Marketing push planned for Central Corridor

As the Metropolitan Council reflects on how to improve Central Corridor construction in 2012, it's rolling out a new marketing push to promote affected businesses.

At a transportation committee meeting this afternoon, the Met Council's project staff is recommending the $1.2 million, two-year contract go to Mod & Company of St. Paul. On its website, the marketing and design firm showcases a sampling of the stylish branding it has done for clients ranging from the Rosedale Center to the Uptown Art Fair.

A collective plug for the corridor can't come soon enough for Jack McCann, head of the University Avenue Business Association.

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"We need to have the marketing in place when the cones are set up and everyone says, "Oh Christ, here we go again,'" McCann said.

McCann and other business folks met project representatives today for one of many discussions about "lessons learned" from 2011. McCann said his general message to the council was: "You confused people, you didn't manage your signs, you kind of fumbled your way through the first year."

But McCann said now that the marketing money is secured, it's also time for business owners to work with the Met Council and bring customers back to University Avenue.

"It's time to stop the crabby thing, and we have to do the positives," McCann said. "It's time to say, 'It's a great time to come down here.'"

The mega-marketing push builds on the efforts led by community groups in St. Paul to help businesses during construction. The Neighborhood Development Center's U7 offers consulting services to businesses, and the Midway Chamber of Commerce hosted "Lunch on the Avenue" and developed a grassroots marketing campaign. The St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce developed the "Discover Central Corridor" brand.

And they pushed for more.

Last June, the chambers and several other business groups wrote Met Council Chairwoman Sue Haigh a letter urging the council to fund a comprehensive marketing program.

"The campaign would create excitement around the CCLRT and ensure that the businesses that are facing the hardships of construction today are around to enjoy the excitement and benefits of the completed line," the letter says.

File photo by MPR's Jeff Thompson