Mark Greene, Kingston’s own Emmy winner and founder of Pecos Design, just submitted a proposal to the mayor that essentially rebrands the city as a tech hub, a sort of “Brooklyn of the Catskills” where hip, smart and small-biz savvy folks can relocate and thrive in an urban setting — yet be strikingly close to assets such as the Catskills, the Gunks and the Hudson.
“The city has a brand, but it is dormant,” Green said. “It needs to be brought back to life, and this is one way to do it.”
To see his entire proposal, read on…
Marketing Kingston, New York:
Creating A New Digital Tech-Friendly Brand
PART ONE: The Challenge for Kingston
Kingston’s Existing Marketing Brand: Kingston has typically been branded as an arts city with historic tourist attractions. This existing brand offers no point of difference from any other town in the Hudson Valley (or the Northeastern United States) and provides no clear incentives for potential incoming businesses or residents to choose Kingston. Furthermore, this brand is inert and vague.
Summary of Current Economic Development Challenges: Kingston is pursuing a traditional economic development strategy. With limited success, Kingston is attempting to attract small to medium manufacturing. Kingston is also also trying to attract national retail chains to shore up the city’s depleted retail tax base. To this end, the city of Kingston has undertaken an effort to shift the tax burden from businesses to home owners assuming that it is the retail tax burden that is causing small start up retail to often fail.
But this is not the key issue for the lack of healthy retail in Kingston.
Although high taxes do not help struggling Kingston retail businesses, the primary issue is that a large percentage of the residents of Kingston are low/fixed income and do not have the disposable income necessary to drive local retail. When they do spend money, they buy almost exclusively based on lowest price, which means they shop at big box discount retailers like WalMart. This makes creating robust retail activity in Kingston a challenging prospect.
Part Two: The Opportunity for Kingston
The solution: Recruit a new class of resident with a higher income level and a community minded interest in supporting local businesses.
Kingston should make a concerted effort to attract New York City and New York State wide web/digital entrepreneurs to relocate and set up shop in Kingston by branding itself as the upstate digital tech-friendly city.
Web entrepreneurs will find Kingston attractive due to the price point of real estate and the slightly more urban quality Kingston offers.
The benefits of attracting web/digital entrepreneurs to Kingston include the following:
* They have disposable income to fuel retail.
* Their income does not rely on the state or local tax base. (They are not teachers, city employees, or the product of a city or state funded jobs initiative.)
* Because they have a range of clients both nation wide and by business category , they function as “economic shock absorbers” for Kingston during times of regional or business category specific economic downturns.
* They purchase property, thereby taking real estate off of the rental roles and potentially eliminating “absentee landlords”.
* They hire local businesses/contractors to renovate property, improving Kingston’s economic outlook and housing stock
* They skew more progressive politically, thereby being mindful of shopping locally and supporting local retail businesses. (They tend to shop based on value not just on price.)
* They tend to be more active politically and in terms of their community.
Marketing Kingston to web entrepreneurs
Definition: Web/Digital Entrepreneurs
Web entrepreneurs are self employed or small business owners who offer the following services:
Video Design, Editing and Post Production
Viral Marketing and PR
Music Recording and Composition
Web Editorial Content
Web entrepreneurs are:
Self employed or work for companies with less than ten employees
Often work from home
Often pay for their own health insurance
Average between $40 – $100 thousand dollars a year in income
Have clients that are outside of Kingston and often outside of New York State
Are politically, socially and community wise, much more engaged
Part Three: Taking Action
“Define it and they will come.”
Branding Kingston as a Digital Tech-Friendly City
What Kingston offers:
*Proximity to NYC
*Cheap real estate relative to surrounding cities/towns
*Abundant warehouse space
*A burgeoning tech class
*Mixed work/living spaces in uptown and downtown
*Existing and planned tech focused business/educational centers
Kingston’s 721 Media Center and the planned Carnegie Library Digital Arts Center represent defining lynchpins of the new Kingston Digital tech-friendly branding Initiative.
