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posted: 5/20/2014 5:30 AM

Des Plaines to pay consultant for branding plan

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Des Plaines will pay a consultant $88,000 to develop a city marketing and branding plan in an effort to lure businesses and visitors to town.

The city council voted 7-1 Monday to contract with Nashville-based NorthStar Destination Strategies, which plans to host focus groups with aldermen and community members, create subnarratives for use in marketing materials, and alter or create a new city logo.

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During strategic planning sessions last year, city officials and aldermen expressed interest in the creation of a city marketing plan.

City Manager Mike Bartholomew said the marketing consultant's work expands on the research recently done by the Tandem Group, an economic development consultant.

"That was really focused on economic development and not necessarily on who we are as an entire city," Bartholomew said. "This is an attempt to take the work of the Tandem Group and use it as a resource for (NorthStar) to do a complete marketing analysis and branding image of the city."

Don McEachern, NorthStar's president and CEO, said he and his staff plan to spend 16 working days in Des Plaines over the course of 8 months to find out what is "distinct, different and ownable" about the city. The company has done work for the cities of Highland Park and Lake Bluff.

Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Walsten, chairman of the city council's community development committee, said the marketing initiative has been discussed for a long time, and now is the time to take action.

"Now that we're coming out of the second worst financial disaster this country has ever had, now is the time to be proactive," Walsten said. "Don't wait until things are nice. Let's get ahead of everybody else, get ahead of the curve and start marketing Des Plaines."

Second Ward Alderman Jack Robinson said Des Plaines' blue collar image that developed as a result of the manufacturing boom during World War II has changed, and those outside the city should know it.

"It's very important to let our surrounding areas know what a hidden gem we are," Robinson said. "We're a totally different people. We're a cross section of the United States, with different ethnic and religious groups. We need to let everyone know what our residents know."

Fifth Ward Alderman Jim Brookman was the lone vote against hiring the consultant because city staff did not check with other towns who have hired NorthStar to get additional feedback on the company.

City staff reviewed six firms who responded to a request for qualifications before recommending NorthStar to the council.

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