The Town of Hillsville and The Friends of Hillsville have proposed working with Carroll County on a new “branding” of the town to attract visitors and businesses.
The Carroll County Board of Supervisors heard from a consultant working with both Hillsville groups during its May 9 meeting. Hillsville Mayor Greg Crowder said the groups had met with Carroll supervisors Robbie McCraw and Joshua Hendrick prior to the meeting.
“The Friends of Hillsville and the Town of Hillsville are very interested in branding our town through research on how to make a town go forward and to fill your empty buildings, and I hate to use this word, but to kind of get like Floyd,” Crowder said. “That’s what they have done, they have branded theirselves. So we checked into it and we hired the best guy we could to give us some insight on what we might want to do.”
That guy is Buzz Bizzell of Bizzell Designs. Bizzell started the presentation by saying his company designs and develops programs called way-finding signage. They are all over the United States, he said, noting his company has done approximately 1,400 to date.
“It’s always amazing how someone can look at a sign in another state, call the town administrator and say who designed that sign? And then here I am,” Bizzell said. “It happens almost every week. So that gives you an idea of the power of graphics on the street when they say the right thing and do the right thing.”
Bizzell said the main focus is to design “obtainable solutions.” There are a lot of architects and designers that come in and want to redo streets, sidewalks and infrastructure. That is a very expensive proposition, he said.
“And the end of the day, unless there is a real connection between the shop owner and the visitor traffic that comes in, still nothing happens,” Bizzell said.
Bizzell said one of his company’s big clients is the Town of Davidson, North Carolina. He said the main focus was to get the small college in Davidson to work with the town to create a “destination type of environment.” It all started with the design and development of a logo, which grew to placing signing on municipal buildings and different structures so you “could start to see a pattern.”
“The color of red is the color that the college uses, so it automatically links visitors to what is there when they see this,” Bizzell said. “My goal is to make Hillsville and Carroll County a memorable place so when you drive off of the interstate to go to McDonalds or wherever you are, there needs to be something there that sparks your memory and you know where you are and where you have been. That way you realize when you are on a trip as a visitor, you know where to go, there is a nice little restaurant downtown or let’s go to that antique shop. And what we do to make things memorable is intentionally design little memory keys.”
One way of doing that is through murals, he said. They are not usually historic murals, but murals designed to make you remember where you are. For instance, a mural of red strawberries in Davidson reminds visitors of the college that is red.
The company also tries to make parking a “unique event.” Bizzell said so many towns have signs that say “don’t park here,” “you can only park here for 15 minutes,” or “if you park here you will be towed.”
“That is a sign that regulates where you are going to go. And what we do is design signs that give a visitor permission to be there. There is a big difference,” Bizzell said. “When they have permission to stay, they will stay and go to three or four or five stores instead of just one.”
He said the company also connects all the details together, down to an area’s internet page, street banners, etc. It also works with localities on how to create events to tie in with your brand, he said.
“Sometimes making a memorable impression requires that you think out of the box,” Bizzell said. “And where a lot of traditionally thinking is about we are going to design this beautiful park or we are going to create this historic monument, sometimes we just have to be different and do something fun and people tend to remember that because it stands out.”
Bizzell said one example of that is the Farmers Market truck that was put on top of a sign in Davidson. During the fall, the town puts big, plastic pumpkins in the truck, while they put watermelons and strawberries in it during the summer.
“It makes it fun and memorable,” he said.
Other localities Bizzell said his company has worked with recently include Lake Norman and Mooresville, both in North Carolina. About 30 minutes into the presentation, Hendrick asked Bizzell what exactly the Friends of Hillsville are looking at doing. Mayor Crowder said right now they are just looking at way-finding signs. Hendrick asked if the general concept has been prepared for Hillsville.
“Generally,” Bizzell replied before turning attention to a similar project in Anson County, N.C. “We combined way-finding signage with branded events that are designed to combine that information, and then with billboard and mural opportunities to tie all that together. That is the approach that we are looking for in Carroll County. It shows you how these events come together.”
Bizzell then showed supervisors at look at proposed Phase I of the project, which would include “about 13 signs.” The signs “basically” announce the town and county, he said, with about half the signs pointing toward county facilities and the other half pointing to Town of Hillsville attractions.
“You can see how I have done that, historic downtown antique shops and dining, and then there is a line and it talks about Carroll County and the government center, high school, library, all of those things we point to and direct to and create a maze that sort of does that,” Bizzell said. “That is where we are and we would work with you to create a budget and develop that budget and the brand at the same time.”
So a budget has not been established, Hendrick asked? Crowder said a budget had not been established, that the town and county would need to get together and pick out signs that would make municipalities happy.
“They range from not very expensive to something we wouldn’t even consider. Of course we would want to get the nicest things we could afford, that is why this needs to be Phase I because the Friends of Hillsville have filled their money and will have to regroup and provide more funds later to go with the second phase,” Crowder said.
After Hendrick asked what the board wanted to do, Supervisor Bob Martin said he’d like to see the county take a look at it. He wasn’t sure, though, how much money the county might have in the budget for such a project at this time. Hendrick then appointed Supervior Rex Hill to work with the Friends of Hillsville on the details to see if it’s something the county might be interested in doing.
Interim County Administrator Nikki Cannon suggested the county incorporate its tourism office into the talks to make sure the county is not working against an already established brand. Martin said there are a lot of cars that pass by Carroll County on the interstate. The county could be pulling them in for additional revenue, he said.
“Our initial counts when we were here a month ago, there is a lot of cars everywhere,” Bizzell said. “I was surprised by the amount of cars.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN