Do Orange County taxpayers really need to spend $50,000 to rename the John Wayne airport logo?

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Should taxpayers invest tens of thousands of dollars in redesigning the John Wayne Airport logo, so travelers are more likely to purchase merchandise featuring it?

Or does the current logo work just fine?

This week, county officials discussed in public whether it makes sense to spend time and money rebranding the county-owned airport that serves about one million passengers a month.

Supervisors ultimately voted 4-1 on Tuesday to approve the expense, after supervisors Lisa Bartlett and Katrina Foley asked their colleagues to award $50,000 in taxpayer money to the private Laguna College of Art and Design for students propose a new logo.

Bartlett said previous efforts to develop a logo failed.

“Nobody likes” an origami-style logo put forward by a design firm commissioned by the former airport manager, Bartlett said during Tuesday’s meeting of supervisors.

OC Supervisor Lisa Bartlett at a public meeting Sept. 13, 2022, presents a proposed origami-style John Wayne Airport logo that was flatly rejected by county supervisors. Credit: Orange County Reunion Video

This logo proposal was part of a rebranding effort that cost $135,000 – including $75,250 for focus groups and “research” and $45,750 for “brand pillars and exploration.” of the logo” – according to figures provided by airport staff in response to a request from Voice of OC.

The origami logo – which was funded by ticketing fees – has now been dropped altogether.

“It hasn’t been well received,” said airport manager Charlene Reynolds, who started in June and works under the elected supervisory board.

Still, the new $50,000 art school proposal — which will be funded by taxpayers rather than ticket fees — prompted tough questions from supervisor Don Wagner.

Wagner argued that the current logo is fine, adding that no information was provided to supervisors on what it would cost to physically replace the airport’s existing logos, some of which are concrete.

“How much is all this going to cost? asked Wagner.

“No one came to this board and said, ‘We need to rebrand,'” he said, calling the proposal “a giveaway to Laguna College of Art and Design.”

Wagner added that he “can’t bear to throw $50,000 at Laguna College of Art and Design for tablets, projectors, screens, immersive and…experimental tech on the pretext of renaming something I’m told ‘it doesn’t need to be renamed’.

Bartlett responded that it was time to update the airport logo so people would want to buy merchandise that features it.

“I think we need to rebrand the airport,” Bartlett said.

“I had asked at the airport why didn’t we have any type of branding and merchandising. And they said, “Well, we can’t really put our old logo on t-shirts and baseball caps because it’s so outdated that nobody’s going to buy them,” Bartlett said.

“Things need to be updated from time to time,” she added, calling her proposal “very cost-effective.”

Foley, who is running to replace Bartlett in the November election in a district that includes the airport, said “now is the perfect time” to update the airport logo, noting ongoing revisions to commercial and restaurant areas of the airport.

The airport manager said the physical signage with the current logos would largely only be updated when it needs to be replaced because it is old.

And to pay for the new signs, Reynolds suggested finding corporate sponsors who could put their branding next to the airport name.

“They have their [corporate] logo. And it would be a sign, and then at the bottom there would be some sort of ‘Sponsored by Mercedes Benz’ or ‘Sponsored by Rolex,’” Reynolds told supervisors, adding that the new signs could be digital, so it’s easy. to update logos.

“If this organization would be interested in this, it is an opportunity to have it paid by a corporate sponsor, if they wish.”

Wagner was unimpressed, saying the airport manager hadn’t mentioned the logo issue at all in meetings leading up to Tuesday’s discussion.

“I will express my disappointment that none of this was said by you or your staff to mine when this question was asked,” Wagner told Reynolds.

“And you and I had a meeting a month ago, and you never brought this up.”

Wagner pointed to airport staff’s 6-7 figure cost estimates to replace the logo, although there is “no study telling us it needs to be done”.

“And no groundwork – as is usually done on items like this, by airport or county staff, with this item suddenly hitting us” as a last minute agenda item the Friday before the meeting,” he added.

Reynolds did not respond to these criticisms from Wagner, who suggested the logo change could be part of an effort to completely rename the airport.

In the summer of 2020, following the police killing of George Floyd, the county faced calls from local professors and the OC Democratic Party to rename the airport, citing John Wayne’s comments that he believes[s] in white supremacy.

These appeals were unsuccessful among county supervisors.

The logo change could very well open the door to another name change effort, warned Wagner, a Republican who opposed the name change in 2020.

“I’m afraid this will re-ignite the issue of the name of the airport alone, and may well be an effort to move away from it,” Wagner said.

Foley said he was completely wrong about that.

“Supervisor Bartlett and I and airport staff talking about this – no one ever brought up the airport name change. I never heard this once in our discussions” , Foley said.

“So it’s just something Supervisor Wagner is making up here.”

Still, Wagner says he’s just connecting the dots.

“The effort was to remove the status and change the name. I haven’t heard anything in three years, and my staff even longer, about a branding issue or a need to rebrand. The only context for this sudden proposed change is this earlier renaming effort,” Wagner said in a text message to Voice of OC.

“I think this can only be explained as a ‘first step’ – Bartlett’s expression – in a process where the last step may well be a name change to accompany the rebranding. There is no other real sense to do this which was even explained to the board before.

In the end, supervisors voted 4 to 1—with Wagner opposed—to approve the $50,000 for art school students to come up with a new logo for the airport.

It was not discussed whether the students themselves would receive these funds.

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at [email protected]

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