Lee’s Summit has been rolling out the red carpet to attract new businesses and residents. Steve Arbo is the city manager and he recently appeared to talk about his city’s new rebranding effort.
KK: Tell me about the things you’re doing to attract businesses and residents to Lee’s Summit.
SA: We started a process that took two years to get completed. I’m very pleased with the outcome. It’s called a branding program. I’m sure for many listeners, especially those involved in businesses or public relations, they understand the importance of branding, but so often in local municipalities, the branding concept of your town and of your community is a new and unique concept that Lee’s Summit has taken on.
KK: You hired a brand manager, and I gather everything flows from this person tasked with building this new identity, brand and new messaging for the city?
SA: We started off with hiring North Star to do research about our community. They exclusively work with municipalities throughout the U.S. North Star did research methodology, such as a survey of our own citizens, and they also did a survey of those who live outside Lee’s Summit to get outside perspectives. They found out what our strengths are and what people like about Lee’s Summit. Out of the research, their work and through a citizen committee, we established a brand platform and then we hired a brand manager to implement that brand platform for us.
KK: What did you find from the survey?
SA: Something we knew about ourselves, but it was good to hear, is that we are a community that has a very high level of compassion and concern for each other. In Lee’s Summit, even though it’s a large city (about 92,000 people), we still have the same values you’d find in communities much smaller than us, regarding the concern about relationships we have with each other or the need to help someone who is struggling either on a business basis or on a personal basis or they need something to be done with their home.
We continue to find ways to build each other up as a community. We are very unassuming. One interesting fact about Lee’s Summit is that our household income is at the same level or, in some cases, higher than in the Johnson County, Kan. area, but you wouldn’t really be able to notice that in any of the attitudes or approaches we have here. It’s a friendly place, and you’re more likely to have a conversation with a stranger here than just about anywhere else in Midwest.
KK: What is Lee’s Summit’s key economic development project right now?
SA: Lee’s Summit has phenomenal strength in two places, so I’m going to give you two answers. Our open space and access to the highway system is a primary driver for our future economy, but we are also focusing on reinvesting in our downtown area.