Beaufort stakeholders seek ways to brand city, share resources

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 28, 2012 

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Whatever the message ends up being -- motto, slogan, brand or logo -- all the government groups, businesses, nonprofits and clubs in Beaufort need to find a way to get it out.

"If we're all infighting about what's out there, then no message is going to get out," Distant Island resident Ed Gillies said.

More than 60 people representing a range of groups -- from the University of South Carolina Beaufort to small businesses to the Beaufort Rowing Club -- met Saturday morning at City Hall to brainstorm how best to market Beaufort.

"I think at the end of the day we're going to find we're all talking the same message, we just have to figure out how to send it," councilman Mike Sutton said.

A perennial autumn concern for city council and the Tourism Management Advisory Committee is how to divvy up thousands of accommodations tax dollars to the dozens of local organizations requesting grants.

Committee members pore over grant request for months and make recommendations to council, which typically accepts them. The A-tax money is intended for advertising to draw tourists from outside the area, and organizations typically request grants to pay for ads and tourist guides or to market events. The same general groups apply every year, and almost always receive a portion of what they request.

That almost didn't happen last fall because council members looked for ways to improve the process and maximize return on dollars. Ultimately, the recommendations were approved because council as a whole couldn't find a better way and didn't want to hold up the process.

"The central thing we all have in common is we want to grow this city in the right way," Mayor Billy Keyserling said. "And the way to grow it in the right way is to understand we are all on the same team."

Nancy Whitworth, assistant city manager for Greenville, spoke about her city's growth before the attendees split off into brainstorming groups. There's no set of blueprints for success, she said, not even creation of a brand, an idea officials have batted around for years.

In their small group sessions, attendees sought answers to questions designed to identify what Beaufort is, what needs to be done to market the area and how marketing could improve.

"Maybe in some ways we're establishing what that (starting) point is and then, where do we go from that," said Craig Lewis of the city's Office of Civic Investment.

Saturday's meeting found no answers, only ideas such as a combined events calendar and a master contact list for email blasts. However, officials said they felt the gathering was a success. The next steps in the process were not set Saturday.

Jeff Evans, chairman of the tourism advisory committee, pointed out that his group discussed what it called the sharing of "re$ources"emphasizing the sharing of money among all the groups. That, he said, could be a significant starting point.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/eyeonbeaufort.

Related content:

Beaufort awards $140,000 in a-tax money, Oct. 25, 2011

Beaufort council considers accommodations tax requests, Sept. 9, 2011

Board recommends zero ATAX funds for Lt. Dan Weekend, Aug. 31, 2011

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