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Fast-paced growth, slower-paced lifestyle is EDC motto

WILLMAR -- Fast-paced economic growth. Slower-paced lifestyle.

A new branding campaign being undertaken by the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission seeks to capitalize on a healthy local business climate and relaxed rural lifestyle as the new image of the EDC.

The Economic Development Commission's operations board received a sneak preview recently of a prototype campaign being developed by its marketing committee.

The concept has already gone through two versions and isn't yet in its final form, said Betsy Bonnema, a member of the EDC marketing committee and co-owner of Red Star Creative, which is designing the campaign.

"I want to stress that this is a process," she said.

Heather Thompson, co-chairman of the marketing committee, said the branding concept will continue to be "tweaked and improved" over the next several weeks.

"We're hoping this fall to be able to roll it out," she said.

The new campaign will replace the "Come for a visit, stay for a lifetime" theme that the EDC has been using for the past four years.

"We have a great image. We talk about our lakes. We have some very good stuff out there that is very well-recognized," Bonnema said. "We're trying to look at the big picture. We want to work together and be very strategic." Committee members held several brainstorming sessions and reviewed statistics on the local economy as they began identifying possible branding themes.

One fact kept emerging: Even during a recession, Kandiyohi County's economy has fared relatively well. Job growth has been occurring at the rate of 4 percent a year, with professional and technical jobs among the fastest-growing categories.

The success of a number of local entrepreneurs also suggested some firsthand stories to illustrate the county's quality of life and the business climate, Bonnema said.

"We need to tell people that. We need to package that in a way that tells people we're doing things right here," she said. "We have a lot of really great stories."

The committee wants to feature a series of local business owners to help drive home this point. The campaign also will make use of statistics showing the county's economic growth.

Although the new branding concept will continue to emphasize the Kandiyohi County lifestyle, it will be balanced by an increased focus on the business climate, Thompson said.

"We really want to convey what Kandiyohi County is all about. You can live here and have a great career and still enjoy all the quality of life," she said.

Bonnema said the new concept will be incorporated into advertising, print materials and trade show materials for the Economic Development Commission. It also will be part of a redesign of the EDC's Web site which is currently under way.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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