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Questions Linger Over City's Denver Outsourcing



There was a lot of stewing over the weekend when locals learned that City Hall had picked a company in Denver to lead a Richmond branding campaign.

On Monday, one of the leading head scratchers, Dave Saunders, thought he’d finally be able to see what set Atlas Advertising apart from the Richmond-based companies that lost out on the work, including his.

Saunders, the president and chief idea officer at Madison and Main, showed up for an appointment at the offices of the city’s Economic and Community Development Department, but no one was there to let him see Atlas’ winning bid.

Instead, he was instructed he’d have to put his request in writing. A phone appointment — even one previously agreed upon — was no good.

Was that because Saunders had been a fixture on weekend newscasts, voicing complaints about the city’s announcement July 27 that it intends to contract with Atlas for brand development, website design and creative services?

Saunders has his suspicions. Now he’s worried he won’t have time to see the bid and file a protest before a 10-day deadline expires. City spokeswoman Tammy Hawley says in a voice mail message to Style that Saunders’ appointment will be scheduled.

Nevertheless, Saunders says he’s heartened that the normally competitive local advertising scene has come together in support of hiring Richmond companies to promote their own city. “I didn’t know a rant on Facebook, citing my frustrations, would turn into a multimedia story,” he says.

Perhaps it doesn’t help perceptions that Peter Chapman, Richmond’s chief economic-development officer, lived in Denver before moving here.

Dave King, president of the King Agency, an advertising outfit, says he understands the city’s decision. Atlas has experience in the marketing of economic development — but so do some local agencies. “[The city] probably should have put a little more weight into getting the creative, at least, from this area,” King says.

Saunders suspects his company will be persona non grata with the city — no more contracts for him — but he hopes the procurement process will be scrutinized. Indeed, he says Councilmen Bruce Tyler and Charles Samuels have expressed concern. “Maybe [the city] will think twice next time before shipping work out of town,” Saunders says.

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