What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “Bellevue?”
There are many potential answers to that question, and city officials, business leaders and other entities in the Bellevue community are hoping to create a unified identity from those answers.
A committee of those leaders, based out of the Greater Bellevue Area Chamber of Commerce, has solicited proposals for marketing and consulting firms to conduct research about the community and develop a cohesive brand Bellevue’s businesses, school districts and city can then use to promote themselves.
Duane Safarik, a real estate broker who helped form the committee and a former president and CEO of the chamber, said the initiative began based on feedback from the business community and Mayor Rusty Hike’s campaign to spur economic development and connectivity.
Safarik said they saw an opportunity.
“Everybody has different ideas on why Bellevue is good, so let’s put it all in one basket and then market from there,” Safarik said.
According to those involved in the committee, there is a perception that Bellevue lacks a unified identity, or has a narrow identity based on being a military community that revolves around Offutt Air Force Base or the first settlement in Nebraska’s history.
While those are true and embraced, Bellevue has grown through development and annexation to more than 60,000 people, and leaders believe Bellevue’s true identity should include more than that.
Distinct areas of the city have formed, Fontenelle Forest is a hidden gem, access to downtown Omaha’s work and entertainment sectors are less than 15 minutes away and the city’s restaurants are a metro-wide draw.
That growth has been disjointed at times, leaders said, and no common thread about what Bellevue is has developed.
“When you’re sitting out in west Omaha and you say, ‘Let’s go to Bellevue,’ where is Bellevue? Is it (Olde Towne), is it Twin Creek? There’s no identity there,” Hike said.
Kevin Hensel, the current president and CEO of the Bellevue chamber, said those on the committee were careful not to “predispose themselves” to any perceived identities, but rather focused on questions they hoped the consulting or marketing firm will answer.
“What we as individuals may think, or even as a collective of the committee may think, we may still be completely off base as to what the community thinks we are,” Hensel said.
The firm will be chosen in February and the contract, paid for by the city, will begin in March.
A second phase to implement the brand, which leaders said would begin early in 2020 and continue into early 2021, would be funded through private donors.
Once the brand is fully developed and implemented, which could take up to two years, that brand will be used to market Bellevue to the community itself, the Omaha metro area and nationally to developers and businesses that could invest in Bellevue.
“We need to be able to tell that story, but we need to tell that story accurately, that our own community is able to tell that same story,” Hensel said.
Community meetings based on voting wards will be organized during the next year to allow residents to give their input, leaders said.
“Northwest, they can’t be left out. Olde Towne can’t be left out, and we all need to work together because everybody is in it for the same reason but I don’t think anybody knows what that reason is,” Safarik said.
Leaders pointed to cities like La Vista and Council Bluffs that have undergone identity makeovers through economic development and branding.