Stellar Signs – Wasted Potential

Culver Sign
Time Temperature

I drive by the “new” electronic sign at the corner of School Street and Hwy 10 in Culver every morning. I’m disappointed in the wasted potential. It is one of the Regional Message Boards that was proposed and funded through the Marshall County Stellar Region award. From the Marshall County Crossroads Stellar Strategic Action Plan (SIP) pg138: “This project recognizes the importance of marketing and communicating our regional work to the communities we live in, and recognizes the value in shaping our communities as destination places. By incorporating a consistent look and feel in the message boards, our rural communities will have one more method of marketing and communicating our regional plans by grouping them with local news and community events.” Yet, most of the time when I drive by the Culver sign, it is flashing the time & temperature or contains filler in the form of affirmations or admonishments to watch for school buses.

Culver has a plethora of events that could be promoted. If the sign were just used for the events on the Visitors Guide Magnet (See left), there would always be something of interest there. Travelers on the highway most likely know what day it is. If they’re not from Culver, they don’t know that the Gift of Warmth Film Festival was this past weekend. They don’t know that the Stories & Stones Cemetery Walk is coming in two weeks. They don’t know that Fall Fest is October 8th…

Granted, I don’t know how difficult this is to do. If it takes hours to put something up there, then that’s an issue, as most municipal staff has enough on their plate. So maybe the sign should point to the town’s website address, Facebook page or other source of local information. Though also from page 138 of the Stellar SIP: “This form of communication is especially important to those residents who are not actively engaged on social media.” While I am picking on Culver here, I do so because I see it daily. It’s not a Culver only problem. The signs in LaPaz suffer from the same wasted potential.

Another piece that is lacking is the Regional use of the signs. Again from page 138 of the Stellar SIP: “The electronic boards will also allow us opportunities to cross-promote our communities… Many of our communities no longer have a newspaper, and some have only weekly newspapers, so adding this communication tool would provide our citizens and visitors an important way to learn about what is going on locally in Marshall County.” Culver’s Lake Fest, Fall Fest and Holiday Hop should be appearing on our neighboring community signs. The Blueberry Festival and the Bremen Firemen’s Festival should be appearing on Culver’s sign.

This is not meant to be a bash on any of the groups involved. Marshall County Crossroads is doing many good things. It’s just a bit of frustration on the lack of follow-thru. Things like this, which have so much potential, often fall apart in the execution. I readily admit that I’m speaking from my understanding of initial goals, which may well have changed. I readily admit to not knowing the logistics of implementing messages for the signs. My criticism comes from the perception of lost opportunities that I see with the Culver sign on an almost daily basis.

So I tell my employees, don’t come to me with problems without including potential solutions… Here are my three quick suggestions:

  • Define what each community wants their sign to say about them. I doubt the message will be “It’s 12:30pm.”
  • Find the right person in each community to manage the signs. If there is not a municipal employee available or capable, cast the net further. A set of rules can be established by the municipality (should be done anyway) and let a trusted individual run with it.
  • Explore ways to turn the cross-promotion over to Marshall County Tourism. I realize their mission is to bring in people from outside the community, but Culver’s sign was placed to be visible to people that are crossing the County on State Highways. Isn’t getting some of them to stop, the point? A side issue here is that when I went to the Marshall County Tourism Calendar, there are no events in September. REALLY!?! Not even the Blueberry Festival… So maybe this isn’t a good suggestion.

As usual, this is me basically talking to myself and my small cadre of Lurkers. If offered this task, I would take it on, but I’m not in the mood to publicly push it, since lately my efforts to help have been poorly received in Culver… and I don’t feel connected enough to take this on regionally without support. This is just another rant, getting something off my chest that has been bugging me.

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