By promoting these two entities and tying them to the web entrepreneur community here in Kingston, the city can re-brand itself in the eyes of surrounding communities and New York City.
How to Re-Brand Kingston on the cheap
1) Modify the city web site to include a Kingston Tech-Friendly component, inviting micro to mid size Web companies to visit Kingston and meet with real estate agents and local mortgage banks. Include links to WAREHOUSE SPACE LISTINGS and put up a Kingston AMAZING HISTORIC HOUSE OF THE MONTH link.
2) Create the Kingston Digital Business Association. Promote a monthly web entrepreneur party at a local pub or bar.
3) Have an annual Digital Tech Street Party every summer with technology displays, light shows and live music. Call it the Kingston Digital Tech Street Party and promote it up and down the river.
4) Once a month, sponsor a bus to go to Brooklyn and bring a bus load of web/digital entrepreneurs up to tour Kingston and meet with real estate brokers. Then take them to the local brew pub and then return them to NYC.
5) Take another look at free wireless hot spots. At least some in uptown and downtown. Call them Kingston Tech Spots and make sure that all city locations who can share bandwidth are doing so. Each location can be posted on the city’s web site and branded with a logo at the location. Also list all other hot spots. It’s not a question of how many you create. This is a perception issue.
6) Reach out to local Chamber of Commerce to echo the new Kingston Digital tech-friendly branding and see if they can help organize additional events.
7) Create a Kingston Digital tech-friendly! logo and branding initiative. Begin putting the logo on all city business cards and buildings. Make it part of all city communiques.
8) Have the city’s Business Development Office focus on branding issues of importance to web entrepreneurs. Sell this new brand as part of the traditional economic development efforts.
9) Create buzz around tech in Kingston by promoting citizen’s who are running tech micro businesses here. Kingston has, EMMY and GRAMMY award winning micro business owners living and working here. Promote them and others who work and live here.
10) Promote progressive assets in Kingston! Web entrepreneurs skew progressive. Promote what Kingston already has!
* Named number one arts city
* Natural Food Buying Club
* Nearby hiking and biking trails
* Waterfront access for Kayaking and Boating
* Kingston Land Trust
* Local music venues
* Uptown Bicycling Club
* Historic Real Estate
* Farmers Market in Uptown
* Fleicher’s Natural Meats
* Trailways Bus to NYC
* AMTRAK station just across the river
* Solar Energy Consortium
* Hudson Valley Tech Incubator
* Mac User Group
* Mid Town YMCA
* Victory Garden Initiative
* Community Gardens
* Walk friendly mixed business/residential neighborhoods
* Top restaurants
*UPAC Bardavon partnership
While all of Kingston’s current economic development efforts are important and should continue, Kingston’s public branding is currently inert and unclear. Kingston is not differentiating itself from other Hudson Valley towns and cities. By not having a clear defined point of difference, Kingston is wasting it’s brand and missing opportunities to capitalize on things already happening here.
Why is this important? Kingston’s economic challenges stem from it’s significant percentage of poor and fixed income residents. In order to create and stabilize a viable RETAIL TAX BASE, Kingston needs to recruit a new more economically vibrant class of residents.
We recommend the city differentiate itself from dozens of “arts and historical” cities up and down the river by promoting itself as a “DIGITAL tech-friendly CITY” and promoting its clear points of difference: 721 Media Center, Planned Carnegie Library Tech Center, affordable real estate, ample warehouse space, tech assets, and its progressive quality of life assets to attract more web entrepreneurs. A successful effort to attract web/digital arts entrepreneurs will improve Kingston’s economic base. Only then will there be enough disposable income to support the retail tax base for the city.
We recommend the city rebrand itself as Kingston, the Digital Tech-Friendly City because that is exactly what we are becoming!
This branding proposal was created by Pecos Design, Inc.
A Kingston based web and digital design micro business.