The city is on the verge of releasing its community branding plan, a plan that’s a year late and, as of the first of this month, still didn’t have a final logo.
The theme is expected to be officially unveiled at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
So far, it looks like “Experience Downey” will win out as the city’s new tag line. The phrase has appeared on a few city documents lately.
The catchphrase marks a major move for the city as it untethers its reputation, if ever so carefully, from the aerospace industry that left town more than a decade ago.
The old city slogan, Future Unlimited, will still be on the city’s seal. And it won’t completely be phased out from city documents, but it won’t be featured in the coming marketing push, according to city officials.
The community, founded in 1873 and incorporated in 1956, has been through two major phases, said Larry Latimer, the author of ‘Downey: Images of America,’ a history of the city.
The first was the citrus industry. The second was the space and rocketry era, which took off during the 1930s and is now in its death throes. Pieces of heavy equipment are currently demolishing the old NASA space shuttle factory on Lakewood Boulevard.
The future of Downey, Latimer said, isn’t clear.
“I guess this Tierra Luna thing is the city’s big ace, but, other than that, it’s really hard to know what comes next,” he said of the shopping center and office complex planned for the former NASA site.
Census data show that, over the last 20 years, most former residents of Downey have moved away.
“A lot of people have left, it’s true,” Latimer said. “That’s true wherever you go around this area. Downey, for a lot of people who grew up here, wasn’t a spot to stay. Back in the 1970s, Orange County was emerging. A lot of building was going on in Huntington Beach and that area down there. It attracted people.”
Meanwhile, the size of Downey’s Latino population exploded. The percent of Hispanic residents jumped from from 32 percent in 1990 to 71 percent in 2010.
“I married a Hispanic girl,” Latimer said. “My brother married a Guatemalan girl. My parents initially were probably saying, ‘What the hell?’ But it’s a changing society. And these days, I’m meeting a lot of Hispanic families who have been here for years and years. I’m a computer repairman, and Hispanics continue to be an emerging clientele. If you really want to nail it down, the future of Downey, it belongs to the young families who have been moving here, which are mostly Hispanic families. If they want to get involved in their community, the future is really theirs.”
Mayor Roger Brossmer, who is on a subcommittee to choose a new brand for the city with Councilman Mario Guerra, has said in remarks that it has been tough to look to the future when the city’s history has been so rich.
The city in July 2010 hired Tennessee-based North Star Destination strategies to conduct research, build a graphic, and create signs and themes for the city. The contract cost $90,000 and was supposed to be completed in a year.
The organization conducted hundreds of surveys and sent its staff to Downey.
The branding process got bogged down in part when Economic Development Director Brian Saeki, along with similar public officials across the state, got slammed by the dissolution of redevelopment agencies.
“Right in the middle of this, I lost some pretty key staff people who were leading the charge,” Saeki said.
There were also miscommunications between North Star and the city, several city officials said.
For reasons that aren’t completely clear, the city is using local artists to finish off much of the graphic elements of the program.
North Star’s Vice President Jennifer Williams said the process in Downey went well. She said she was not aware of any miscommunications.
In general, the branding process has four parts, she said.
North Star first conducts research. Then it builds strategy.
After that, the company tries to think of creative ideas before it solidifies the look and feel of the campaign, she said.
She declined to comment specifically about Downey’s plan other than to say the company was finished.
“It’s quite a lengthy process, and you have to do it right,” she said. “We’ve completed our process. We’re excited with final product.”
Meanwhile, the city has doubled down on its space history. It brought the space shuttle mock-up out of storage this month. It also is ramping up programs in the Columbia Memorial Space Center. The city has also rolled out several other space artifacts for display.
Saeki didn’t get into specifics about the research from North Star, but he said the information collected was “very telling.”
“We’re kind of moving forward,” he said. “But in a different direction.”