University students working to rebrand the City of Fernley

College of Business course takes students through the process of researching and developing an economic development plan for a city of 19,000 people

3/25/2014 - By: Nicole Shearer
A class of University students is currently working to rebrand the City of Fernley, Nev.

Thirteen students at the University of Nevada, Reno have taken the lead in developing a new image for Fernley, Nev. As part of a marketing course in the College of Business, the students are spending the semester researching Fernley by speaking with government officials, key business leaders, area stakeholders and community members in an effort to assist the city in its branding efforts and attract more businesses.

Led by Jim McClenahan, director of corporate relations and outreach in the College of Business, the class was developed in response to multiple conversations with Fernley City Manager Christopher Good who was looking for help to revitalize the city. To bring what students are learning in the classroom to the community, McClenahan and College of Business Dean Greg Mosier saw this as an opportunity for students to have a real and meaningful impact on business success and community well-being. 

"The students in this class have a tremendous chance to engage in a project where they experience first-hand what goes into a large-scale branding effort," McClenahan said. "The talent on this team has fostered a fresh perspective for the city and we're greatly looking forward to the presentation in front of the chamber, area businesses and elected officials in Fernley."  

The final presentation to the City of Fernley will take place at 5 p.m., Friday, April 11. While the students remain vague on what their presentation will entail, McClenahan said the primary focus has been on marketing the economic capabilities of the city externally.

Before the recession, Fernley, along with much of the state, was seeing rapid growth. The population grew by more than 11,000 residents, starting with 8,543 in 2000 and ending with 19,368 residents in 2010, according to the US Census Bureau. Three years later, an article published by the Associate Press, reported that rural America was posting a loss in population, using Lyon County and the city of Fernley as an example. According to the report, fewer baby boomers were coming out of California to retire and instead choosing to stay near urban areas. Since then, Fernley has seen limited growth and maintains a population of 19,000. The students discovered approximately 2,600 residents have college degrees and the city's assets are touted as its flat land and access to the freeway, with a 30-minute proximity to Reno-Sparks.  

"It's been great working with Jim and the students on this project," Fernley Mayor LeRoy Goodman said. "They have spent time getting to know Fernley, and they bring a fresh perspective to the question of how to make Fernley more attractive for investment."  

The class consists of five majors including accounting, finance, marketing, strategic communications and MBA. It is made up of both undergraduate and graduate students to combine a variety of talents and skill sets. The students meet on their own schedules and the class approaches the project like a professional consultant.  

"To say we've made the effort to rebrand a 19,000 person city is a privilege," Holly Y Mahe, a senior business marketing major said.   "It's an opportunity for us to implement the tools we've learned in the classroom," Madeleine Poore, a junior strategic communications major said. 

After the students' presentation to officials in Fernley, it will then be up to the city to move forward with building a coalition of business people who can catalyze the business community and move the effort forward.

"What this class is providing is in-depth research and an economic business plan that can help sustain the city in the future," McClenahan said. "This type of service can cost thousands of dollars for a city to implement but for our students, the experience is invaluable."


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