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By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
    More people know Columbia than ever before, thanks to a yearlong branding initiative that highlights the community’s residential and business offerings and quality of life.
    “Columbia is a great place to live and work,” said Emily Fultz, community development director. She and Sue Spargo, community relations and tourism coordinator, have been working together and in partnership with several groups to build awareness.
    This past year, the city adopted the “@KnowColumbia” marketing campaign to link people through social media.
    “We’ve been putting out a lot of social media, engaging with residents and business organizations in town,” Spargo said. “We’ve seen a 71 percent increase in social media followers in the last year or so. We’re connecting with a much larger audience as a result of these efforts.”
    Many people also notice the bright, new colorful logo that’s been adopted, featuring an artistic montage of businesses, homes, rolling hills and agriculture.
    People are also being encouraged to visit the city’s website, which is continually being improved, Fultz said.
    If there is a theme to the effort it would be the “possibility in partnerships.” The two have worked with numerous groups within and outside the city to capture business and visitors.
    Among other thing, the city is partnering with its Hampton Inn hotel and three wedding venues — with a fourth, the Main Street Abbey, now in the works.
    Historic Main Street Columbia Association and its new executive director have partnered with their own rebranding effort, which incorporates elements of the city’s new logo, Spargo said.
    Fultz said she has also been working with Edie Koch at the Monroe County Economic Development Corp.
    “Together, we’ve been doing business retention visits with some of our largest employers and working on business attraction efforts,” she said.
    Columbia, which according to a recent, special census has 10,868 people, is a safe community that affords an alternative to the more urban setting of St. Louis, which is just 11 miles away, Fultz said.
    “I think Columbia is a very vibrant community with a strong business base and really engaged residents who are volunteering and working to constantly make the community better,” she said.
    Many organizations are contributing to the well-being. Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts, for example, have recently completed a number of parks projects.
    Spargo said a number of people are visiting the area to take advantage of events like those held by the Historic Main Street Columbia Association. Every month, there has been something to entertain individuals and families.
    One such event held during the Halloween season is Witches Night Out, which is drawing thousands of people dressed as witches and warlocks — and growing each year.
    More about Columbia can be found on its city website and Facebook pages.