County seeks better promotion of its older commercial centers

Council to vote Monday on marketing plan

December 17, 2004|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County is looking to better market its 13 older business centers, as a whole and as distinct "main street" areas.

With money for a marketing plan in the fiscal 2005 budget and a contract for the preferred bidder scheduled for a County Council vote Monday, county officials say the undertaking will complement efforts to fill vacant buildings and spruce up older structures in the county's commercial revitalization districts.

"Where we saw a gap now that things are coming together ... is to see if there is a way to get more feet on the street," said Fronda J. Cohen, marketing and communications director for the county's Department of Economic Development.

A request to approve a $115,205 contract with Washington-based Alston Marketing Group LLC drew few questions from council members during Tuesday's work session.

The company would create an overall plan for all 13 districts that could be customized for each of the older business districts by working with the areas' business associations and chambers of commerce, David Iannucci, the county's economic development director, told council members Tuesday.

The result would be a "distinct branding" for the commercial centers, he said.

The idea is to raise the profile of the older shopping areas, Cohen said.

"Sometimes, things are right in front of you and you stop seeing them until someone says, `Take a fresh look,'" she said.

Suzan F. Doordan said that when she became executive director of Towson Business Association Inc. two years ago, she was surprised there was no marketing plan. Beyond the association's map and business listing, there are no professionally prepared materials such as brochures that she can give to people who call - nothing, for example, to explain the area or to tell consumers the best places to park.

The area has hospitals and a university that regularly bring new people to Towson, she said, and a marketing plan is needed.

"I think we need an identity. Everyone knows what Baltimore is," Doordan said. "They may not know the beauty of Baltimore County."

Commercial revitalization districts are in Arbutus, Catonsville, Dundalk, Essex, Loch Raven, Overlea, Parkville, Pikesville, Reisterstown, Towson and Woodlawn, and in the Baltimore National Pike and Liberty Road corridors.

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