Thea Foss Public Development Authority was already well along in the process of choosing an agency to develop marketing materials for the waterway when people at Tacoma agency Stone McLaren heard about its needs.

Judith Nilan, one of the principals of the agency, contacted the PDA and made a presentation that convinced them her agency could do the job—create materials that would entice developers to come see the Thea Foss.

“The waterway is such a precious thing,” says Lori Bartnes, the Stone McLaren designer who got the assignment. “Undeveloped waterfront is a jewel, very rare, as is the opportunity to present it.”

Yet undeveloped waterfront is unpolished, not attractive in and of itself, she concedes, so designers focused on all the projects in process and how exciting they are.

Bartnes says the pieces Stone McClaren produced provide glimpses of what Tacoma’s all about.

“We have a great opportunity here,” Bartnes says of the atmosphere and the enthusiasm in the city. “The marketing pieces are a reflection of what we have going in Tacoma, the passion, culture and forward movement.”

A piece used as advertisement in Urban Land magazine reads, “Oh, yes. There’s one Major Rule. The projects must be remarkable. This is precious land. A community vision conceived from courage and commitment is now being realized.”

The PDA twice placed full-color, full-page ads in Urban Land, reaching 16,000 developers with a night photograph of downtown that puts a beautiful face on it. (See accompanying photo.)

The marketing materials have been used regionally and nationally. The PDA sent out 120 packages to developers and Realtors® as well as architects, who former PDA Executive Director Matthew Schwartz says often pitch projects to their clients.

Although most of the materials are slick and colorful, one is a muted, historical follow-up that Bartnes calls a fun piece, done on organic textured stock and telling the history of the area.

“Thea Foss was a fantastic person,” Bartnes says of the prototype for the fictional character Tugboat Annie. “It was fun getting into the historical part, telling about the tenacity and honesty that went into her creating her own business.”

The materials created for the Thea Foss were the first to have the cohesive look Stone McLaren carried over into later work for the City of Tacoma. All the pieces were designed to work together, an integrated marketing system that means a custom package can be created for developers and anyone else who wants to know what Tacoma has to offer.

The package includes materials about the city and the waterway. It includes a system of inserts and pre-printed letterhead that incorporate architectural elements and graphics. It even offers organizations the chance to over print their own information without affecting the overall look and tone of the package, one that is distinctive but at the same time common to all.

Schwartz points to the quality of the materials as support for his contention that Tacoma talent can handle the challenges still ahead.

The city materials reportedly made their debut last weekend when City Economic Development Director Merten Johnson took 100 copies to a development event.

Schwartz says Stone McLaren gave the PDA an excellent deal on the materials. City entities that use and build on the concepts will have further economic breaks in that they can build on that work rather than reinvent a marketing look and new pieces.

Funding for the materials came from the PDA budget, mostly generated by the City. It has received about $150,000 a year, $90,000 of which paid the executive director, plus an Environmental Protection Agency grant and some lease revenue.

It is requesting another $150,000 to $250,000 for the coming year, after which it expects to be self-sufficient, supported by leases on Foss properties.

By Janice Smith, Business Examiner staff