Apex delays shop-local campaign

aramos@newsobserver.comMay 8, 2014 

— The Town Council isn’t quite ready to “Think Apex.”

Elected leaders on Tuesday rejected a proposed shop-local campaign, citing concerns about cost, technical logistics and oversight.

But there’s still hope for “Think Apex,” which is expected to cost $9,750. Town leaders plan to re-evaluate the initiative when an economic development director is hired.

More than 60 people have applied for the job, and whoever is hired is expected to start by July 1.

Councilwoman Nicole Dozier suggested the “Think Apex” branding campaign as a way to encourage economic development.

The idea was to create a searchable database of Apex businesses that would help people find local options for what they’re shopping for.

Under the proposed plan, an outside agency would monitor and maintain the site.

Councilman Gene Schulze said he wasn’t convinced the system was necessary – or whether it would work.

“Why wouldn’t someone Google ‘prom dresses’ and ‘Apex?’ ” Schulze said. “Why would someone go to a separate database and not Google? It’s too much for people to remember.”

Schulze, who works in the information technology field, also said a database would be useless if it wasn’t kept up to date.

“I’m about a controlled and managed approach,” he said. “I don’t want to do this all willy-nilly.”

Councilman Scott Lassiter said he worried a town-hosted database would compete with the Apex Chamber of Commerce, which already has its own public listing service.

The chamber’s database isn’t searchable, and it’s limited to members, although the list is available to everyone.

“If they’re not a chamber member (they’re not listed); we are losing a lot of people,” Dozier said.

There are about 1,000 businesses in Apex; about half are members of the chamber.

Apex worked with local marketing firm Colossal Agency to come up with the “Think Apex” proposal. The plan was for Colossal to design and set up the database and to create logos that would be printed on window decals and car magnets.

Councilwoman Denise Wilkie said she wanted to open the project up for bid.

“I support this,” she said. “My concern is I want to make sure we examine this thoroughly.

“I don’t want to see it rushed. I don’t know why we have to do it overnight.”

The town has a history of moving forward with projects without going through the bid process, said Councilman Bill Jensen, who was in favor of approving the plan.

Apex spent about $22,000 for a firm to design a skate plaza, without putting the project out to bid, he said.

The bid threshold for design services is $50,000, and there is no threshold for a marketing brand contract, said Town Attorney Hank Fordham. That means the council isn’t required to put either project out for bid.

Meanwhile, Apex Chamber of Commerce Director Stephen Xavier said he wants the chamber to oversee the town’s database and shop-local branding program.

“Why not pay us to manage this?” he asked. “We have the knowledge and the expertise.”

Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews

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