Central Missouri Development Council backs Tiger Town USA initiative

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 | 11:14 p.m. CDT; updated 6:42 p.m. CDT, Saturday, September 15, 2012

COLUMBIA — Tom Atkins' Tiger Town USA logo is an image of fierce MU pride, but the concept originated hundreds of miles from Columbia.

Atkins "came to me while he was on vacation in Florida,” said Don Stamper, executive director of the Central Missouri Development Council. “He’s a really creative guy. When he gets an idea into his head, the result is usually pretty great.”

The ensuing proposal, Tiger Town USA, is a nonprofit group designed to create a distinct brand image for Columbia and promote interest in the city. The logo accompanying the brand, which is still subject to change, features a stencil-style tiger above the slogan for which the campaign is named.

Atkins said he drew his inspiration from Mayor Bob McDavid's goal of improving the city's growth and viability.

"You look around, and everyone's looking for a brand," he said. "Well, why can't Columbia have a brand? We have a lot of great things going on for us: education and medical services and insurance businesses. We need to tell people about these things and not let them take them for granted."  

The Central Missouri Development Council formally endorsed Tiger Town USA at its Aug. 21 board meeting. Stamper said the council had encouraged its members to embrace the initiative and viewed it as a beneficial step for the city.

"It's a good idea for the community," Stamper said. "We want people who come to Columbia to have a positive experience — to hear that we're proud of our athletes and our Tiger heritage."

Stamper said since introducing Tiger Town USA, the development council has received a lot of positive feedback.

“Our membership has been very responsive,” he said. “I expect a high level of participation on behalf of the business community.” 

Atkins said he hopes to spread awareness of the brand with the help of banners and billboards strategically placed around the city, including a large banner across the section of Broadway by the Boone Hospital Center. He is also considering developing a line of merchandise bearing the Tiger Town USA logo.

To gain support for his project, Atkins met with key community players, including MU athletics director Mike Alden and Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors chair Randy Coil.

"We want to get as much exposure to the community as we can this week," Atkins said. "You only get one chance to make a good first impression."

Once the project gets off the ground, Atkins intends to charge businesses for using the logo based on how much it's used. He also hopes Columbia residents will be encouraged to make donations to his nonprofit organization.

For now, though, Tiger Town USA is an entirely self-funded project. Atkins said he is unsure how much the project will ultimately cost.

While acknowledging the similarity in names, Atkins said there is no relationship right now between his proposal and the Tiger Town tailgating events canceled earlier this month because of insufficient funding.

However, this could change with Andrew Ouart in the picture.

Ouart spoke at Tuesday's City Council meeting about his intent to provide funding for the game-day events in what he referred to in council documents as "Tiger Town USA of Columbia."

In the documents, Ouart outlined a plan to charge tailgaters $15 for access to a giant tent featuring live music, beverages and ESPN coverage of the game. The costs would be financed by Ouart's company, Game Day Entertainment LLC, for an estimated $50,000 a week.

At the council meeting, Ouart attributed his plan to his love of the Southeastern Conference and a desire to create a venue large enough to hold 10,000 fans.

As of Tuesday night, Ouart said he was still finalizing details with the council, but said he would be able to provide more information once negotiations were complete. 

Ouart said he was not personally acquainted with Atkins but would be interested in working with him in the future.

"He's the perfect example of an internal leader within the city of Columbia," Ouart said.

Stamper agrees. He attributes the warm reception to Tiger Town USA to Atkins' track record of community involvement. Atkins is a former member of the UM System Board of Curators, where he served from 2001 to 2006.

“He’s an enormous supporter of the University of Missouri,” Stamper said. “A lot of this is born out of that tremendous heart of his for our great university and community.”

Atkins is not alone in his mission to generate interest in the city. Woodruff Sweitzer and True Media are collaborating with the Convention and Visitors Bureau to produce a separate media marketing campaign for Columbia, according to a news release.

The campaign will focus on attracting tourists to Columbia through an extensive communications project involving radio, print, television and other forms of media. 

Supervising editor is Jacob Kirn.

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