Perspectives from North Star Clients: The Town of Orange Park, Florida

In an ongoing series, we regularly hear from North Star clients on emerging trends in place branding and marketing, as well as challenges and opportunities in their respective markets – with the ultimate goal of empowering other clients and communities with valuable knowledge and best practices. 

Sarah Campbell, town manager of Orange Park, Florida.

Today, we hear from Sarah Campbell, town manager of Orange Park, an “edge community” of approximately 10,000 residents just outside of Jacksonville, Florida. Nestled in a growing Northeast Florida region, Orange Park recently completed a branding project and is on its way to leveraging it to support a variety of quality of place and economic development strategies.

As a town of just under 10,000 residents, what is your biggest challenge standing out in the growing Northeast Florida metro area?  

The Town of Orange Park is a small town, but we are immediately adjacent to the city of Jacksonville. Unincorporated Clay County surrounds us on two sides. It is difficult for people to understand where those boundaries are. When does one community end and another begin? 

We are really a bedroom community of Jacksonville, with most folks commuting there for work. In fact, over 80,000 vehicles pass through the Town each day on their way to and from work. We have so much to offer, but an outsider’s perspective might only be the blight of rush hour traffic. We must also carve out places and spaces for our residents to identify with where they feel safe and protected from the onslaught of commuters.

And what about your biggest opportunity? 

I think a lot of communities would love to have 80,000 vehicles pass through each day. How do we capitalize on that audience for our local businesses? We have one boundary on the St. Johns River and another on Doctors Lake. We need to create opportunities for public waterfront access for our residents. We completed a 20-year Strategic Vision Plan in 2020 so we are starting to make some progress on the opportunities that our community identified in that process.

You completed a community branding initiative earlier this year. How’s the rollout going and how has it moved the needle in the short term?  

Yes, the results have been great. We immediately incorporated our new logo and motto in all our digital assets. We didn’t have a big budget for implementation, so we are phasing our branding in over time in other areas. Our next major piece is our website redesign. We have awarded the project and it will be complete by the end of this fiscal year. Next up – monument signage! It has been great to see our tagline, “Closer to What Matters” be adopted by our employees and elected officials. They have embraced it and started using it.  

It’s hard to believe we’re halfway through 2023. From a branding and positioning perspective, what do you hope to achieve by the year’s end?  

Completion of the new website for sure. The new platform should give us the ability to sell some branded merchandise to our community. Hopefully, a facelift of one monument sign will be done, too. I would really like to start our strategy with the business community to incorporate our brand in ways that can support them.

What’s one piece of advice you’d have for a town similar in size and situation that are investing in their quality of place and competing for their fair share of investment and growth? 

Trust the process! The North Star team will handle the community engagement. There will be naysayers along the way, but once the project is complete, the majority of folks will see that the brand is really reflective of our community character and ideals.