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Response to Rebranding My Town, Alameda, California

In dismay to Alameda Sun’s article, Brand Name City, I felt compelled to write a letter to the editor detailing my views on re-branding Alameda. Here it is:

Money, meet mouth

As a local business owner, resident of Alameda for more than 30 years, and active member in my local community, I was shocked and outraged to read that the city of Alameda, which supposedly promotes “buy/shop local,” has contracted with design companies outside of our local business community to re-brand Alameda. It was also alarming to learn that local businesses were not even given a chance or an opportunity to bid on the project.

Whether or not the initial bid came in under the $75,000 threshold ($200 less), local businesses still should have been considered to participate in the bidding process. If an out-of-town company, after the bidding process was complete, won the job, fine, at least local companies would have received the common courtesy to compete.

I understand — to a degree —the need to re-brand our city and update the website to attract businesses, but again, local businesses, who know the town of Alameda, were not even considered. It’s also disheartening to know that our city government will be using our tax dollars to work with companies outside of our town. What is even more surprising is that our city can spend up to $75,000 without having to go through a formal bidding process.

From my own research, a number of marketing and web design firms in Alameda were never contacted. Heck, these firms didn’t even know the city was entertaining the idea of rebranding. The city says they wanted to find a company with experience building city websites and building a green identify. Just because a firm doesn’t build city websites doesn’t mean they wouldn’t do a good job. And who would know more about Alameda than its local businesses? I believe Alameda does have the resources to provide our city with a quality functioning website and brand identity. For instance, Jiva Creative or West Advertising, I’m sure, would have been honored to have been elected to re-brand our city.

I own and operate MJS Web Solutions, a local web development firm, and I am passionate about this town and buying and doing things locally. We are proud to work with many local firms and have helped organizations, including the Alameda Boys and Girls Club and the Alameda Midway Shelter, get online.

I always ask myself before going out of Alameda to do business, is there someone who can help me locally? And usually there is. You can see why I’m frustrated. What kind of example is our city government setting for the local business community and the businesses they are trying to attract?

Alameda may or may not need a new image, but was this the right thing to do?

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Michele Ellson at The Island wrote a story about the re-branding too. Lauren Do wrote a couple as well.

I hope this issue doesn’t get swept under the table and forgotten about. It’s too important.

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