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Rebranding Waupun: City prepares to welcome growth
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Rebranding Waupun: City prepares to welcome growth

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Rebranding Waupun has nothing to do with hot irons and cattle, although the area has plenty of dairy cows and metal fabrication.

What it does involve is how visitors perceive the city, its amenities, its location and how the city is poised for growth.

The Waupun City Council, and many active in the community, heard the plans for growth, and saw the new city logo Tuesday night at Waupun City Hall. While it has been known as “Prison City” and the “City of Sculptures” in the past, the new brand has more to do with attracting new industries and residents than bragging of its past — although some were disappointed by the switch.

The high point of the meeting was the unveiling of the new city logo by marketing project manager Mark Knickelbine. It includes “WAUPUN,” with a plus sign connected to “WISCONSIN,” over the words “economic growth.” To the left is stylized foliage encircling two abstract figures.

“People talk about me getting to work with the fun stuff, but this is not your brand,” said Knickelbine. “You brand is the story that you tell about yourself. It’s what others will think and feel when they talk about Waupun from an economic development standpoint.”

He said that distilling Waupun’s story had its challenges, with so many attributes and so much history.

“We were trying to balance a sense of dynamism that we associate with industry and manufacturing and economic development, generally, with the agricultural aspect, the natural aspect, having that sense of rural values. I think that with your help we’ve come up with something that is really strikingly original for an economic development logo ... but will work to convey those sets of general ideals about Waupun.”

Dodge County Historical Society President Jay Graff expressed disappointment in not seeing any of Waupun’s iconic images in the logo, which was echoed by a woman walking to her car.

“We have the perfect logo in the ‘End of the Trail’ sculpture here in Waupun,” she said. “It’s known around the world. That’s what we should be using.”

Most chairs in the chamber were full for the presentation, which began with an introduction by Cathy Schlieve, Waupun city administrator/director of economic development.

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“In November of last year I approached you and said we need to undertake a branding effort, and thank you for supporting that,” she said. “As we talked about this notion of Waupun as a place where we want people to invest — whether it’s a business, or coming as a tourist, or deciding to live here — we need to treat our city as a brand would be treated. We all know that Waupun has a great quality of life, but every city is saying that. That doesn’t give us any handles to work with. We’re called ‘Prison City,’ and it doesn’t matter how far you go from Waupun people know that. We know some equity has been built in ‘city of sculptures,’ although there is another community that also proclaims that, so that’s not unique.”

Schlieve talked about taking a regional approach.

“We need to take command of our story and we need to leverage the assets that are unique to this community so we have what I like to call handles — really tangible, valuable things that are aimed at the particular targets that we’re trying to attract here.”

She warned that the “brand” may not be what people expect, but is directed at the task of promoting growth.

“It’s a different way of thinking, but it’s a very good affirmation of the things we’ve been working on,” she said. “Certainly new opportunities will present themselves because of this work.”

Janet Ady, president and CEO of Ady Advantage, presented her company’s findings in an “Economic Development Strategic Plan and Brand Platform.” That platform indicated measures of preparedness and how they are perceived by businesses and individuals thinking about moving to Waupun.

“Thanks to the community for your participation, because this is obviously something that is really important, and timely because you’re at the cusp, I think, of more great things. This is an effort that can tie things together and create a path forward,” said Ady.

“After we took a look at all the assets you’ve got we took an outside view and asked ‘Who would put the greatest value on that,” she said. “It’s no longer enough to say it’s a great place to live, work and play without articulating why. What’s your elevator speech? What differentiates you from other places?”

She said Waupun is ideally suited for three areas of growth.

“We have a very strong agricultural presence,” she said. “That’s a competitive advantage that other places don’t have. You have location and access to regional markets, and there is access to raw materials. There are also great opportunities in transportation and distribution, as well as manufacturing, which is competitive as far as labor costs, in training resources and in access to markets.”

Being prepared for growth is key, according to Ady, putting Waupun in a place more attractive than communities without it. Pairing with other promoters is also important, linking to other resources that can foster growth locally, as well as around the state and throughout the region.

A good website, she believes, is paramount.


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