Van Buren is getting help with its brand thanks to the University of Central Arkansas Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED). CCED, in partnership with nonprofit design firm Thrive, will assist the city of Van Buren with a branding initiative.
Van Buren Mayor Joe Hurst, Van Buren Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Julie Murray and Crawford County Judge Dennis Gilstrap are all 2018 graduates of CCED. Ashley Love, VB Chamber marketing and communication manager, started the program last year. She will graduate in 2021.
Through the program, Love learned that graduates of CCED are eligible for grants, and with the blessing of the mayor, she applied for a branding grant, noting that the city does not have a logo – though there is one for downtown – and instead uses the city’s seal in lieu of a branded logo, Murray said.
The branding development process kicked off a few weeks ago with workshop for stakeholders, Murray said. About 30 Van Buren city leaders met with representatives from Thrive to brainstorm what is special about the city. The city’s design committee will have a telephone conference with Thrive Friday (Feb. 7) to hear what ideas the firm has. And a few weeks, the city should see initial logos and taglines.
Based on feedback and research, Thrive will develop a one-page creative brief, brand standards guide, tagline, logo for both print and digital contexts, social media icons and banner imagery, as well as other supplemental materials. The final product will be a new identity for the city.
“We are excited to support Van Buren through this unique partnership with Thrive,” said Shelby Fiegel, director of CCED. “Effectively telling your story is one of the most important recruitment tools a community can utilize. It is essential to have an authentic, compelling brand to stay competitive and grow your economy.”
The opportunity for professional branding at the perfect rate – free – is an exciting one for the city, Hurst said. Murray said the city is looking to a branded promise and branded identity it can use to market the city.
“Maryl (Purvis, director of the Van Buren Advertising and Promotion Commission) does an excellent job marketing Van Buren for tourism, but we really want to market it for new businesses and new residents,” Murray said.
The branding help will help the city tell its story, she added.
“The Van Buren Chamber of Commerce nominated the city for this opportunity with the belief that an updated look and image will help us tell the story of how wonderful it is to live in Van Buren,” said Love. “We believe this project will fuel the momentum, excitement and pride we see in our businesses and residents as we work to continuously improve our community.”
Van Buren is in an ideal location for both business and residents, Murray said, noting that water, rail and interstate transportation is available to fill the needs of businesses, and that the city is very “business friendly.”
It is easy to start a business and get a business license in Van Buren and working with zoning is an easy process, she said.
“We also have a flourishing industrial park with room for more businesses,” Murray said.
As for residents, next door to Fort Smith and within close proximity to Northwest Arkansas Tulsa, Van Buren has a lot to offer those who live there, Murray said.
“We also have Arts on Main opening soon; a revitalized, beautiful downtown, a farmers market during the summer and phenomenal schools,” she said. “And we have an easy way of life. You don’t have traffic jams. We’re family friendly.”
This is the story of Van Buren the city hopes branding will tell. Purvis said she is excited for an opportunity to create a brand and logo that symbolizes a progressive, forward-moving community while keeping Van Buren’s rich history in mind, she said in a media release on the grant. The branding process will help Van Buren see how to combine the hometown feel of the city with the move toward progress, Hurst said.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity. You hear about branding and how important it is for businesses. It’s important for cities too,” Hurst said. “It gives us a chance to have those conversations of who are we, what is our identity, what is the story we want to tell.”