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City's Milwaukee PR choice frustrates local companies

City's Milwaukee PR choice frustrates local companies

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Racine City Hall

Racine City Hall, 730 Washington Ave.

RACINE — City officials’ decision to contract with a Milwaukee firm for an $80,000 communications contract has caused a stir locally.

“I know the mayor, and I know a lot of the people that work for the city and I’m very plugged in,” said Paige Weslaski, who works for Image Management, 610 Main St. “We’re literally right down the street from City Hall. I feel a lot more plugged in than someone in Milwaukee would be.”

Weslaski isn’t the only local PR professional frustrated with the city’s decision, which awarded Branigan Communications an $80,000 contact to create a consistent development message for the city, including a website redesign.

Alan Bagg, who owns Corporate Images, 417 Sixth St., offered a stronger reaction to the city’s decision.

“It’s not the first time we’ve been passed over,” Bagg said. “It’s always a slap in the face when we’re working hard in Racine and the city government snubs us and basically assumes we’re not up to the challenge.”

City Development Director Amy Connolly said she interviewed Racine firms for the project, although she wouldn’t say which ones or how many out of respect to the firms.

Company representatives with Image Management, Corporate Imaging and Design Partners, 338 Main St., said they were not contacted by Connolly or the city about the project beforehand.

Connolly said she chose Branigan because of its significant development experience, which includes promotion of the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

“We need to do a better job of communicating with the public about what we’re doing with economic development,” Connolly said. “We wanted to hire the best candidate for the job and we felt that was Branigan.”

‘Broader strategy’

Connolly added that the scope of the project extends beyond just the event center (arena) project and entails a “broader” communication strategy that Branigan’s experience showed it could handle. Connolly also wanted to use a company that could promote Racine development throughout the region.

Image Management, Corporate Imaging and Design Partners all have done work Downtown and with the city. That includes Image Management’s work on websites for city-affiliated organizations such as the Racine Zoo and the Racine Public Library and Corporate Imaging’s two decades of running marketing for the Belle Urban System, a project that was also recently moved to a Milwaukee firm, 2 Story.

Design Partners has done pro bono work for the Downtown Racine Corp. and the Racine Community Foundation.

“They don’t have to go out for bids on some of this stuff, but it’s lousy leadership for the city to behave in this way,” Bagg said. “This is not sitting well with people. When $80,000 goes to Milwaukee, you know darn well that it’s not going to be spent back here.”

That’s a sentiment shared by Racine Area Manufacturing and Commerce President Matt Montemurro.

“RAMAC would always rather see a local company here in Racine be able to get that work as opposed to it going somewhere else,” Montemurro said.

Although Design Partners’ Executive Vice President Dave Foster didn’t think the entire project was in his company’s “wheelhouse,” he would have appreciated a call.

“They could have reached out to us,” he said. “Certainly there are parts of it that we’d be really good at. They could have put together an all-star local team on it.”

Connolly insisted that just because the city picked Branigan for this project, doesn’t mean Racine firms can’t be involved in future economic development promotions.

“This isn’t the last large strategy branding marketing project in Racine,” she said. “We’ll take each as they come.”

"We wanted to hire the best candidate for the job and we felt that was Branigan."

— Amy Connolly, city development director

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