Rebranding Lincoln County

Locals team up with marketing firm to attract new visitors to Libby area

By Justin Franz
Kootenai Falls. Beacon File Photo

For decades, Libby has defined itself as a hardworking community whose spoils came from the timber in the forest and the minerals below.

But as economic conditions and an historic environmental cleanup has changed Lincoln County’s fortunes, locals are now looking for how they can realign the community for a prosperous future. To do that, citizens are teaming up with a Missoula marketing firm to help rebrand the community to attract potential visitors and residents to the area, banking on what some people are calling “the right kind of remote.”

Last year, local officials enlisted the help of Partners Creative of Missoula to host six listening sessions. The meetings were the start of a research effort to help the firm understand what Lincoln County has to offer, according to brand strategy manager Kevin Keohane. In partnership with the Small Business Institute at the University of Montana’s business school, Partners Creative conducted dozens of interviews and surveys with locals to help determine the community’s brand. Keohane said the community’s remoteness and wealth of outdoor activities quickly rose to the surface.

“Lincoln County has all of the things that makes Montana great right at its doorstep,” he said.

Keohane and others at Partners Creative said the research could result in new logos, slogans and other marketing efforts to be revealed later this year.           An early supporter of the rebranding effort was Lincoln County Commissioner Mark Peck.

“The perception by outsiders of this town and community is out of whack,” Peck said. “We’re trying to build a new image for Libby.”

When some people hear of Libby, Peck said they only think of the massive environmental cleanup that has taken place there. Since the early 2000s, Lincoln County has been ground zero for one of the largest environmental cleanup efforts in American history after a nearby asbestos mine sickened thousands and killed hundreds. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a final remedial plan for the Libby area, signaling the beginning of the end of the agency’s Superfund cleanup.

More than 120 people attended a public meeting about the rebranding effort earlier this month. Peck said many great ideas were shared at the meeting and that the community is excited about the effort to attract more visitors, particularly ones who may want to stay to raise a family or start a business.

“We need to take control of our own destiny,” Peck said.

Keohane said the Missoula marketing firm will spend the next six months working behind the scenes with locals before revealing their full marketing plan.

“This is a pivotal point for the community, this is the time to change directions and look to the future,” he said.

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