If a city marketing plan this year to attract more businesses and travelers pays off, Kent could become celebrated for its outer space and aerospace innovations.
The City Council’s Operations Committee on Feb. 5 approved a $100,000 contract with Seattle-based Barokas Communications to provide public/media relations and marketing services over the rest of the year to promote the Kent Valley as a business destination.
A total of $75,000 of the contract is from the city’s lodging tax, a 1 percent state tax on overnight hotel, motel, bed and breakfast and campground stays in Kent. State law dictates who is eligible to apply, and mandates the funds be used for marketing and promotion of business and leisure tourism. The other $25,000 is from the city’s general fund and its Rally the Valley campaign.
“We ask for the approval with Barokas to promote Kent and the Kent Valley not only as business destination but as the center of aerospace and outer space innovation,” said Michelle Wilmot, city economic development marketing manager, in her report to the Operations Committee.
Wilmot said Barokas started about 20 years ago and has won awards for marketing strategies.
“We believe they have the industry expertise and media relationships locally and nationally to help share and tell Kent’s story,” Wilmot said.
Council President Bill Boyce said the council discussed the marketing campaign in great deal during its recent retreat.
“With the new (lodging tax) process, it opened the door for the city,” Boyce said. “The Lodging Tax Committee saw this as very important to rally the valley. This is huge. Talk about transformation. To hire a firm is a big plus, with a different skill set to promote.”
Wilmot explained the differences between this plan and the city spending advertising dollars.
“It is not an advertising budget,” she said. “The difference, we are not buying ads on TV or in newspapers. We are looking for reporters to write about us. I think that carries more weight than paid advertising. The dollars are to utilize those with strong relationships with the media community to help tell the story.”
Besides seeking coverage in regional and national publications as well as on television, Barokas also will work with Gov. Jay Inslee’s office this spring to proclaim the “Kent Space Valley.”
Since this is the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, the city wants to promote that the first lunar rover was built at the Boeing Space Center in Kent in 1969. Three lunar rovers traveled to the moon on Apollo Missions 15, 16 and 17. Securing interviews by the media with engineers who built the lunar rover is part of the marketing plan.
In addition to Boeing, the city wants to help promote Kent-based Blue Origin, which plans to someday offer space travel to customers. The company is about to begin a large expansion of its Kent facility, which houses engineering, manufacturing and business teams. The company employs more than 1,100 in Kent.
“I like the sound of this,” Councilman Dennis Higgins said about the public relations goal.
“Going back to my days on the Lodging Tax Committee as a citizen, it poured money into activities that didn’t bear a lot of fruit. I think this will bear a lot of fruit.”