By Daniel Thompson
Editor 

Marketing Hometown America holds public forum

 

Daniel Thompson

Dave Schohl presents his groups marketing plan to participants at the Marketing Hometown America forum.

The closing event for Marketing Hometown America was held Tuesday, November 26 at the Kimball Event Center.

Approximately 70 participants packed into the Meadowlark room of the Event Center as the small groups involved in the process hung up their plans of the best way to market the Kimball area on the walls around the room and prepared to give presentations.

Each presentation was given by a member of each group under a different facilitator for the program who had been picked to shape each plan and guide members through the four sessions of the program in order to identify and address needs the community has from a marketing standpoint. The facilitators represented were Larissa Binod, Wilson Bowling and James Ray, Shaun Evertson, Kerry Ferguson,Randy Gunn, Penny Merryfield and Julie Schnell.

Throughout the seven presentations that were given at the meeting, it was made abundantly clear that the lack of population in the area is a subject of great concern shared by all the participants. However, Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel states this is not a problem that is simply abundant in the Kimball area.

"We have all reached our peak in the population in the Great Plains and we're less in number of people than we were quite a few years ago.This is not just a Kimball issue. This is a Great Plains issue. There are a lot of us in this same boat," Kriesel said.

After the presentations, participants were asked to vote on different aspects of the various marketing plans that were presented by facilitators and their groups through the use of stickers that would be used to highlight the desired parts of each plan to be pooled together after the event and used in the final marketing plan for the project.

The first aspect of the plan that was voted on was the town slogan which had previously been " The High Point of Nebraska". The new slogan, "Come Grow With Us", which gained 16 votes from participants, was proposed by Julie Schnell's group.

According to Tonia Gamblin, member of Schnell's group, the slogan was chosen when considering the target group of young adults desired to be brought in to Kimball. It is the groups' belief that Kimball has opportunities for young adults to develop a much more fulfilling life focusing on the message of growing their career, growing their family, growing their wealth, growing their adventures and growing their dreams.


"Think of all the things we have with industry, oil and gas, and small businesses. Who better to come in and open small businesses than young adults who are willing to put in the effort," Gamblin said.

Another aspect of the plan voted on by those present was a need to market Kimball's location to bigger cities along with the privacy that the small town environment that the city has to offer, which was proposed by Kerry Ferguson.

"Privacy with proximity. You get away from those larger towns and live in a quieter neighborhood if you want to, but those big cities are still in driving distance. We really feel like our good location is one of Kimball's greatest assets. Kimball is a self-sustaining city. Even with our location, we have everything we need," Ferguson said.

Though there were many positives discussed during the event, there were also improvements that will need to be addressed in order to make Kimball more marketable. The most common of these heard through each group was the need for a better online presence.

"We need to reach out to people on all our social media platforms. Not only we as the city or the community or the county, but we as individuals talking about our community, because my friends from across country are different than your friends from across country. But that doesn't mean we can't be sending the same message," Kimball County Tourism Director Jo Caskey said.

Another issue that groups believed needed to be addressed in order for Kimball to move forward was the defeated spirit which seems to come through in local residents conversations about the city.

"Don't let the naysayers frame our discussions. We're always going to have them. Don't let them control the discussion. We have to stand up and override that and let the proactive voices be heard," Caskey said.

Jennifer Rutherford, member of Binod's group, echoed Caskey's sentiment adding that there's a need to get local residents to feel better about the town itself in order to help them bring more people into the community.

"Until people feel good about the community they live in, we're not going to be able to sell it to anybody else. We need our own citizens to sell for us. We thought the most important thing was a cultural attitude shift. We need to get people enthusiastic about their own town," Rutherford said.

A need also emphasized by Ferguson's group was the need for recreation opportunities through a walking/running trail, which gained a lot of support and votes from those present.

"We need more recreation. We can consider a walking trail. A lot of folks utilize the track at the high school for that, but maybe a walking trail that cuts across the town," Ferguson said.

For all the ideas shared and the attendance at the event, Kriesel stated that she was amazed that so many residents had come out to support the project.

"I would have never in a million years thought we would have come up with all this diversity of stuff, and that's the benefit of having it open ended," Kriesel said. "One of the joys of doing something like this is you just don't know what you're going to get."

After the meeting, various officials from the community met on the following Wednesday at which time it was decided that the four priorities moving forward would be working on the online presence, with Dave Schohl leading the effort, community pride, with Jo Caskey leading the effort, recreation facilities/activities, with Diana Engstrom leading the effort, and a one stop place for information, with Shaun Evertson leading the charge.

 

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