposes to brand Cortland as “America’s Hometown.”
Rubenstein outlined his proposed marketing strategy during meetings Thursday with business and community leaders and the press.
Twelve years ago, said Mayor Curt Moll, Cortland began working on an effort to attract business as part of a strategic plan, but that effort was shelved when the economy “went south. As things began to turn up with the shale opportunities and the business growth we’ve seen, we decided it was a good idea to rekindle this idea.”
Last month the city signed a contract with Rubenstein Associates, the mayor said. The marketing firm has been paid about $2,800 for its work to date and performed most of it at cost, said City Council President Jim Woofter, who is working with Rubenstein on the initiative.
“The best illustration of what we’re doing is the state of Texas,” Rubenstein said. “What’s interesting is Cortland is probably the smallest community in America to utilize a marketing initiative,” he noted, while the Texas campaign touts one of the largest states.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, at one point a contender for the 2012 Republican nomination for president, touted the state’s success in attracting jobs and businesses “but what he didn’t tell you is that Texas raided 22 states to bring in and relocate those businesses to Texas,” Rubensteine said.
“Good or bad, he did it -- 22 or more other states didn’t do it,” he added. “They identified their product, they identified the likely users and they targeted those likely users and got them to relocate or expand in Texas rather than their home state.”
The marketing plan for Cortland takes a two-track approach, first touting the community’s assets -- such as available land and buildings, low cost of living and quality of life -- to companies within Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties in Ohio and Mercer County in Pennsylvania that might be considering an expansion or relocation, he says.
Cortland’s assets then would be marketed on a national basis, targeted to companies identified through media research. This effort would also promote the surrounding Trumbull County-Mahoning County area and proximity to Pittsburgh and Cleveland. These targeted companies would be pitched through brochures, a website, digital media, social media, and the telephone, Rubenstein said.
“We’re going to identify our product, identify likely users and target them with a selling action,” he said. Once a “warm” prospect is identified, Rubenstein said his agency would turn the contact over to an economic development agency such as the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber or the Western Reserve Port Authority, or to the property owner or other appropriate parties.
The one-year effort Rubenstein envisions likely would cost in excess of $100,000, although he says he will be able to work with “almost any level they raise.” A steering committee will be formed to lead a fundraising campaign.
City Council President Woofter says he's guardedly optimistic about raising the necessary funds. “Anyone who will get a direct or indirect value from this might want to consider contributing to it,” he said.
Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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