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New business brand to spotlight balance, community spirit

John Seelmeyer

Efforts to recruit good businesses and good people to northern Nevada will emphasize the opportunity to live a well-balanced life and the chance to become connected in a meaningful way to the community.

The tactics to deliver that message will be rolled out April 24 to about 1,000 people at the annual luncheon of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada.

Late last week, some of the details of the branding campaign still were being hammered out by consultants to EDAWN and the Carson City-based Northern Nevada Development Authority.

But Lorna Shepard, whose Truckee-based Red Dog Consulting has led months of focus groups, one-on-one interviews and surveys as part of the brand-development effort, says themes have emerged:

* Decisions by businesses to locate here are based on well-known reasons the tax environment and good distribution infrastructure, for instance. Relocation decisions by individuals, particularly the young professionals who drive entrepreneurial development, often reflect their desire for a better work-life balance and hopes to find a community that’s good for their families.

* When everything else is equal, a commu-nity’s image can determine where a company or family decides to move.

* A community’s image is created by pop culture “Reno 911,” for instance along with news media reports, its placement on “best of” lists prepared by magazines, and the impression that’s left by personal visits. “All of them combine together to create the conventional wisdom,” says Shepard.

* Visitors’ impressions about the area often reflect only what they saw during stay in downtown Reno.

* But business owners and young professionals alike recognize that they don’t know much about northern Nevada, and they’re willing to hear more. “That,” says Shepard, “is really promising.”

The shorthand phrase commonly used to describe the region “northern Nevada” draws a blank elsewhere in the country.

“I still get people who don’t know where we are or who we are,” says Chuck Alvey, the president and chief executive officer of EDAWN.

AngelouEconomics, the Texas-based consulting firm that worked with EDAWN and NNDA on their economic-development blueprints, strongly suggested that the entire region develop a unified business brand.

“It’s going to be a lot easier to show the outside world what we are selling,” says Ron Weisinger, NNDA’s executive director. “We’re selling all of northern Nevada.”

Rural communities and busy downtowns both are part of the region’s appeal, he says, much as a buffet table meets the needs of a diverse group.

But just as important as the message delivered outside the market is the commitment of northern Nevadans to ensuring the message about balance and a sense of community, for instance remains true.

“We’re talking about re-scripting the way that we talk about ourselves,” says Julie Ardito, EDAWN’s director of public relations.

A “business brand kit” will be distributed to participants in the April 24 luncheon. The kit details ways they can use the brand identity in everyday life.

Also supporting the rollout will be Sean Adams, the keynote speaker of the luncheon.

A Reno High School graduate who is now a partner in the Beverly Hills brand-development firm of AdamsMorioka Inc., Adams will talk about how the brand can affect the region.

The research that’s being used to develop the new brand, Shepard says, includes individual interviews with 18 executives and individuals who decided to move their companies or families to the region or decided not to.

Focus groups, meanwhile, centered on people in their late 20s and early 30s who are likely to be looking for better balance between their careers and personal lives.

A Web-based survey of about 1,400 people nationwide still was under way last week.

Alvey noted that the research also folded in hundreds of comments about the region that were collected by AngelouEconomics during its development of economic-development plans.

SIDEBAR

Putting the new brand to work

Once determined, here’s how the new business brand for northern Nevada will be put to work:

In studies that wrapped up last year, both the Northern Nevada Development Authority and the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada identified target industries that make sense for the region’s economic future.

NNDA, for instance, will focus on industries such as light manufacturing and technology services in the seven-county area it serves in northwest Nevada. In the Reno and Sparks area, EDAWN will look to strengthen industries such as advanced logistics and life sciences.

The research that led to development of the new brand, meanwhile, identifies people who are looking for balance in their lives as a group that’s likely to be open to hearing more about northern Nevada.

Researchers can identify locations elsewhere in the country that combine that demographic with the industries that are high priorities, and image-oriented marketing campaigns will focus on those locations.

But before those efforts begin late this summer, the brand identity and the strategy behind its development will get widespread exposure locally to help residents learn how to tell the region’s story.