Friday, April 29, 2016

This view of downtown Elkhart is a screen-grab taken from some of the videos CGI Communications Inc. made for the city in 2008. (Anne Christnovich)
City of Elkhart turns to New York firm to promote city
Posted on Nov. 21, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Nov. 21, 2013 at 4:41 p.m.

ELKHART — The City of Elkhart is updating its website and has turned to a company on the East Coast to provide video marketing services.

As part of the project, the video company hired by the city has been soliciting local businesses for advertising to cover the costs of the project.

That didn’t settle well with John Weaver, a co-owner of Martin’s Pet & Garden Center, of Elkhart, who was approached by CGI Communications Inc. and asked if he wanted to advertise.

The idea of participating hit a snag when Weaver realized CGI is from Rochester, N.Y., and has offices in Chicago.

Weaver said he believes working with an out-of-state company goes against the grain of the “shop local” concept and that city officials could have found a local company to do the work.

“I thought it was kind of strange that they would hire a company from New York to film videos about local businesses. How do they know about local businesses other than the phone book or the mayor’s office?” Weaver said.

“I always thought the city was pushing shop local?” he said. “It didn’t quite make sense to me.”

While CGI may not be local, they are well known as a video marketing service for municipalities and counties.

The arrangement with the city is not new, either.

The company provided video marketing services several years ago, and those videos can still be seen on the city’s website,

City officials are revamping the website and hope to unveil it after the first of the year.

Moore said he and other city officials first learned of CGI during a conference and hired the company in 2008.

The company has been in existence for about 26 years and boasts more than 80,000 satisfied customers.

According to CGI’s website, the company has been endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities.

The website says the company’s work allows communities to showcase their strengths and is “designed to drive business, tourism, and population growth.”

Moore said the city has been have been satisfied with the work in the past and would have considered a local firm if they had been approached.

“A very important part of our agreement with this company is that there is no cost to taxpayers of our city,” Moore said. “They offer a very inexpensive way for us to advertise our city and at the same time put the spotlight on local advertisers,” Moore said in an email to The Elkhart Truth.

Arvis Dawson, assistant to the mayor, said the city will not be paying anything for the service because costs are covered through advertising lined up by CGI.

However, the current upgrade of the city website is being done by eGov Strategies of Indianapolis. Cost of the upgrade will be $5,675. After that, the city will pay an annual maintenance fee of $6,695, according to paperwork released in August.

The maintenance fee had been $10,000.

Kyle Hannon, president of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, also acknowledged CGI’s expertise but struck a diplomatic tone.

“We always check with members to provide these kinds of services,” Hannon said.

“We like to keep it local, but we understand that it is a free market and sometimes the right kind of product at the right deal is what you go with,” Hannon said.