Posted by: nickgerlich | October 11, 2007

My Kind of Town

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s the case, then Fredericksburg TX should be feeling pretty good about itself these days.

FredericksburgLocated in the heart of Texas Hill Country, FBG learned a long time ago how to apply marketing to a city. The only problem, if you want to call it one, is that nearly every other city in the region is trying to coattail their success.

And with good reason. FBG is a destination city for thousands of Texans each year, as well as out-of-staters. For a town of 8900 people, they have really figured out how to leverage what they’ve got, and turn it into cash.

And what is it they have to sell? For starters, their German heritage, that’s what. Add in scenery, wildflowers, arts, crafts, antiques, good food, a brewery, over 1000 motel rooms, and 300 bed-and-breakfasts, and you have the formula for tourism success.

And it’s not just area towns that want to copy FBG’s successes. I have heard it said right here in Canyon TX that we should become the Fredericksburg of the Panhandle.

Umm…sorry to burst your bubble, but we may need to work on a few things first.

Still, credit should be given to FBG for capitalizing on tourism. Were it not for the steady stream of visitors, it would be a sleepy little Texas town. It is not located along a freeway, making it a little harder to get to, but maybe that is part of its charm.

I had the good fortune of moving my spring break cycling camp to FBG back in 1994, and it was the best thing I ever could have done. We now attract several hundred people to town each March for 8 days, with participants coming from 30 or more states. Cyclists and motorcyclists are in heaven touring the rolling hills.

And so with FBG a proven attraction, nearby towns like Mason, Brady, Comfort, Center Point, Harper, Johnson City, and others are trying to model their tourism marketing after FBG’s. Any city with a row of rustic old stone buildings has the potential to attract visitors looking for old world flavor.

I hand it to the city for helping keep things from becoming too commercialized. There isn’t a Starbucks on every corner, and while Wal-Mart did open a supercenter on the edge of town, it was built in a tasteful style consistent with the surroundings.

If anything, FBG has had to try to de-market itself, lest it become the victim of its own success. Retirees are chomping at the bit to settle there, and a steady stream of celebrities and executives loaded with cash are gobbling up land both in and out of town. If they’re not real careful, the dreaded “D” word could could show up: Developers. That could spell the end of the good times.

But so far FBG has been able to control its growth and retain its mystique. As for the copycat towns in the region, they would do better to focus on their uniqueness rather than simply copying what FBG has done. There’s still something to be said, though, for being smart enough to pick up the overflow.

As for me, Fredericksburg is one of my happy places (the others being Estes Park CO and southwest WI). Don’t let go of what you’ve got here, guys. Keep it quaint, keep it small, and you’ll keep them coming.

Dr “Leisure of the Theory Class” Gerlich

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