Brooklyn Park residents are feeling better about their city, according to a new survey.
Two years after the suburb launched an aggressive branding campaign to boost its reputation — including a $150,000 contract with a public relations firm — a survey finds that 86 percent of residents believe Brooklyn Park is moving in the right direction.
And 91 percent say they are proud to live there.
“We’ve seen so much momentum in the community. People are taking ownership about living here and taking pride about living in the community,” said Kim Berggren, Brooklyn Park’s director of community development.
That wasn’t always the case. A general perception of Brooklyn Park as crime-ridden long has shadowed one of the state’s largest and diverse suburbs, Berggren said.
Confidence in the city’s future faltered a decade ago, with only 60 percent of residents saying the city was moving in the right direction.
“A lot of the problems related to our brand was perception, not reality,” said Berggren, citing extensive research and polling completed by the PR firm Carmichael Lynch Spong. “It’s about doing a better job of telling the real story.”
Here’s that story, according to city leaders: Crime has dropped, and the city’s job growth rate of 17 percent from 2009 to 2014 is more than double Hennepin County’s overall 7 percent gain.
Median household income at $64,113 eclipses the statewide figure of $59,836, according to U.S. census data.
Four years ago, 37 percent of residents said crime was the most serious issue facing the city. This year crime was still the most oft-cited problem, but this time only 28 percent of residents said so.
“We are on track to have the lowest crime rate since 1986, when we had 20,000 fewer residents,” said Brooklyn Park City Manager Jay Stroebel.
But Brooklyn Park still wrestles with a higher number of crimes compared with other suburbs its size, according to FBI crime data.
Brooklyn Park police reported 305 violent crimes in 2014, compared with 157 in Bloomington and 36 in Woodbury. Its numbers are comparable with those of Duluth, which reported 309 crimes, and St. Cloud, with 261.
Moving the needle
The city’s marketing campaign — titled “Unique, United, Undiscovered” — has focused in part on grass-roots efforts to empower Brooklyn Park residents to take pride in their city and rebut misinformation about it.
The first batch of survey results by the Morris Leatherman Co. indicates some initial success at changing some beliefs within the community, Berggren said.
Brooklyn Park Mayor Jeff Lunde voted for the branding campaign, pointing out that new homes built in Brooklyn Park sold for $100,000 less than identical homes in Maple Grove. If a PR campaign could “move the needle” on property values, he said, it would be worth it.
Victoria Willis, born and raised in Brooklyn Park, said the city’s reputation is on the rise but that more needs to be done.
Willis, a second-year law student at Hamline University, said she loves the neighborliness of her city but is constantly explaining to people that it’s not a “ghetto” or crime-ridden.
“I am over having that conversation,” Willis said. “I think we should do more. … I feel safe here. I am never worried about crime here.”