“We are not capturing the value of these positive changes,” Stanton said.
• Residents and business owners are positive about their city and see it changing for the better, but feel outsiders don’t see the benefits.
• The city’s reputation as being high crime despite dramatic improvements in crime rates permeate media reports and social media. Crime is at a 20-year low, according to police.
“For the most part the people who live here feel safe here; that is what it comes down to,” Berggren said.
• The city’s fast-growing diversity is viewed as a positive by many but not all residents. Brooklyn Park is the second-most diverse city in the state, trailing only neighboring Brooklyn Center. The city is about 50 percent minority residents and 20 percent foreign-born.
• Like many suburbs, Brooklyn Park lacks a clear identity. Many residents clamor for more restaurants, more shopping and more destinations to put the city on the Twin Cities map. Brooklyn Park actually has 62 restaurants and an additional 31 fast-food outlets.
• Brooklyn Park suffers a north-south divide. The southern part of the city, with older housing, is viewed as less desirable than the northern parts built out in the 1990s and 2000s.
The PR executives also examined other cities’ marketing efforts. What they found is a sea of sameness. Most Minnesota cities sell themselves with nearly identical catchphrases. Bloomington is “A Better place to Work, Live and Play.” Mound Views is “A Great Place to Live, Work and Play” while New Hope is “A Great Place to Grow.” A more distinctive, polished message will make Brooklyn Park stand out.
Several business owners and residents said they support the city’s efforts to improve its image. It was actually business owners who lobbied the city to hire an outside PR firm.
Voices on the street
Ann Ahmed supports the city’s effort to rebrand. She opened the Thai restaurant Lemon Grass nine years ago, a few blocks from her parents’ house.
Ahmed recently remodeled the restaurant to give it a more urban vibe and add a sushi bar — the first in the city. She remodeled after learning that many of her regular weekday customers drove to Uptown in Minneapolis on weekends for a more urban atmosphere.
She said people always ask her: Why Brooklyn Park?
“They say, ‘You’d have lines around the block if you moved to Minneapolis.’” Ahmed said.
She said one food critic wrote the restaurant was located in Canada.
“Even though we are in the suburbs, we are not that far from the city,” Ahmed said.
She said that Brooklyn Park is experiencing a lot of growth and that city staff is easy to work with.
“It’s a great city. I am glad they are doing this,” Ahmed said.