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Visitors Bureau Focusing On Public Market

With the goal of taking the weekly farmer’s market and making it into an area known public market, the Oakdale Travel and Visitors Bureau (OTVB) along with Roger Brooks of Brooks International, recently completed a day-and-a-half community workshop at the Gene Bianchi Community Center to improve tourism to the city.

“Instead of making that left turn at the signal, we have to get people to make a right turn to downtown,” said OTVB Administrator Ramona Howard in Friday’s session on May 30.

On May 29 and 30, Brooks, who prefers to be referred to as a facilitator rather than a consultant, led the group, which included members of the public, to help “brand” the city and develop the city’s tourism with a 13-step process for a final business plan.

“What sets your city apart?” Brooks asked the group. “Decide what you want to be when you grow up.”

On Thursday, Brooks said the assembled group brainstormed and offered over 12 ideas ranging from outdoor interests, children’s activities, bicycling, western activities, and others of where to go with the city’s “brand.”

At the end of the day, the group decided a public market was the focus.

“We’ve come out of this and found our focus,” said OTVB Chairman Keith Boggs. “This embraces all aspects, celebrating local business, downtown, merchants, and brings in other interested parties. We can grow (it) over time.”

Brooks, whose company has provided guidance to over 1000 cities in 45 states, said a public market was ideal for Oakdale since the Central Valley is responsible for over one-third of the nation’s produce. According to his research, public markets are the number one revitalization project for cities.

Brooks said when he arrived in the city he was impressed with its look and feel. He did find flaws in some of the city’s promotion of tourism.

“Oakdale has more signs telling people how to get out of this town than into this town,” Brooks said. “There’s nothing directing people to downtown.”

Brooks also pointed to the plaza area outside the Community Center as a “pretty space” but not a “people place” with so many small modifications that could be done to bring it to attract people downtown. He pointed to a new kiosk located in the plaza that was empty as an example.

Brook said he will be submitting a 10-page summary of the workshop to assist the OTVB and their future efforts.

“This (market) isn’t going to happen tomorrow, not this year, maybe not even next year,” Brooks told the group. “Your ‘brand’ or motto is what will say, ‘If you’re coming up Highway 99, this is the place to come.’”

The group was told to bring in passionate people to assist in making Oakdale “California’s signature farm fresh public market in the heart of America’s cornucopia” to be the poster child for Sunset Magazine and its “Guide to Living in the West.”

“You have to be able to sell it,” Brooks said. “I’m not throwing it under the bus, but how’s ‘Cowboy Capital of the World’ working for you the other 362 days of the year?”