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Positively Pine Bluff: Pine Bluff has a new marketing campaign to go with its new attitude.

A NEW MARKETING PLAN for the city of Pine Bluff takes a spin on the city's seemingly new attitude.

"Positively Pine Bluff" is the plan created by the Little Rock-based advertising agency Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods that debuted this month. It captures part of the city's positive feeling.

After twice being ranked last in the "Places Rated Almanac" published by Prentice Hall of New York, Pine Bluff has not always had something positive on which to capitalize.

But now the city is embarking on its second megafund drive in five years. Partners In Progress II is set to kickoff Wednesday, Jan. 13, but city officials aren't disclosing how much they hope to raise until then.

The marketing program itself represents a dramatic change for the southeast Arkansas city.

Carl St. Clair, executive director of the Pine Bluff Convention Center and the Pine Bluff Convention and Visitors Bureau, says this is the city's first formalized and consistent campaign.

"Pine Bluff Loves People" for years seemed to be the city's slogan, but St. Clair says that was never part of the plan of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The bureau never could afford a consistent, long-range marketing plan until now.

But don't necessarily look for billboards and catchy slogans touting the city right away. The plan is going to be completed in stages over the next five years.

First, the city will target tourist groups. According to research done by CJRW before it became the city's official agency of record, Pine Bluff developed a marketing idea, then formally hired CJRW.

Between September and December of 1992, $40,000 was spent developing what St. Clair calls collateral material, which includes proposals and packets designed to target large groups and bring them to the city and, specifically, the Convention Center.

St. Clair expects to spend a low of $75,000 and a maximum of $150,000 in 1993, with better than half the money going to advertising. Instead of traditional newspaper or billboard ads, though, St. Clair says the money may be spent for advertisements in magazines or similar publications for association executives.

In following years, the city will expand the marketing plan to generate business in retail areas and also to target individual travelers.

It's the leveling of expenses at the convention center and the collections from a revenue tax that are now yielding extra money.

Increased capital is what is behind the Pine Bluff success story.

The first megafund drive, called Partners In Progress, jump-started progress in late 1987.

Industrial Foundation and the Greater Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce, the drive surpassed its $1 million goal by $500,000. The money originally was intended to last through 1991, but the extra funds took the city through 1992.

Programs in danger of dying, such as Leadership Pine Bluff, were saved. New ideas were given a chance.

One of the most significant programs the money helped establish was a communitywide strategic planning project called Partners for a Better Pine Bluff.

PBPB was recently named a finalist in the Mid-South Common Market's Economic and Cultural Honors Awards. The awards are sponsored by The Commercial Appeal at Memphis, Tenn., and the Mid-South Common Market, which is an organization designed to foster growth in areas surrounding Memphis.

The awards recognize economic and community development in a 105-county, three-state area around Memphis.

Still, Pine Bluff may be suffering from that nagging image problem.

Paul Greenberg, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was one of Pine Bluff's most famous residents until he moved to Little Rock last year to work for Arkansas' only statewide daily paper.

Greenberg has noticed the organized investment in Pine Bluff, but he says it doesn't seem to have made sufficient improvement in the citizens' inferiority complex.

He says Pine Bluff residents will often trust someone's opinion from outside the city before trusting what their neighbors say.

That may be changing, though.

"I can't stress enough how important the process has been to us," says Montine McNulty, PBPB co-chairman, of the effort to guide Pine Bluff past the year 2000.

"People feel very hopeful and involved and invited to participate."

Pat Lile, another former Pine Bluff resident who moved to Little Rock, to direct The Commission for Arkansas' Future, says PBPB is a "perfectly remarkable planning effort."

"Delta communities have to work harder and smarter," Lile says. She adds that the PBPB program is an "extraordinary example of a community pulling together to state common goals."

Lile says Pine Bluff's low ranking "served as a mobilization for leaders in the community."

Now, city leaders seem to be thinking and acting more like members of the same team.

Jim Berry, president of the chamber, says entities such as the chamber and the foundation used to work to accomplish individual objectives. Now, they are discovering they generally are working for the same goals.

That's where PBPB has helped.

Committees within PBPB, such as the Economic Prosperity Task Force, have led to the formation of other programs such as the Pine Bluff Economic Council. The council is comprised of leaders from economic development organizations like the Good Faith Fund.

While similar task forces such as those within the Future-Little Rock strategic planning process have received criticism, Pine Bluff residents seem to be behind PBPB.

The organization, which McNulty says isn't as bureaucratic as it sounds, has spent only $12,000 so far while Future-Little Rock has spent hundreds of thousands.

"We didn't create another facility to implement it," McNulty says of the program.

She says the committees are getting groups within the city to assume responsibility. For instance, a group of employers are teaming with area schools to talk to students about job skills.

A common theme throughout the groups is what everyone perceives as a lack of communication.

McNulty says people are asking, "How do we make ourselves smarter |and more~ coordinated. What's already available?"

As executive director of Pine Bluff Downtown Development Inc., McNulty is also overseeing progress specifically within the formerly decaying downtown area. More than $10 million has been invested in the area in the past three years, and $5 million of projects currently is in the works.

Wally Gieringer, president of the Jefferson County Industrial Foundation and executive director for the Pine Bluff-Jefferson County Port Authority, says 1985-91 has been a booming period for Pine Bluff with an excess of $100 million in investments each of the seven years.

Figures aren't yet available for 1992.

Gieringer does expect, though, that Pine Bluff still will be one of the leading cities in Arkansas to bring in industry.

The "Places Rated Almanac" had predicted Pine Bluff would lose business instead of gaining in the past few years, but the city proved the survey wrong.

Miles of interstate highway are another criteria by which Pine Bluff was judged. With the construction of a bypass around the city, the highway between Little Rock and Pine Bluff will soon be considered interstate.

Pine Bluff just may show a rise in the next "Places Rated Almanac."
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Title Annotation:Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jan 11, 1993
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