By John Schaffner

The Buckhead Alliance was formed to find ways to deal with an increasing crime problem and the rowdy, decaying image of the former Buckhead Village. Now that crime has been dramatically reduced and Buckhead Village has been razed, the Alliance board is adopting a new vision: To become an advocate for the entire Buckhead community.

According to Buckhead Alliance President Robin Loudermilk, the organization plans to develop strong partnerships with organizations such as the Buckhead Business Association, the West Village Merchants Association and other key organizations that represent interests throughout Buckhead.

“The Alliance will market, promote and facilitate communications between community leaders and organizations, commercial businesses, residents and visitors to stimulate, grow and accelerate a vibrant neighborhood, positive development and thriving areas of commerce,” according to an outline of the organization’s new direction.

As part of the program, the Alliance board Nov. 9 hired back its former executive director, Kendall Craig, as director of community relations, along with three additional seasoned marketing professionals as consultants to develop and execute its programs.

In addition to Craig, who took a leave of absence from the Alliance for a year after having a child, Beth Ann Degitz will fill the role as director of communications for the Alliance, Mia Van Wagenen will be director of marketing and Amy Bowers will be the graphic designer for the Alliance’s visual presentations.

Craig will for the most part be working out of the Buckhead Alliance office space in the Zone 2 Police sub station and Buckhead Business Association office at 3077 Peachtree Road. The other three consultants, all of which have their individual businesses, will work as consultants to the Alliance through their businesses.

In addition to preparing a strategic plan for the Alliance, one of the firs programs the four will embark on immediately will be membership. Craig indicated the Alliance presently has a membership of about 70.

Craig explained that there are certain centers of influence in Buckhead, such as Terminus building and Ben Carter’s Streets of Buckhead, where they will naturally gain recognition and prominence. “They have invested a lot of money in it, they are focused on it and they have their own marketing and advertising plans,” Craig explained. “We will complement them if we can, but it is the other businesses that don’t have that expertise and initiatives that we want to help bring together to that it is sort of a comprehensive experience of Buckhead….more than streetscapes and pretty signs.”

Van Wagenen said the group will help the Alliance develop a strategic partners program, events, promotions “that would be offered to all businesses to work together on, so that we would essentially be helping them get exposure,” she said.

Craig said the way this came together was that she discussed with Robin Loudermilk that she felt there were not enough big events in Buckhead and told him some of her ideas for new events. At the time I was looking for his support, she said. “He said why don’t you do it on behalf of the Alliance. It just evolved from there.”

From there she enlisted the help of Van Wagenen, Bowers and Degitz to develop an even broader program for the Alliance to promote Buckhead.

“We are not trying to step on the toes of anyone else and what they are doing,” Craig stated. “We saw a need where there are some things that are lacking in this community. People in a big cities want to feel like they live in a community.”

Things such as the camera program that the Alliance instituted in order to keep crime in check in the Buckhead Village will be continued as part of the community initiatives program, along with additional new programs. In fact, that camera program is being expanded right now, adding about 15 more cameras to the existing 50 and strategically placing the cameras throughout the community—even areas such as Howell Mill Road and I-75.

The plan is to create a distinct and marketable identity so that all businesses will benefit from strong branding. Thus the Alliance hired the four consultants, based on their backgrounds, to take the board’s vision for the future and handle the various aspects of the Alliance’s operation in such a way as to make it happen.

Van Wagenen explained that they put a strategy plan together that included three initiatives: culture, community and communications.

“The culture is creating the identity, brand and how we want to go to the market as Buckhead, she said. “How people will think about us, their perceptions of us and what is the last impression in their hearts and minds as they leave.”

She said that will be communicated in all of the materials, print collaterals, website, logos.

“The culture, community and communication are the things that we put together in our heads so that we can start to focus on our initiatives,” Degitz said. “People are not interested in the strategy part of it, people are just looking for what are you going to do for me—what is going to be happening, what are our initiatives.”

Degitz has worked in the areas of strategic planning, communications and marketing for major corporations, including Coca Cola, and now continues that work through her own company.

Van Wagenen has held marketing positions with corporations such as General Motors, Leo Burnett Advertising, etc. and continues to represent major companies with their marketing programs. She also has done work for Coca Cola.

Bowers’ experience is in branding and communications and has worked with many large corporations, as well as restaurants and retail stores in the Atlanta market, helping them launch their businesses and creating their identity packages.

Craig began in the early days of the Buckhead Alliance as its membership director and then became community relations and events director. She also has been a board member of the Buckhead Business Association (BBA) and the board of Neighborhood Planning Unit B in Buckhead, where she chairs the Human Relations Committee, which is the committee that reviews liquor license applications.