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Taxpayers' Funds Put Into City's 'Image Campaign'

City of Springfield

A planned $1 million marketing campaign to promote the city of Springfield, Massachusetts will be jumpstarted with taxpayers’ funds. 

The Springfield City Council, after some initial hesitation, voted unanimously earlier this week to contribute $100,000 to an “image campaign” that is intended to promote the city’s assets to entice both short-term visitors and potential new residents and businesses.

With the seed money from the city now secured, the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts expects to collect $400,000 that has been pledged by its business members for the campaign.

EDC President and CEO Rick Sullivan said the campaign will tell “the good story” of the “great city of Springfield.”

"This is not just a downtown campaign," said Sullivan.  "It will include the good things happening in the neighborhoods, the small businesses, the culture events that happen in and around the entire city of Springfield."

Addressing councilors, Sullivan stressed that the campaign is not a promotion for the $960 million casino resort that MGM is scheduled to open in downtown Springfield in September.

" There is no money from MGM in this campaign and we will not be looking for money from MGM in this campaign," Sullivan said. 

In addition to the funds pledged by the large companies that make up the EDC, $500,000 of in-kind services will be donated by media companies including MassLive, Springfield Republican, and local commercial TV stations.

The development and execution of the advertising campaign will be overseen by the city’s Office of Economic Development.  The first ads are expected to appear before the end of this year, according to Sullivan.

"This is primarily focused on Springfield and roughly from Hartford to Worcester. You will not be seeing billboards in New York City , you will not be see ad time bought on national news," said Sullivan.

In December, Mayor Domenic Sarno announced plans for the campaign at a meeting with dozens of Springfield business leaders.

" We need to tell our story and tell our story now and correctly,"  Sarno said at the time.

Sarno’s request for the city council to transfer $100,000 in surplus cash from last year’s city budget to Economic Development was referred to committee after councilors raised several questions about the plans for the campaign.

After a hearing, the Finance Committee, chaired by Councilor Tim Ryan, voted unanimously to recommend the full council approve the funds for the marketing push.

"I think everyone is very conscience of the fact that we want a hit with  this one," said Ryan.

The council’s Economic Development Committee is expected to hold periodic oversight hearings on the execution of the “image campaign.”

Sullivan said the contributors from the EDC expect a full accounting of  how the money for the campaign is spent.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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