MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

April 22, 2014

Shopping campaign funding approved

Foundation board grants request for $1M to begin media drive

City of Muskogee Foundation board members pledged a million dollars to support a public awareness campaign about the importance of shopping locally.

The idea was pitched by Mayor Bob Coburn, who was unable to provide any examples that show a campaign like the one being proposed can produce the desired results. He said he could not “find any other cities that have done this.”

“I don’t think we will see a drastic turnaround,” Coburn said. “What we will do is plant seeds” that might make people think before they spend their money “outside our trade area.”

A consulting firm hired more than a year ago by the city estimated Muskogee loses about $77 million per year primarily because consumers who live within a defined trade area spend money outside Muskogee. They predicted a public awareness campaign could boost annual local retail sales by $55 million, which would add $2.1 million per year to the city coffers.

Coburn said the campaign, which has been described as a “citywide media blast,” would be suspended after a year if there is no evidence of success. But he and others said something must be done to reverse the recent trend of flat sales tax revenue that has grown worse during the past year.

Former City Councilor Randy Howard expressed skepticism about Coburn’s proposal, which needs the approval of Muskogee’s governing body. He said consumers in Muskogee “need better selection and cleaner stores,” something that will “give them a reason to shop and spend their money in Muskogee.”

“I understand leakage and sales tax dollars, but spending a million dollars is not the answer,” Howard said, noting consumers will go where they need to go if they want to buy something.

“I wish Muskogee citizens cared more to promote local stores and I think they try to do better, but I believe spending a million dollars is like throwing money away in this campaign.”

City Manager Howard Brown Jr., however, backed the plan as the only one he has “seen that is focused on increasing sales in Muskogee.” He said the city doesn’t spend enough on that type of promotion and retention of retailers who do business in Muskogee.

“I think after one year we will be able to see if this is working,” Brown said. “At least this is something we can do to try and correct this.”

The city already has launched its search for a company to oversee the public awareness campaign, soliciting proposals that are supposed to be returned by Wednesday for review. Brown said city councilors will have a chance May 6 to review the proposals submitted.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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