A questionable partnership between the City of Northfield and a Rochester, NY firm to produce Northfield community videos, sponsored by local businesses

For months now, the City of Northfield’s homepage has had an item on its left sidebar that says:

Community Videos: Moving to our city?

citynfldhomepage-sshotThe link currently goes to a Nov. 2007 memo by Al Roder on the website of company called CGI Communications (their ELocalLink division) that explains the program. I can’t find that memo anywhere on the City’s website or anything else about the program.

It’s evidently all part of a partnership with the US Conference of Mayors, explained here on the CGI Com website. However, I can’t find anything about the program on the US Conference of Mayors website.

The Roder memo is actually a canned memo, using language that CGI uses for other communities. For example, see the CGI ‘partnership’ memo for the City of Madisonville, KY.

The City of Hopkins has this blurb on its website:

The City of Hopkins was contacted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in partnership with CGI Communications in 2007 about providing a video stream promotion Hopkins on both www.hopkinsmn.com and thinkhopkins.com. The promotional video stream is free to municipalities; local businesses and organizations are asked by CGI staff to sponsor the program by purchasing ad space. Completion of the video is not contintingent on a minimum amount of ad space sold.

Since entering into an agreement to move forward with the project, City staff has been working with the company to select specific topics to cover in the video. Video categories include education, quality of life, real estate and relocation, dining and shopping, and recreation. Scriptwriting for the project is currently under way and filming is scheduled for June 18 and 19. In the meantime, CGI sales staff is offering ad space to the community.

A local business owner contacted me this morning, wondering:

CGI faxI received a call this AM from a guy with e-local link wanting to talk with me about producing a video. He started his conversation by heavily promoting the fact that the city administrator and city itself was behind the project, etc. I could sense fishing for money and cut him off rather abruptly.

A few moments later I received a fax outlining the basics of what he was talking about. It didn’t come through real well, but I scanned it and have attached it. Do you know anything about this?

This probably is all legit but it seems like the City should have something about it on its website if Northfield businesses are going to be approached for ad sponsorship dollars. And why doesn’t the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce have something about it on its website?


  1. Charlene Coulombe- Fiore said:

    You may want to talk to Victor about this, to see if he has heard anything.
    As part of our marketing efforts and the marketing team, (Victor and I ) were looking at a few options including a possible video and even a TV show offerred to highlight Northfield in a positive way. Victor and i were working on determining if we want or need a video… dvd, who is the best firm to do this, and what is the cost. This was just one thought, as we were trying to address our marketing budget and improve the public relations in Northfield.

    Victor and I provided the entire EDA with numerous options and samples, and Victor wrote a great list of thoughts, ideas and slogans. but it was still in the discussion and exploratory phase when i was leaving.

    No one from the EDA or City ever mentioned the clips/letter you have posted here or truth be told, even mentioned a comment to the work Victor did on this.

    As to the last comment on the Chamber… Kathy as Chamber Director and CVB was involved and willing to participate, or take it to the boards, once we finished doing some of the legwork. She was more than willing to work with us and partner. Just as an FYI.

    July 18, 2008
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Melissa Reeder has an update on these promo videos in last week’s Friday Memo:

    The CGI script has been completed. The small video clips about Northfield are now in editing mode at CGI. The videos are three minutes and include information about Northfield’s education, quality of life, real estate, relocation, colleges, business and industry. When complete, the six small clips will be linked to our web site. This service is completely free to the city. CGI operates with support from local advertising; however there is no obligation for local businesses to purchase advertising. Either way, the city will get the video clips for promotion.

    September 29, 2008
  3. kiffi summa said:

    This is an example of yet one more bizarre happening in the business/community/ gov’t life of NF…
    How did the “city” get involved in this deal? Just Mr. Roder’s convening with the Mayor’s convention group?
    What, if any, was the involvement of the EDA? I seem to remember other parallel avenues being explored? maybe not …
    Who, or what businesses, bought into the “advertising” support of the project?
    Did the Chamber or the CVB put any money into this?
    What is the city’s support role? Dollars? “completely free to the city”? a whole company of philanthropists?
    Who vetted the script and accompanying footage for the accuracy of the way NF wants to see itself portrayed?
    Given the great footage local video professionals have collected over the years … and there IS some great footage … what would be the possible advantage, motivation, outcome for either the city or CGI?
    IF the city receives this at no cost, and local businesses did not “buy” advertising,where does CGI make their money ?
    Since when does the “city”, over the signature of the former administrator, solicit advertising support from its businesses to promo the “city”?

    And why has this been active, ongoing, moving forward, with no questions asked or answered … when there was such negative reaction from those who received the letter, or were called?

    Random House definition of “bizarre”: markedly unusual, strange , odd.

    September 30, 2008

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