Lakeville sharpens its pitch to businesses

  • Article by: SUSAN FEYDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 25, 2012 - 5:11 PM

The city has begun implementing a consultant's recommendations aimed at attracting and keeping employers.

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Dairy Delite is a seasonal ice cream / burgers / fries stand that operates in downtown Lakeville and serves as a destination point for summer fun. Drew Ostendorf, left, and Max Meehan, both of Lakeville ate ice cream treats outside the stand.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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Lakeville is ramping up efforts to persuade people the city is a good place to work as well as live, implementing parts of a business promotion strategy recommended by a consultant it hired last year.

The city unveiled its new tagline, "Lakeville: Positioned to Thrive," earlier this year. The slogan, along with a new logo, already has shown up in advertising in trade journals and other publications geared to business-oriented readers.

Dave Olson, director of economic and community development, said the new tagline is on the city's website and gradually will start showing up on other marketing materials. It's meant to convey that Lakeville is a complete community, replacing a former slogan that described the city as the southern gateway to the Twin Cities.

"The consultants pointed out that a 'gateway' is perceived as something you pass through to get to something else, not a destination," Olson said. He said city officials also plan to go to more industry trade shows to a meet with businesses scouting for operating sites.

Industrial firms with "head-of-household" jobs are a top priority.

"Will we spend $30,000 in Year One? No," Olson said. That was the first-year cost recommended by Arnett Muldrow & Associates, Ltd. the Greenville, S.C. consulting firm hired for $35,000 to develop the business marketing plan. Olson said the city is likely to only spend several thousand dollars in the coming year, with unspecified investments in the next few years.

Olson said the city also won't immediately implement a more ambitious proposal by the consultants to develop a way-finding system to guide people to commercial and business districts and civic buildings.

"I can't tell you how many times I got turned around," said Tripp Muldrow, the consultant who made multiple visits to Lakeville to work on the marketing plan. His firm's report said Lakeville needs to do a better job of directing people around town after they get off the four exits along Interstate 35W.

While the way-finding system and other recommendations are geared to attract new businesses, the marketing plan seeks to retain existing employers. The new tagline is part of a broader marketing pitch emphasizing Lakeville's advantages for all businesses -- new and old -- like transportation infrastructure that includes railroads, the regional Airlake Airport and good access to major highways. "You don't often see all modes of transportation like that outside a metro area," said Muldrow, an urban planner.

The report noted other advantages, including a large industrial park, undeveloped land for business expansion, a well-educated population to tap for a workforce and a good housing stock.

The consultant's report said the city needs to emphasize that it's not a bedroom community. Among other things, it has a cluster of food-related businesses, such as ConAgra, Arden Culinary and MOM Brands, the maker of Malt-O-Meal cereal, which recently announced plans to move its headquarters to Lakeville. Airlake Industrial Park is the second largest in the state.

Even so, Lakeville supplies relatively fewer jobs to Dakota County's private-sector workforce than cities such as Eagan and Burnsville, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Lakeville has 14 percent of the county's residents but just 8 percent of its workforce. Burnsville, with 15 percent of the county's population, has 21 percent of the county's private-sector jobs. Eagan, the county's economic powerhouse, has 16 percent of the county's population but accounts for 32 percent of its jobs.

The consultants recommended focusing some marketing efforts on Lakeville's downtown, calling it "unique and authentic" and not "a developer copy of a downtown." Olson said it would be difficult to market downtown specifically because of a lack of space. "But it's part of a quality of life we can point to," he said.

Muldrow's firm works with communities nationwide and previously helped prepare a marketing study for Anoka. In addition to a new logo, the consultants prepared a market study that identified a need to beef up retail offerings so residents didn't have to go to neighboring communities such Coon Rapids to shop. The most glaring need was the lack of a full-service grocery store, which the consultants said cost Anoka $25 million to $30 million in lost sales per year.

"It gave us a reality check about our real situation," said Robert Kirchner, community development director. Anoka hasn't landed a supermarket yet, but the study has helped it point out the marketing opportunities to large chains and independent operators it is pursuing, he said.

Susan Feyder • 952-746-3282

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