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Putting the word out

Madison, Milton to receive money
to offset bridge closure

Madison budget request includes
funds to market city's new brand

By Don Ward
Editor

(December 2009) – Madison, Ind., tourism officials stand to receive nearly $205,000 to help promote the city to local residents and visitors as part of $131 million Milton-Madison Bridge replacement project. This marketing money would be funneled to the City of Madison and transferred to the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, plus another $25,000 to the City of Milton. The money is designed to offset the negative economic impact of a potential 12-month bridge closure in 2011.
The marketing money would only be available if a request for $95 million in federal stimulus funds is granted, thereby setting in motion the superstructure replacement of the 80-year-old structure that spans the Ohio River between Milton, Ky., and Madison, Ind.
The announcement on whether the project will receive the federal grant is expected to be made in late January 2010, according to John Carr, the lead consultant with Wilbur Smith Associates Inc. The Lexington, Ky., firm is the lead consultant in the bridge project, the balance of which will be jointly funded by both Kentucky and Indiana.
“The Kentucky and Indiana transportation departments will provide news releases to the media and motorists about bridge lane closures but it will not spend marketing dollars. It will be up to the two towns to manage their own marketing campaigns,” Carr said by telephone in late November.
Officials from both Milton and Madison were asked to prepare a budget request to include what they would like to spend on marketing or other projects. Madison’s request includes direct mail and advertising placements in cities as far away as Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, plus cities in northern Indiana and the Louisville and Cincinnati markets.
Milton requested $25,000, most of which it wants to use to conduct a direct mail campaign to boaters and campers who spend the summer along the river. They also want to create a brochure to promote a historic homes tour.
Madison’s tourism director, Linda Lytle, has submitted a marketing budget totalling $204,348 for advertising to numerous cities in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. By comparison, the CVB’s current annual marketing budget totals $105,000 – $25,000 of which is sent to Indiana Office of Tourism Development each year to participate in the state’s coop marketing program. All bridge-sponsored marketing money would have to be spent during the bridge replacement project, Carr said, from 2010-2012. The project is scheduled to be completed by February 2012.
Meanwhile, Lytle has included in her bridge marketing budget request $25,000 to pay for the final marketing portion of the city’s ongoing Branding Project. The city, along with Madison Main Street and other partner agencies, have already paid Seattle consultant Roger Brooks $50,000 to conduct a Branding campaign. His work was completed last summer and resulted in a 64-page Branding Report that includes dozens of recommendations. A copy of this report is available for public inspection at the CVB office at 601 W. First St. and Madison City Hall.
In recent months, a 14-member Brand Leadership Team, representing city government, historic properties and merchants, has met four times to discuss Brooks’ recommendations to try and reach a consensus on moving forward. But no final decisions have been made. The effort also was stalled by a lack of money to hire someone to generate the marketing materials in support of a new branding campaign, Lytle said. They are now hoping to appoint a leader who will direct all future meetings and help provide more focus and structure to the branding effort.
Brooks’ “brand” for Madison – America’s Traditional Lifestyles – was presented in a public forum last summer, but Lytle said “the branding committee has been divided on using that as a brand.”
No clear direction has been formulated so far. But Lytle says she is encouraged by the infusion of marketing money to move forward. “Now with the bridge project coming and this economic impact money available, we hope to have a new brand to launch when the time comes to re-open the new bridge,” she said. “We want it to be something fantastic, with new signs and a logo.”
So far the Branding Leadership Team has met behind closed doors but a decision was recently made to open future meetings to the public, Lytle said. “There was some hesitation on the part of some members of having the media present, but that sentiment has changed,” she said. The next meeting is expected to take place sometime in January but no date has been set.
Lytle said the advertising campaign will have several goals, including a “loyalty campaign” to retain local shoppers and an attempt to reach out to leisure travelers in the three-state region. “We hope to convince our repeat visitors to come to Madison at least three times that year (the bridge is closed).”
She said the difference in this approach is that the CVB’s marketing money is spent to “put heads in beds” and thus generate innkeepers tax revenue, which is the primary source of tourism funding. “But this is not our money, so we’ll spend it to reach and attract the local community as well as visitors.”
Carr said once the federal grant has been secured, action will begin quickly to formulate the bid package and hire a contractor by May 2010. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet plans to begin periodic lane closures in spring 2010 to conduct repairs on the bridge. Some work also may begin to widen the existing piers in 2010. But the actual superstructure replacement project would not begin until January 2011 and last from nine to 12 months.
Carr said with the poor economy and lack of work, he expects to see competitive and creative bids submitted. More money would be paid for each day the project is completed ahead of schedule. The lowest bid will win as long as it meets all the requirements set forth in the bid package.
“It has to be ‘substantially complete’ be February 2012, and we are taking that to mean open to traffic,” Carr said. “It’s a tight schedule and it’s ambitious, but it’s do-able, according to our engineering consultants.”
Carr added that an environmental assessment will be conducted in late December or early January, and that a public hearing will be held in January. “Come mid to late January, when the grant is announced, we are going to be ready to go.”

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: Don@RoundAboutMadison.com.

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