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Consultant will discuss joint branding concept of Bremerton, Port Orchard as a destination

Roger BrooksThe concept of joining Bremerton and Port Orchard to market the waterfront neighbors as a destination will be explored in a presentation by national branding consultant Roger Brooks on Nov. 26 in Bremerton.

Bremerton resident Jerry McDonald suggested the possible partnership approach between the cities — which are only a 10-minute ferry ride apart — as a way to bring more tourism and boost downtown revitalization efforts that would benefit both communities. The mayors and city councils of both cities have embraced the concept and are promoting the session with Brooks.

McDonald said the idea first came to him when he saw the catchy “Ellen from Ellensburg” television ads promoting tourism in that community on the east side of the Cascades.

“I thought ‘we ought to be doing something like this,’” he said. So he called the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce and talked with the director of the “Ellen” marketing campaign, who suggested McDonald call Brooks.

Brooks is president of Seattle-based Destination Development International, a firm that specializes in branding and marketing programs, and he has worked with communities and downtown groups throughout the U.S. and in Canada.

This won’t be his first involvement with promoting tourism on this side of Puget Sound. In the summer of 1999, his Olympia-based consulting firm Chandler & Brooks was hired by the Kitsap Peninsula Visitors & Convention Bureau to create a marketing campaign promoting tourism in the region. According to a Kitsap Sun article at the time, it was “the first effort to create a tourism marketing plan for all of Kitsap County instead of the individual communities within Kitsap.”

Brooks said his upcoming presentation at SeeFilm Cinema in Bremerton will engage community members in a lively discussion about branding. He’ll show video clips and photos of what other towns have achieved in branding and marketing campaigns facilitated by DDI, and encourage those in attendance to think about what their own community’s marketable identity is.

“What sets you apart from everybody else? That’s what a community needs to focus on,” he said, adding that the same applies to tourism-related businesses. “There are 576 cities and towns in this state, and every single one of them wants tourism and economic development.”

To be successful, “cities have to start thinking and acting like businesses,” he said, especially since less assistance is available from federal and state government funding.

He mentioned Poulsbo and Port Townsend as towns on the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas that have created distinctive identities. But much of the Kitsap region is “kind of a blank slate,” Brooks said. “I think most people don’t even know what’s over there.”

A second part of the presentation will cover “The 20 Ingredients of an Outstanding Destination.”

“We surveyed 400 very successful downtown districts in the US and Canada,” said Brooks, who gave this presentation at a recent workshop in Edmonds that McDonald and Bremerton City Councilman Greg Wheeler attended.

McDonald, a retired Air Force and commercial airline pilot who lives in a condo on the Bremerton waterfront, said he hopes the presentation by Brooks will be a catalyst for finding more effective ways to promote what the area has to offer.

“What I’d like to see happen is first of all, to excite everybody and get them involved in making this a destination,” he said. “I think there are enough forward-thinking people in the community that will see the light. I want all the politicians, business owners and property owners in both downtowns to be players.”

A lot of local officials and other stakeholders plan to attend, and McDonald hopes the county commissioners and Washington State Ferries also will be represented. Some local business owners have made donations to cover the $2,000 cost of Brooks’ presentation, and the City of Port Orchard is contributing $200.

“This could be the first step in really making the Bremerton ferry route from Seattle a destination,” McDonald said, “and both communities can prosper from making that a destination.”

The presentation is scheduled for 6-8:30 p.m. at SeeFilm Cinema, 655 Fourth St. in Bremerton.

Anyone who would like to attend is asked to RSVP, either by email to cityhall [at] cityofportorchard [dot] us or by calling 360-876-4407.

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