Discussion of the inRidgefield marketing and branding campaign for the town was withdrawn from the Board of Selectmen’s June 19 agenda at the request of Wayne Addessi, the Ridgefield businessman who championed the effort.
“What we decided to do, after going down this path for a while, we’re going to stay private for now,” Addessi told The Press.
Addessi, who has a jewelry store on Main Street and is one of the downtown’s major commercial landlords, had come before the selectmen in late May, seeking town support. The proposal was for $80,000 in appropriations — $40,000 from the expiring 2018-19 budget, with the understanding it would likely be followed by $40,000 form the 2019-20 budget — to continue financing the two-year-old inRidgefield marketing effort.
The selectmen had a number of questions, and the item was on the agenda for the June 19, but First Selectman Rudy Marconi told other board members at the meeting that Addessi has asked to have it taken off the agenda.
In an interview, Addessi made it clear he plans to continue the effort, which is focused on broadly marketing Ridgefield through a variety of social media platforms.
“I think everyone agrees that this inRidgefield platform we built is the most outstanding platform and strategy,” Addessi said.
“...We have social media, we have Facebook, we have the website, we have blogging,” he said.
“It’s not about downtown — this is all of Ridgefield. We’re trying to encompass marketing the whole town.”
The effort was approaching two years old when Addessi came before the Board of Selectmen in late May, seeking financial support.
“The selectmen appeared to agree marketing and branding the town was a great idea,” he said.
But the selectmen weren’t so sure they wanted to spend $80,000 of town money on the initiative, which had been launched by Addessi with some $80,000 he’d raised privately.
“The best way to go forward is just to stay private for the time being,” Addessi told The Press.
“It’s keeps us very nimble and flexible and free to move at the pace we do so well with the private sector.”
The goal is to develop Ridgefield as a brand — a name people recognize, are interested in, respond to — built around the town’s acknowledged strengths as a place to live, as an arts and cultural center, and as a commercial destination.
“We’re trying to not only remind the people who live here what we have as a community, but also reach beyond 06877 in a way that is very consumer-friendly,” Addessi said.
Telling the story
“What’s different about Ridgefield from towns around us? Let’s start telling our story.”
He feels the approach, working in collaboration with First Selectman Marconi, has already proven successful.
“We’ve gained so much support,” Addessi said. “As I led this effort I had everybody on board...
“We had 30 supporters. We’ve raised almost $80,000. Rudy was on board with us from the beginning — he saw the value in this platform.”
Addessi said other communities in the area are also launching marketing efforts.
“You’re going to see it, too, in other towns, like New Canaan and towns south of us,” he said. “Greenwich is working on a project — branding and marketing...
“New Canaan, the selectmen were approached. Norwalk started something, they’re taking money out of their Parking Authority fund. Waterbury also. Greenwich was working on a public-private partnership. What was different about our effort was it started with the private,” Addessi said.
The inRidgefield effort was spearheaded by the marketing firm SandorMax.
“They came on board a year and a half ago,” Addessi said.” The firm is also are marketing Washignton, Conn., and other communities as well.
“They were referred to us,” he added.”They did the Chamber website a couple of years ago — they did ‘Destination Ridgefield.’ ”
Addessi said that in developing the campaign, and trying to bring in the selectmen as supporters, he’d sought to cooperate with organizations that have similar goals .
“We had the Chamber of Commerce and the ECDC (Economic and Community Development Commission) all looking at this, and we were trying to look at the best way forward — in the public eye it got a little confusing,” he said.
So now he’s going back to advancing inRidgefield as a private venture.
“The win-win strategy is the town will not have to use taxpayer dollars to support the strategy,” Addessi said. “It’s not going to cost the taxpayers.”
While the town is out of the picture for the moment, he’ll be trying to redouble the private fundraising that has brought the effort this far.
“We’re looking for partners,” Addessi said. “We’re trying to reimagine ourselves, to go out looking for partnerships to solicit more support...
“We’ll be restrategizing to continue the platform and look for more private funding,” he said. “... Maybe we weren’t quite ready to partner with the town.”
Addessi plans to continue to move the effort forward, and also keep it flexible.
“I want to keep the door open, talk to people and strategize,” he said.
Anyone interested in discussing the effort is welcome to reach out to him at 203-438-6549, or by stopping in to talk at Addessi Jewelers, 387 Main Street.