CONCORD -- In a time of slumping tax revenues, stalled growth and axed redevelopment agencies, Concord is taking a Madison Avenue approach to capture businesses, boost tax revenues and market itself as a destination spot.

They are calling it "Destination Concord 2.0." While the name itself won't appear as a brand, here's one that might: "Car Capital of the East Bay."

"There's a vision to get our auto district on the map," said Mayor Ron Leone, who has held multiple meetings with local car dealers.

The dealerships, which are a top sales tax contributor to the city, have already paid for new street signs to direct customers to their showrooms on Concord Avenue and Market Street. It's the first in what Leone hopes is a wave of investments along the auto row.

Ideas include changing the color of street signs near the auto row to make them distinct and possibly change the name of Burnett Avenue to Auto Way or a similar name.

The car dealers have agreed in theory to take part in a rebranding and marketing campaign, and are working out a way to jointly pay for it, Leone said.

The talks are part of a much broader public and private plan to spur economic development in the aftermath of the demise of redevelopment agencies, the mechanism Concord once used to spur economic growth. The two-year plan, which is costing the city $64,000, includes everything from tidying up the online permit center to paying Google so the city will show up more prominently on Internet searches for information about where to start a business in the Bay Area.


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Economic Development and Housing Manager John Montagh said Concord is the first local city to take advantage of the Google advertising.

"It raises Concord on that bar," Montagh said.

The initiatives include:

  • Creating 45- to 90-second commercial on YouTube to promote Concord's business community, downtown and restaurants.

  • Spending $10,000 on an infomercial promoting the city as a top business location that will air on TV and be shown at trade shows.

  • Facilitating the formation of business improvement districts.

  • Promoting the four former redevelopment agency properties to potential developers.

  • Using social media sites such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

    "We think our story is compelling," Montagh said of what he calls the "Concord story."

    The plan will be rolled out in 2013 but it could take years before the city will be able to measure its success, said Benicia's economic development manager, Mario Giuliani.

    His city began a campaign in 2002, paying a marketing firm $300,000 to roll out advertisements in the Bay Area and beyond. It's one many Bay Area residents have heard on the radio: "Benicia -- A Great Day by the Bay."

    Giuliani said after 10 years sales tax revenue and foot traffic in downtown are up but it is difficult to get an apples-to-apples comparison.

    "It's a leap of faith," Giuliani said this week. "It's not an instant gratification proposition."

    Contact David DeBolt at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.