Usually when people think of Ypsilanti, the first thing that comes to mind is a small Rust Belt factory town that is overshadowed by its seemingly cooler and hipper neighbor Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan. In most cases, people even forget that Ypsilanti also is a college town that is home to Eastern Michigan University.
Ypsi Real hopes that this changes. The Washtenaw County Convention and Visitors Bureau has several distinct brand themes for each of the cities located in the county. The Ypsi Real brand has a very specific theme to it that attempts to make the city of Ypsilanti stand out compared to other places in the county
“Ypsi Real means something different for everybody,” said Chad Wiebesick, vice president of Integrated Marketing and Communications for the Washtenaw County CVB.
The Washtenaw County Convention and Visitors Bureau have recently revamped the Ypsi Real brand. The new version of this website, which launched in early 2017, is strictly about the events and locations in Ypsilanti and the surrounding towns in eastern Washtenaw County.
Ypsi Real’s goals are to promote the Ypsilanti area in a way that not only attracts tourists but to also bring conventions and trade shows to the area. One of the recent events that Ypsi Real had promoted was ypsiGlow, an artist-lead luminaries project to bring light and fun to Ypsilanti’s downtown area on Oct. 27, 2017.
WonderFool Productions, the same organization that produces Ann Arbor’s FestiFools event, wanted to bring a similar event to Ypsilanti. Since the FestiFools event happens in the spring, it made sense for the organization to create a Halloween inspired event for Ypsilanti, as there weren’t any major Halloween events in Washtenaw County at the time. This was a perfect opportunity for WonderFool to create an event that was unique to Ypsilanti.
Ypsi Real also works with Eastern Michigan University to promote the college’s relationship with the rest of Ypsilanti.
“EMU is a big asset to the community,” Wiebesick said. “We have a very good relationship with the school.”
Ypsi Real has partnered with EMU on recent projects such as the You Are Welcome Here campaign that is intended to appeal to international students, and a holiday video that both organizations worked on that premiered on EMU’s website on Dec. 6.
Tourists aren’t the only ones that Ypsilanti is trying to reach out to. The SPARK East Innovation Center, located at 215 W. Michigan Ave. in downtown Ypsilanti, has been working with tech companies establish themselves in the area since 2008.
“We want to help companies grow,” said Joe Licavoli, the manager at SPARK East. “We help companies that develop their own intellectual properties and patents.”
SPARK East is part of Ann Arbor SPARK, a larger organization whose goal is to help tech start-ups grow their business. SPARK East was formed because they had a relationship with Eastern Michigan University, and they wanted to take advantage of this partnership by opening a location in Ypsilanti.
One of the companies that took advantage of their services is White Pine Software Technologies, a company that creates software for those in the IT industry. The company began in the SPARK East location in December 2014, and after getting some assistance from the organization, eventually moved to a historic building at 300 N. Huron St in January 2017.
The Ypsi Real brand is more than a tourism slogan; it’s also a symbol of pride for the area.
“It’s to inspire people to discover this part of Washtenaw County, and spend the day and stay the night,” Wiebesick said. “We want to encourage people to check out new businesses in our area. We keep it real in Ypsilanti.”