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City may ask outside firms to tout Troy

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published June 15, 2011

 Helen Flanagan, 89, shakes her belly dancing hip scarf to light up the floor at the Troy Community Center during a Zumba Gold class June 10. The City Council will ask firms to develop a marketing plan for the city to publicize amenities and programs, including the city’s recreation offerings.

Helen Flanagan, 89, shakes her belly dancing hip scarf to light up the floor at the Troy Community Center during a Zumba Gold class June 10. The City Council will ask firms to develop a marketing plan for the city to publicize amenities and programs, including the city’s recreation offerings.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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The City Council took tentative steps to market Troy in an effort to relieve the “black eye” some say the city has sported since budget cuts were enacted due to plummeting property values.

“When we attend events and say we are from Troy, we hear expressions of sympathy,” Mayor Pro Tem Mary Kerwin said during a discussion at the June 6 City Council meeting. “Troy has had a black eye.”

Mayor Louise Schilling said a marketing plan is the kind of thing needed to “stabilize” Troy. It would need to cover everything in the city, including the “wonderful” recreation program, she said.

“We’re still a jewel and a well-kept secret,” Councilman Wade Fleming said.

Although the council took no action to hire a firm to market the city, council members, by consensus, directed City Manager John Szerlag and Purchasing Director Susan Leirstein to begin the request for proposals process to solicit firms for the job.

City administrators had presented the council with the option to approve a month-to-month contract with Target Insyght, the firm that conducted a survey for the city this past spring. That was met with resistance from the council, which felt the proposal was incomplete; some residents, who felt that Troy doesn’t need an outside firm to sell the city; and other residents who preferred to see it bid out.

“At this point, we weren’t comfortable with all the details,” Schilling explained.

City Manager John Szerlag said that because a marketing plan is a professional service, it doesn’t have to be bid out, according to the city charter. He noted that Troy’s Community Affairs Department staff has been cut from nine employees to one, and that many other governmental entities use marketing strategies.

“We don’t have the staff to perform this specialized service,” he said. Funding for the marketing plan would be taken from $70,000 set aside for an economic services development position. That staff member left the city, and the position will not be filled, Szerlag said.

Leirstein estimated that the process would take at least 75 days.

Szerlag told the council that city staff members will put what they believe the council is looking for in a communications strategy and economic stability plan — and the criteria needed from firms to execute it — and present the matter to council June 20.
 

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