Richmond looks to refurbish image with new marketing campaign
By Karina Ioffee Bay Area News Group
Posted: 03/31/2015 11:57:42 AM PDT| Updated: 9 min. ago
RICHMOND -- The mayor of Richmond has launched a one-man campaign to change the public's perception of his home from an impoverished, crime-plagued city to a place that's good for both families and business.
For the past month, Mayor Tom Butt, elected last fall, has been asking local businesses to pledge a total of $100,000 toward a marketing plan aimed at highlighting what's right about Richmond, such as the still-affordable real estate, access to two interstate highways, and plenty of manufacturing and distribution sites.
The mayor has already collected $50,000, mostly from developers and Chevron, which has an oil refinery here, and will deposit the funds with the Richmond Community Foundation until a firm is selected to conduct the work.
"Everybody agrees on two things: Jobs are important to people who live in Richmond and revenue because that's what the city lives on," Butt said. "The more economic activity we can generate, the more wonderful things we can do for the city that everybody wants us to do."
Many cities spend money to lure new business to town. But in Richmond's case, the city must overcome decades of negative publicity stemming from high crime, poverty and unemployment, once even earning Richmond the stigma as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States.
But many improvements have been made, especially when it comes to public safety, with a mere 11 homicides recorded in 2014, the lowest number since 1971. Unemployment is also lower than it has been in years, registering 6.1 percent in February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Many locals already know about the impressive gains but worry that the larger Bay Area may not have gotten the memo.
"Richmond has an image problem and it's not always accurate, so that's something that needs to be addressed," said Jake Sloan, a labor management consultant in Richmond who has pledged money to the mayor's marketing effort. "There's an extreme shortage of housing in Oakland and San Francisco, so people and companies are increasingly looking here."
One area Richmond hopes to market itself in is health, biosciences and clean technology, following plans by UC Berkeley to break ground on a 133-acre campus along the city's southern shoreline. The development has been described as the largest infrastructure project for Richmond since the World War II shipyards were built in the 1940s.
In 2009, the City Council allocated $87,000 to develop a marketing plan, but after a local radio station criticized the city for focusing on the wrong things, the plan was scrapped, according to Butt. By circumventing the council, the mayor hopes to speed up the process, "which can get bogged down by politics," but said that he would incorporate feedback from local politicians and residents before the plan is put into motion.
Contact Karina Ioffee at 510-262-2726 or email@example.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/kioffee