By Stefanie Jackson – Exmore will soon have its own billboard to welcome visitors to the home of New Ravenna – the luxury tile manufacturer doing business worldwide – but not every business owner in town welcomes the idea.
“That sign is an advertisement for New Ravenna, it’s not an advertisement for the downtown business district,” objected Ken Dufty, who owns a shop in Exmore’s downtown.
The billboard will read, “Welcome to Exmore – Home of New Ravenna,” and it will be visible heading south on Route 13, not far from the turn onto Main Street.
Town Manager Robert Duer said there will be room along the bottom of the sign to advertise upcoming town events.
Dufty’s comments followed the town council’s unanimous vote to rent the billboard at a cost of $400 per month for 12 months or $350 per month for 16 months.
“There needs to be room in that sign to let people know there is a downtown business district,” he said.
Duer pointed out that Exmore already has three signs, all on Route 13, which promote downtown businesses.
Two of the three blue signs say, “Town of Exmore – Visit Town Shops,” one on each end of town. The other sign, on Occohannock Neck Road, reads, “Visit Downtown for Food, Arts, Antiques & Shops – Visit Historic Downtown.”
“But your taxpayers (will) pay for an advertisement for New Ravenna,” a multi million-dollar corporation, Dufty said.
Exmore’s marketing consultant, Clarice MacGarvey, clarified, “It isn’t about advertising New Ravenna. It’s about rebranding the town.”
The billboard will leverage “the fact that this town has an international company that does business all over the world … and our name will be out there,” she continued.
“People will actually … turn off (the highway) and go down Main Street,” MacGarvey said.
Duer noted that other towns occupied by worldwide corporations use brand recognition to promote themselves. For example, Smithfield, Va., is known as the home of Smithfield hams, he said.
Dufty suggested that New Ravenna, the “multi million-dollar corporation,” can afford advertising and should pay the $350 or $400 monthly rent for the sign.
As of the Oct. 7 town council meeting, Duer had not yet asked New Ravenna how much it would be willing to contribute to the billboard’s cost, but he did say the manufacturer pays Exmore a “hefty” annual business license fee.
“New Ravenna’s world-famous. I think we should be proud they’re here.”