The small screen might soon be putting a spotlight on Harlem.
City leaders recently joined forces with a group of area businesspeople to advertise what the city has to offer.
"It is a nice little town," said Jeff McNair, one of the leaders of the grass-roots effort, "and we'd like to see some more businesses come out here and more people come out here because those kind of go hand in hand."
McNair, owner of Jeff McNair Construction Co., and other area business owners started talking about ways to promote the city and formed the Harlem Progress Association.
"It is just a group of small businessmen and women that wanted to see the city grow some," McNair said. "A lot of us just want to see the town grow naturally because we want to spur some economic growth for the businesses that we're in. But it is mainly about watching the town grow and trying to get it back on the busy side of things again."
Members of the association met with city leaders and members of the Harlem Merchants Association during the summer to discuss ways to spread the word about Harlem's attributes and dispel misconceptions about the city.
Association members and city officials then met with a marketing firm and came up with a collaborative effort. The long-term campaign includes TV commercials.
City leaders committed $3,800 to pay for the initial filming and editing. The association is looking for pledges from area businesses to pay for airtime.
Harlem City Manager Jason Rizner said about $3,000 a month worth of TV airtime is needed over an extended period for the campaign, which he hopes will benefit city businesses and residents.
"A rising tide lifts all boats," Rizner said. "That's kind of the theme of this. By this promotional campaign adding light to Harlem and bringing people here, it is really going to help everyone."
Rizner said the commercials will highlight the lifestyle and amenities Harlem has to offer, including being pedestrian- and golf-car-friendly, with good schools and quaint downtown shops. They will also focus on the housing options, which range from historic homes to new subdivisions.
The city also puts on special events such as the Oliver Hardy Festival, Mayor's Chili Cook-Off and holiday festivities. Residents have access to a library, the Laurel and Hardy Museum, city park and senior center.
The renovation of the former Columbia Theatre is ongoing, and planning continues on the new public safety building.
Rizner said he also hopes the campaign will help eliminate misconceptions about the city.
"I think what they (association members) had run into and probably what the city has traditionally run into is kind of a perception that Harlem is just way out there, it is the far side of the Earth and it takes 45 minutes to get here from everywhere," Rizner said. "So there are a lot of misconceptions out there about Harlem and its proximity to things and what we have and don't have and so forth."
In actuality, McNair said, Harlem offers the best of two worlds. It offers a slower pace than a big city, but is within 10 minutes of Fort Gordon's Gate 2 and Interstate 20. Downtown Augusta in just 20 minutes away on I-20, and the Martinez-Evans area also is close.
"There's always been a stigma that Harlem is just so far away," McNair said.
Anyone interested in learning more or making a pledge can call City Hall at (706) 556-3448 or attend a meeting of the Harlem Merchants Association 8:30 a.m. Dec. 16 at the Laurel and Hardy Museum.
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