Crime is just one of the reasons leaders in Brooklyn Park feel like their city gets an undue bad rap -- especially since numbers are down. Now, they are spending money on a new marketing campaign bring public perception more in line with reality.
Brooklyn Park Mayor Jeffrey Lunde says it's still too early to say what the rebranding strategy will look like, but it will focus on the city's strengths, media coverage, and what people are saying on social media.
Currently, the perception by some outsiders -- and even some who live in Brooklyn Park -- isn't exactly what Lunde would like to hear about his community.
"Brooklyn Park has an image problem," he acknowledged.
Some told Fox 9 News the city isn't safe and has a bleak economic forecast marred by poverty, foreclosures and crime. Others say the town appears divided by race.
The facts tell a different story. The city's crime rate is at a 20-year low, and big businesses like Target are moving in -- but when perception becomes reality, it's a hard perspective to change.
Lunde said that to truly understand how Brooklyn Park got its sketchy reputation, a history lesson of sorts is needed. The city was thriving in the 70s and 80s, but a glut of apartments and dropping prices allowed slum lords to move in during the 90s, offering cheap housing to anyone.
"So, what you had was a lot of crime happening," he explained.
Today, Brooklyn Park is the fourth largest city in the metro area and is also No. 1 for job growth in the state. That's momentum city leaders hope to ride as they buff up the city's image.
"I think a lot of it has to do with racism," Lunde admitted. "People just see things, they'll associate things negative things -- crime -- with people's skin color."
The 2010 census showed a rapidly changing demographic in the city, with African Americans, Asian, and Hispanic residents now outnumbering whites; however, Lunde insists no hard data shows people of color commit more crimes in his community.
"Take a role in defining what your brand is," he recommended. "If we're not managing our brand, somebody else is."
Recently, a close vote by the Brooklyn Park City Council gave the green light to a plan to hire Minneapolis public relations firm Carmichael Lynch Spong to rebrand the city for a fee of $150,000.
"The more branding that can be done, the more they're going to be able to direct their message to the kinds of people they want in their town," advertising professor Craig Bryan, with the University of St. Thomas, said.
Yet, Bryan said the city must take care to ensure the new brand accurately represents the city.
"At the end of the day, you're going to get people there, but they may not be there very long," he said.
It is important to note that not everyone on the City Council was keen on the plan. Some said it's too expensive and a waste of money; however, Lunde hopes the campaign will make its debut next summer.