Sunset Valley City Council voted Dec. 17 to close a request for proposals, or RFP, for city marketing services without selecting a bid, in part because one of two bids withdrew its name from consideration.
In October, City Council posted the RFP, receiving eligible bids from firms Hot Dog Marketing and Mindful Marketing. Both firms attended a council meeting Dec. 10 and at the meeting were invited back to make final pitches Dec. 19.
However, over the past seven days, Mindful Marketing withdrew its name from the process, leaving Hot Dog Marketing as the lone bidder. Instead of hearing the scheduled presentation, council voted to close the process, with the goal of voting on a new RFP at the city’s next meeting Jan. 7.
Council Member Melissa Gonzales—who voted against the motion because she felt bringing a new RFP back in January was too aggressive of a timeline—questioned the goal of a future RFP, asking her fellow council members if the proposed marketing-specific RFP will solve the city’s economic challenges.
“This [RFP process] is conflating who our next marketing firm is and a future city economic development plan,” she said.
Sunset Valley has seen its sales tax revenue grow by about 3% over the past five years, a rate lower than most of its neighboring cities, according to the Texas Comptrollers Office. During that time, the city has contracted marketing services with White Hat Agency, whose services are set to expire over the next few months.
Council Member Karen Medicus echoed Gonzales’ concerns and said she saw a difference in conducting economic development research and selecting a city marketing firm. Both initial RFP responses included a research period before crafting a specific marketing plan.
“What I liked about the proposal we received was the research,” Mayor Pro Tem Wanda Reetz said. “Every year we spend about $140,000 for marketing. Our sales tax collections have pretty much been stable. So I don’t see a correlation with the marketing we have been doing and sales tax growth. What we are missing [currently] is the research.”
Council Member Phil Ellett said that with the additional discussions council has had about the topic since the original RFP was posted, he believes city staff can craft an RFP that better reflects what the city is looking for.
According to Penny Cedel, the city’s community and economic development committee chair, a hopeful marketing firm would do research, develop a timeline and strategic plan for the city, and help execute it.
“In my opinion, I would rather go back out for a new RFP [as opposed to accept the remaining bid] and get three or four bids that we can go back an analyze before seeing if [those services are] what we want,” Council Member Rudi Rosengarten said prior to the vote.
In November, Mayor Rose Cardona told Community Impact Newspaper that she was ready for a change in marketing and branding for the city.
“I want Sunset Valley to be more of a destination, where people are not saying that they’re going to one store, but ‘I’m going to Sunset Valley,’” she said. “I can go have a nice lunch; I can sit at a nice patio; I can go buy my stuff here; and the kids can do some things.”
City staff will return with a new RFP draft for the Jan. 7 meeting, which council could vote to approve, modify or deny.