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Hagerstown to launch development, marketing campaign

September 18, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- With a new property database, pamphlets, DVDs and a Web site, the City of Hagerstown plans to launch a comprehensive economic development and marketing campaign Friday.

Hagerstown Advance, as the program is known, is an attempt to cohesively reach and attract businesses looking to relocate or expand.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he has envisioned a program like this for the last decade.

A Web site -- www.hagerstownadvance.com -- is an anchor. It will show a map of the city in regions. By clicking on a region, visitors will see details of properties for sale or lease, plus available loan and incentive programs.

High Rock Studios, one of three local firms hired for the project, produced a video that highlights the city and features testimonial interviews with business owners.

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Rich Daughtridge, High Rock's founder and president, said the fast-paced video shows "some element of quick movement," matching the concept of "Advance."

The city plans to coordinate the Web site launch with a mailing to targeted groups. One piece is a brochure, designed by Fleetwood Design, with a place to attach a DVD with longer versions of the interviews with business owners.

The city hired the three companies -- High Rock Studios, 2nd Floor and Fleetwood Designs -- for $58,000, using proceeds from the sale of a lot in an industrial park.

Some critics challenged why the contract was awarded without bids.

Last month, David Hall of DH WEB posted a protest site, www.advancehagerstown.com, while the Hagerstown Advance page was blank for several months. Satisfied that his complaints have been heard, Hall has redirected his site to the Hagerstown Advance site.

Addressing questions again this week, Bruchey said there was no way to craft a request for proposal on a nonspecific concept. "How do you possibly bid out an idea?" he said.

Bruchey said the companies worked with him to formulate a plan "that will help propel our community into the 21st century."

The Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission's Web site has a database of properties for sale or lease throughout the county.

Executive Director Timothy R. Troxell said the EDC database focuses on larger parcels and buildings, mainly in industrial areas. It includes some Hagerstown properties, but Troxell doesn't see much overlap with the city's new database.

"I'd anticipate they'd have more depth in retail and smaller spaces," such as in the downtown Arts & Entertainment District, he said.

Regardless, the more promotion of the area, the better, Troxell said.

City officials have said they'll brief the EDC and other area organizations leading up to the launch of Hagerstown Advance.

The Herald-Mail got a preview Monday. A presentation was made to the city council Tuesday.

Deborah Everhart, the city's economic development director, said the system will be a big improvement over the current way of getting inquiries and disseminating information.

She pointed to a bulky folder weighing a few pounds, laden with brochures, papers and booklets -- the old packet the city mailed. New information packets will be lighter, more attractive and more focused.

The city will be able to update the Web site on its own, Everhart said.

The city council in December approved hiring four companies to work on the project. However, Karen Giffin, the city's director of community affairs, said this week that only three were hired. Contracts show the following:

o High Rock Studios will be paid $28,500 for working on a map, handout materials, Flash animation and copy.

o 2nd Floor will be paid $25,000 for 254 hours of work, mainly on different parts of the Web site.

o Fleetwood Design will be paid $4,500 to lay out, write copy for and produce three versions of a six-panel brochure.

The expenses were flat fees. There were no change orders. Everhart said the companies did the work at a discounted rate.

In December, the council also approved hiring RidgeRunner Publishing, which produces Hagerstown Magazine. However, that didn't happen, although photos RidgeRunner previously took for the city were used for Hagerstown Advance, she said.

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