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New brand for Sumter County revealed by One Sumter

By Beth Alston

PLAINS — “A Toast to Sumter County” marked the unveiling of a new branding concept for Sumter County and its municipalities at a reception Monday evening at the Plains Community Center. A large crowd of business and community leaders, along with former President Jimmy and first lady Rosalynn Carter, were in attendance.
Mary Beth Bass, executive director of the One Sumter Foundation Inc., which funded the rebranding effort, welcomed everyone and explained the process. “It’s really a revelation of what it means to create one community and one future for Sumter County. Over the last 12 months, it’s certainly been a journey.” A team was activated in June 2016, she said, to review the marketing and communications efforts for the local community. She thanked the donors of One Sumter, its board of directors, and members of the marketing and communications strategy team.
Nicole Thurston Kirksey, director of tourism for Americus and Sumter County, reviewed the five areas the process started with (see her column on page A4 today). She said in trying to figure how to tell the story of all five municipalities, while are all different, there was also a common theme going through all. She said tourism and One Sumter decided to team up for the rebranding process. After putting together a marketing and communications strategy team, they studied different cities to determine what they had to offer. She mentioned that Sumter County has many assets that other communities don’t — two national historic sites, a former U.S. President, the Rylander Theatre, Windsor Hotel, etc. The team decided they needed excellent photography, a photo library and a video, among other things. Then One Sumter decided to hire Arnett Mulgrow & Associates of Greenville, S.C., to determine the brand.
Bass introduced the key players. Arnett Mulgrow & Associates, in “four short days,” gathered information and imagery from the five communities in Sumter County and brought it all together for one comprehensive brand after seven weeks. Matt Odom Photography of Macon provided the photography. Horace Braswell, who was not in attendance, is with Codec, a video content company in Macon. Terry Ambrose, graphic artist with Terry Tilley Designs was also introduced, and Laurie Row with Laurie Row Communications. Nick Rizkella of Vantage Views LLC was also not in attendance but part of the expert team.
Tripp Mulgrow of Arnett Mulgrow & Associates then shared the vision and mission of the rebrand. He mentioned his first experience in Sumter County in November 2016, when arriving in the early morning hours and seeing the Jimmy Carter as Cancer Survivor signs. “I knew then what a special community it would be,” he said, adding that they are humbled by having the opportunity to create the brand. He said through their four-day visit in Sumter County, they heard amazing stories from members of the agricultural community, the business leaders, elected and appointed officials. He found this community realizes that “joining together to achieve your goals and aspirations really do result in profound things happening. They’ve happened in the past. They’re going to happen in the future.”
Kirksey then introduced the brand, (see entire script on page A4) which included beautiful images of Sumter County — “Georgia’s Sumter County. Homegrown. World Renown.”
Patrick Kay, director of Americus Main Street and Downtown Development Authority, then presented the brand for Americus:  “Downtown Americus. Hometown. Forward Bound.”
Kirksey also rolled out branding for the cities of Andersonville, DeSoto, Leslie and Plains.
Also in attendance was Nija Torrence, operations manager, Georgia Department of Economic Development. She spoke on the power of the brand from the state’s perspective. She explained that more than a tagline is necessary to establish identity. Using some examples from Georgia’s past — sitting on porches sipping sweet tea or mint juleps, fields of cotton, southern accent, southern hospitality — all referred to the past. “Those things are fine,” she said, “but they did not define the aggressiveness of Georgia.” She said the vibrant peach logo makes people instantly think “Georgia.”
Jay Robert, chairman of the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce, proposed a champagne (or grape juice) toast to the new branding.