O’Fallon is trying to set itself apart from other metro-east municipalities in a new, aggressive strategy to attract more businesses and residents.
Such taglines as “Build It Here” and “You Have Dreams, We’ll Help You Build It” are designed to make O’Fallon an attractive community to work in, live in, visit or play in as the city sharpens its focus.
This concentrated outreach campaign is ongoing, and city staff is working to improve efforts to make sure the city has a unique voice and image.
During a Committee of the Whole meeting July 30, City Administrator Walter Denton and Assistant City Administrator Grant Litteken, who is also in charge of marketing and communications, revealed a new website, www.ofallonillinois.org and marketing campaign designed by Atomic Dust, a St. Louis branding and marketing agency.
“We wanted to change the narrative of O’Fallon as a destination and a place to be, and to stimulate economic development,” Denton said.
“Instead of a cookie-cutter, suburban backdrop, we wanted to make O’Fallon look like a highly desirable, attractive community that’s growing,” Litteken said.
Two years ago, with their Destination O’Fallon plan, the city took a more direct and sophisticated approach to economic development, one of the council’s key priorities. Targeted strategies, including a new website, and partnerships were goals.
Destination O’Fallon used hotel/motel tax revenue to add soccer and ball fields to the Family Sports Park and for a pavilion and improvements downtown. With an increase in visitors, the city staff is zeroing in on the health care/hospital corridor, the parks and retail areas for growth.
Early figures, Denton pointed out, show that soccer tournaments and other events have resulted in 2,368 room reservations at hotels, a 22 percent projected increase in hotel use.
Plans for the downtown pavilion, O’Fallon Station, to begin activities centered on Christmastime are under way, he said.
“A full slate of activities won’t happen until the spring,” Denton said.
Last year, the council approved hiring Atomic Dust to perform an audit of their existing marketing materials and provide instruction on best practices, brand guidelines and information sheets.
They have designed the new website with user experience and visitor interaction in mind, as well as search engine optimization. City staff will maintain the website.
Representatives from Atomic Dust attended the meeting: Mike Spakowski, partner and creative director; Rich Heend, senior copywriter; and Erika Cruse, senior account executive.
“It’s about building a call to action,” Litteken said. “That a lot of good things are happening here.”
“As great as O’Fallon is, it can’t use the same selling points that other communities are using around here,” said Rich Heend of Atomic Dust. “We have to make it meaningful for people that want to work here or live here. ‘It’s all happening here in O’Fallon,’ in a voice that’s a little bit different.”
The website utilizes video testimonials, local success stories and clear language, he said.
The website has only been live for a short time, thus the search engine optimization hasn’t been as effective yet, Spakowski explained.
There are ways to track who is interested in O’Fallon, he added.
Alderman Matt Smallheer was among several aldermen who expressed concern that there were too many O’Fallon websites, and that a consolidation was necessary to avoid confusion.
The city has its official site, the parks and recreation department have their own website for people to sign up for their programs, and there are tourism efforts as well.
Denton assured aldermen that links would be in place to help visitors navigate the websites.
Alderman Robert Kueker said he thought there should be more focus on the strong family environment that makes the city so appealing.
Litteken said residential growth is a focus of the message and branding.
He said they are also using The Retail Coach for economic development help.
Statistics indicate that O’Fallon breaks down this way: 30,400 population; 11,313 households; 21,495 vehicles; 22,230 labor force; and $101,728 average income.
The labor force is further broken down as 70 percent white collar, 15 percent blue collar and 15 percent agriculture.
Denton discussed the Pyramid of Progress with Family Sports Park, the Interstate Corridor and Downtown O’Fallon as strong components. What could be developed at Reider Road in the future is also considered.
Plans for the redevelopment of Southview Plaza, with demolition expected by April, and what might happen with the Mid-America Commerce Center, were also touched on, with few specific details at this time.
How the growth will impact city services and what kind of perimeters will be put in place for downtown activities were mentioned, but the council will have to determine what is officially decided.