More than 200 banners highlighting various accolades often cited by Howard County elected officials will be installed along county roads as part of a tourism campaign dubbed "Lot to Love About Howard County."
The first of 242 banners was installed Monday along Broken Land Parkway near the intersection of Hickory Ridge Road by County Executive Ken Ulman, who had a little help from a cherry picker and a few county public works employees.
Ulman installed the banner shortly after announcing the tourism campaign, which is being carried out in partnership with the Howard County Economic Development Authority and Howard County Tourism.
"We have created a top-notch, top-ranked in the nation quality of life, and that's what we are here to celebrate today," Ulman said.
The banners will be installed throughout the county, with eight different designs. The images vary from landmarks, such as Merriweather Post Pavilion, the Columbia people tree and historic Ellicott City, to photos of models.
The banners highlight the county's library system -- recently rated the best in North America -- the county's designation as the healthiest in the state, its ranking as a top 10 community to live by CNN and Money Magazine and more.
The largest concentration of banners are in two parts of Columbia: there will be 80 banners installed along Little Patuxent and Broken Land parkways in downtown, and 48 along the Snowden River Parkway and Dobbin Road corridor. The rest of the banners will be scattered throughout the county, including Whiskey Bottom Road in North Laurel, near the Savage Branch Library in Savage, downtown Ellicott City, and Centennial Park in Ellicott City.
Ulman said the idea for the banners was presented to him eight years ago by Darrell Nevin, a commercial real estate agent in Columbia.
"The idea took six months, and the process took 7 1/2 years," Nevin said jokingly on Monday.
County Councilwoman Courtney Watson, who attended the event, said the project was delayed by the recession, and that it took time to acquire the easements for the light poles.
Ulman said the county wanted to be delicate in how the project was carried out and funded.
"There were a lot of thoughts about how we do it, and how we do it in a way that is appropriate and makes sense," Ulman said.
The project will be funded by the Economic Development Authority, using funds collected from the hotel tax. The cost of the project is approximately $28,000.
Larry Twele, president and CEO of the authority, said the effort is a good investment because it is another way of promoting the county.
"We have such a good story to tell," Twele said.
He said what is represented on the banners is a key to attracting business to the area.
"Quality of life, schools, parks, libraries: it's all of those things a skilled workforce is looking for," he said. "It helps build a workforce base, and that base helps attract companies."
Twele added that the banners have value to residents too by spreading the word.
"Your best customers are your existing customers, and it kind of goes for your residents as well," he said. "When they start retelling the story to their friends. ... you start to build ambassador corps. for your county. And that does much more than an ad or a single marketing campaign."