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Updated: 10/16/2013 08:00:02AM

Commissioners OK economic campaign billboard

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Fort Meade City Commissioners unanimously voted last Tuesday to sponsor a citywide economic campaign by the Fort Meade Chamber of Commerce encouraging residents to place their community first.

The economic campaign includes a 10-by-40 foot billboard banner that will display a message encouraging residents to “shop, live, work, and play” in Fort Meade and also promote local businesses, attractions, and seasonal events.

The billboard banner will be displayed along U.S. Highway 17, which has been strategically chosen to target outgoing traffic and remind those leaving the city to support their local community rather than shopping and doing business out of town.

“We’re probably losing about 80 percent of expendable income that is going out of town,” Chamber President Bob Sweeny said. “So this message is trying to create economic development within our own consumer market.”

The banner will be good for two years. If the banner becomes damaged within that time, it will be taken down and the Chamber will have no obligation to pay for it, Sweeny stated.

Another conjunctive project for the campaign involves repurposing the two top panels of the city’s previous “Welcome to Fort Meade” signs along Highway 630 and U.S. 17.

Also included in the campaign are self-adhesive logo stickers with the billboard’s theme to be provided to willing local businesses and vehicles at no cost, thus allowing the campaign’s message to reach a wider audience.

The total cost of the campaign is approximately $1,400, which the city commission agreed to finance on Tuesday.

The costs include the creation and installation of the banner along with the creation of the logo stickers. With a maintenance and rental fee of $50 per month ($600 annually), the total cost for the first year totals roughly $2,000, with the second year only costing $600.

The campaign has been in the process for a year, and had been inspired by a renewed interest in economic development by the city at large.

Sweeny approached the commission last Tuesday to appeal for their support and sponsorship of the campaign.

Commissioner Maurice Nelson asked if the Chamber had asked for campaign donations from other vendors within the city.

Sweeny replied that since most local businesses are struggling financially, he felt it would be within their best interest if the city took full responsibility, which he assured would benefit everyone in the long run.

He also stated that the campaign was meant to be a public proclamation for support of all local businesses, and thus he did not want to place specific individual businesses on the billboard.

City Finance Director Mel Parker was consulted about when the commission discretionary fund would go into effect, and whether there was an item for advertising in the enterprise fund for this campaign.

He replied that the money is available in the current fiscal year to aid in discretion, but since this was neither budgeted nor forecasted, it will have to likely come from discretionary spending.

“It will simply require a complex budget adjustment that we are well equipped to handle,” Parker stated.

City Commissioners unanimously agreed that this campaign was a worthwhile investment that would benefit the city in the long run by promoting economic development.

Now that the City Commission approved to sponsor the campaign, the Chamber will present it with a full-disclosure not to exceed their given price, and it will proceed to create the billboard banner, which they expect to have ready and displayed by the first week in November.

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