Friday, November 16, 2007

Benicians Meet To Find Slogan For City

Benicians Meet To Find Slogan For City
By SARA STROUD/Times-Herald staff writer

BENICIA - Charm, community, water, historic brothels: These are all things Benicia has to offer tourists, according to residents who gathered Wednesday night to kick off a new branding and tourism campaign.

About 50 people came to the Benicia Historical Museum Camel Barns to meet representatives of the Placemaking Group, a marketing firm hired by the city to sell Benicia as a destination.

For several weeks, the group has been exploring Benicia, but this was the first opportunity residents had to offer their thoughts, city Economic Development Manager Amalia Lorentz said.

"We want to get input from people who know Benicia best," Placemaking Group senior vice president Irv Hamilton said.

In posing questions to the crowd, Hamilton and company President Dennis Erokan wanted to know what makes Benicia unique, what tourism could do for the city and what the possible downsides are to a potential influx of visitors.

People cited the city's rich history and thriving art community as big possible draws, but noted that there is currently a disconnect between downtown and the historic arsenal area.

Along with increased crime and overcrowded parking, some residents voiced concerns that excessive tourism could cause Benicia to lose its authenticity, and said they didn't want to become another Sausalito.

Last month, the City Council approved a $40,000 contract with the Oakland-based company, which has also created branding campaigns for Fairfield and downtown Napa.

Between now and February, Hamilton said they will analyze Benicia's assets and create a "branding blueprint," including a logo, before determining groups and areas to target.

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