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Gig Harbor's new brand gives valley a taste of what's to come

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Part 2 In yesterday's column, I wrote about the upcoming community image workshops that will be held from March 11-13 to develop a compelling, marketable image for the Wenatchee Valley to drive tourism.

To get a better feel for what this might mean for the community, Wenatchee Downtown Association Executive Director Linda Haglund passed along the report Arnett Muldrow prepared during their recent three-day workshop in Gig Harbor. It's an eye popper.

"It's amazing how they captured the heart, essence and soul of Gig Harbor in two and a half days," explained Mary DesMarais, the executive director of the Association. Arnett Muldrow, she said, found that outside experts with no vested interest engage with community leaders and bring a fresh perspective to what makes that community unique was invaluable.

The theme that emerged for the Gig Harbor downtown was "Tied To the Water," emphasizing the iconic waterfront and related businesses. That theme played out nicely with some mocked-up ads. "Tied to our History" emphasized the maritime traditions of the community. "Catch a Great View" played off the stunning waterfront panorama.

"Walking on Water" suggested the joy of spending time walking through the district. "Find your Berth" recommended it as a great place to stay or live. DesMarais said the best part of the multi-day workshop is the "reveal," when the team presents a comprehensive look at the theme and related material that presented a unified approach to marketing the community. The response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic among community leaders.

Much as we have the Columbia River that separates Wenatchee from East Wenatchee — a divide that sometimes seems miles wide — Gig Harbor has a similar issue with Highway 16 between Tacoma and Bremerton. The high separates downtown Gig Harbor from another important shopping area, Uptown Gig Harbor Shopping Center. The Uptown developers, she said, were involved in the community branding process because they understand that at the end of the day it is one community and that driving more business to downtown Gig Harbor will also float the economic boat of Uptown. The same dynamic is at play for Gig Harbor North, a big-box shopping area nearby. They can all agree on the desire to attract more visitors to their community.

DesMarais couldn't say enough about the work of the team from Arnett Muldrow. In fact, she and several other Main Street community executives from around the state are coming over to Wenatchee to watch the process.

Arnett Muldow has done this work in more than 200 communities around the country. We should feel highly confident that they will help our valley take a significant leap forward in how we market ourselves to visitors.

I have a hunch this might well be a transformational moment in our valley's history where our community leaders commit to working together rather than in isolation.