City mulls over $65K North Main PR campaign

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- If you drive down North Main, you will see several boarded up businesses waiting to be sold or rented -- an image officials are trying to change.

The upside of change in leadership is that you get to put a new set of eyes on an old set of problems, said Mayor Steve Benjamin.

On Wednesday, Columbia City Council will decide on hiring a local consulting firm to develop a public relations initiative for the corridor.

According to the city's website, the firm would organize meetings, write newsletters, project updates and press releases, costing the taxpayers $65,000.

$65,000 could be more efficiently spent than handling a simple PR campaign for a region that is still under development, said blogger Dave Wilson.

Wilson writes the "Pulse of Columbia" blog. He shares the same enthusiasm that council members have about the recent opening of CiCi's Pizza, but he believes the money is better invested elsewhere.

There needs to be incentives to get businesses moving into the area, because the more businesses you get into an area, the more likely the turnaround will bring in more businesses, said Wilson.

The City of Columbia already has a number of people working for its marketing and media department, including city spokeswoman Leshia Utsey, whose yearly salary is more than $100,000.

I think there are certain core services the government has to got to provide and I think there are others that can be provided more effectively by the private sector, said Benjamin.

If council approves the proposal, the firm would work for the city for two years during the next phase of the North Main Street Improvement Project.

Do you agree with the proposal to hire an outside firm for public relations for the North Main Street project?

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New CiCi's turns out steady crowd - Wednesday, July 28, 2010 After spending $2 million to build the North Main Shopping Plaza, officials are banking on the pizza joint success to help attract other businesses.

City hopes CiCi's will salvage North Main loss - Monday, July 26, 2010City of Columbia officials are hoping a new pizzeria opening Monday will spark development along North Main Street and help the city recover a portion of the $700,000 taxpayers were forced to write off earlier this year. Renewing North Main Street - Friday, May 14, 2010The local businesses are hoping to cash in on recent improvements made to the area. Cruising along on North Main Revitalization - Friday, May 14, 2010Friday morning, local leaders celebrated the completion of the North Main Street Project phase 1A.